Archive Nov 2008: Possibly too level-headed

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It's official; 60 Minutes airing tomorrow

It's been almost a year or so (!) since the story's been announced, six months since it was going to wrap (cereusly, you can blame any outright negative parts of the story as it airs on the UB scandal coming out at the worst possible time), and three months since it started getting postponed on a weekly basis, but it'll finally air tomorrow. I'm not sure what segment it will be, but my guess is the second, after Michael Phelps (who plays good poker, BTW.) I'm also not sure how much airtime I have - knowing TV, probably all of 30 seconds using the two worst quotes - but regardless, check it out anyway. (And don't horribly blame me if it sucks, OK?)

Following that, on Monday at 1 PM for about an hour, I'll be doing the live Q&A I blogged about earlier on the Washington Post's website, along with Gilbert Gaul, a Pulitzer Prize winner who extensively interviewed me for the newspaper segment. It should be prominently linked off their front page. This is an ESPN style format - people submit questions in a chatroom and the two of us answer them one at a time. I'm guessing a lot of them will be on the order of "how do you play online" and "explain why are you not going to hell, you filthy sinner", so if you've got anything more advanced and/or cool you want to ask, feel free to log in and check it out.

Playing again, and it feels good

A few of my politics cashouts are still outstanding, but the other day, I got a very big check from Intrade in the mail. I've gotten bigger ones than that; after I won the Million a couple of years ago, I spent a day reloading my banking screen and looking at the six digit transfer. But this check may have felt better than that one did; while that cashout came from a single tournament that, taken as a single entity, you basically have to simply luck out to win, this one came from eleven months of constantly making decisions with very little luck involved. Everybody and their mother has a politics blog these days, but opinions are a dime a dozen, so to have my understanding of how things work validated on a daily basis, then summed up with a nice reward at the end, brought the memories back.

While staring at that check, though, I also came to a realization; it's time to get back to work. Since the WSOP ended, I've really done very little of anything other than keep up with political activity, and not playing poker outside of Sundays made me a)a little rusty and b)a lot whiny when I lost (let's face it, playing a half dozen tournaments a week, the suckouts inevitably ruin your mood). I've even taken off the last two Sundays, one from being sick and one from general slacking, so I'd done nothing of substance since ~11/6. In the long run, I guess I could theoretically get away with never working again because we don't spend much money and our finances have been steady even when I've run bad, but if I wanted a fast way to gain a hundred pounds and being unable to talk about anything but what's on TV, I'd rather become a competitive eater, not couch...err, laptop surf. Also, the fact that Tony can vacation in Hawaii and still put in more time in a week than I do in a month, while standard, is typically retarded of me.

So...on Friday, I spent several hours eight tabling MSNL; Saturday was my wife's birthday, but today, I put in eight more hours playing the usual tournaments. Both days went well, even when I was playing more tables than I usually do, and I also got a 41'st place in the Mil (ending on another bad beat story, but then again, I ran like God earlier) out of it. Prior to Thanksgiving, I'm spending at least three of the four days playing more MSNL, and my goal through the end of the year is to log more cash game hands than the rest of the year combined. (Note: this isn't actually going to be at all difficult.) Ideally, I'd like it to be more hands than the rest of the year, period (still not that difficult, lol) but let's take that one step at a time.

In the meantime, I'm gonna keep enjoying the Intrade check.

Obama's attorney general pick plays poker

According to this 2+2 thread that quotes a NY Times article, the incoming attorney general has played cards for what looks like at least a couple of decades. It's a small point, but another good sign for poker under Obama.

Elsewhere, the American Gaming Association, the casino industry's lobbying arm, is saying that 2009 is going to be a year where they mostly focus on legalizing online gaming - some of their differences are being resolved and I think everybody is finally on board with at least a partial banning lift. They still disagree on how much they want; some casino groups want everything to be legalized while others would be content with poker. But as it pertains to us, it's a great development that would remove a big stumbling block to legalization in the form of casino ambivalence.

I'm very optimistic about next year, both legally and personally.

UIGEA regulations are out: "Whew"

The final regulations are 66 pages long and there's no way I'm immediately reading them when other people can do it for me (I'll do it later), but the gist appears to be this:

-Withdrawals are not blocked in any way (THANK YOU BABY JEBUS)

-Electronic deposits (including echecks) are blocked via a continually updated blacklist [edit: scratch that. Instead, it looks like each bank develops its own policies and "somehow" makes sure that cross border transactions aren't used for gambling.]

-Paper deposits are not blocked (more than they were; WU/MG, for example, "cannot be used for gambling" even though that's never stopped any sportsbook from simply rotating different names to send money to every few days)

-The compliance deadline is 12/2009

2+2 has predictably panicked. Personally, I think this is close to the best case scenario possible. It's by far the best case for every American pro on the Internet, since we can all simply swap funds with each other and our main concern was always withdrawing. In fact, if anything, I expect this to mean the end of obnoxious people asking for big vigs on online/live swaps - I never believed in making anyone pay to simply swap funds and I'm not about to change that belief now that large amounts of online money are, theoretically, harder to come by. At any rate, in practice, every pro on the Internet has lots of friends from different countries to swap with.

I suppose depositing will probably get harder. In practice, though, few credit cards worked to deposit with for years, so most casual players I know that didn't have friends with poker money used pre-paid cards, some ewallet that charged a huge fee (is this the end of US ewallets? maybe, but on the other hand, not all of them should instantly get blacklisted), or Western Union, which will work about as well as it always has. It's the end of American-based deposit bonuses, but the good times for those things ended around 2005. [edit: Upon further review, this is even more toothless. No bank in its right mind is ever going to review every outgoing transaction for gamblingness, so what they will do instead is have customers sign a "no gambling" waiver and wash their hands of it afterwards. Once again, thank you, Baby Jebus.]

On top of that, it gives a year's grace for compliance, which means an entire year for getting UIGEA repealed to begin with. The chances aren't enormous, but I'd say we're favorites to do it within two years. The climate is right.

At any rate, barring anything horrible I've yet to read, US online poker seems to have dodged a huge bullet.

Yes, we did

I think it's a great outcome. Many of you undoubtedly disagree. Let's set that aside from now on and hope Obama is a good leader (and, oh yeah, fixes online poker and stuff).

While I type up a full postmortem, here's what happened on Intrade last night:

Before election day, I had a solid plan backed up by a decent sized investment fund that I promised would have a conservative approach. With an effective six figures on the site, I could both move my own lines when I wanted them to move and spread out my picks so that the fund would get the safer, conservative lines while my own money went to riskier, but higher return lines. What I wound up doing was to park the bulk of the money in the main President contracts and their derivatives because of their liquidity, then spread the rest out to state and Senate races. The fund mostly focused on complete locks like PA, IA and WI; my own account was riskier and had large positions all over the map. Both, however, had much bigger sums bet on the very early poll closing states (VA, NC) and at the end (CO, NV) than the ones in the middle (MO). The reasoning was that either the early states would close and I would have the money freed up to roll over to the late time zones, or I'd see the danger signs coming and be able to get away from the late betting while I could. In addition, every contract had sales posted at 5 or 95, in order to release the cash ASAP.

Even the best laid plans do not survive first contact with the enemy. Instead of an orderly rolling out of results, what happened was that the first set of states was the closest and the polls were off in exactly VA (where I had lots of money) and IN (where I put in a lot after initially seeing good numbers; I overestimated the turnout in Lake County) while being on the dot everywhere else. Especially given Intrade's terrible layout and that I was juggling two accounts over multiple browser windows, I was forced to focus on those early, unexpectedly close contracts and couldn't keep up with the rest, which were doing what I wanted them to, anyway. As a result, while I eventually made a nice profit on IN (down a few hundred)/NC (up a few hundred)/VA (huge win)) combined, all of the other contracts duly released at 95 and I mostly lost out on those final 5 points while being unable to really coordinate things the way I wanted. I also wound up negative in MO and on Franken, although for small amounts.

With that said, the site didn't go down, I did eventually make the right calls in most places, the night was very positive overall, and even with the missing 5 points and unwieldiness relative to market size, the investment fund did very well, posting a 13.5% ROI (including Intrade's gigantic fees, mind you) in two weeks.

Next time - and there will be a next time - I will be ready for all of that, the market will be even more crushed, and I'll probably gloat about it somewhere.
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