Category Archives: Poker

Borgata Poker…You’re Doing It WRONG!

This one broke my heart – in more than one way. So any of you who know me know Im a poker player. I have the attention span of an unmedicated 3 year old with ADHD after drinking four red bulls, yet i can spend countless hours at a poker table drinking bad beer and studying every nuance of the 9 overweight and bacterially unsound fellows at my table. I don’t know why actually, i just fell in love with the game when i was young, playing for pennies with my mother and grandfather. Living close to Atlantic City and Upper CT, i have poker player cards to virtually all AC casinos as well as Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, and receive trees worth of mailings from them each year.

The other day i received a nice glossy piece from Borgata, advertising their 2,500 buy in no-limit hold ’em event. To my surprise, i saw a QR code on it! Now they’ve used texting for a while (as have Foxwoods and some others), but this was the first QR code i’ve seen – peep it!

So, all giddy i grabbed my iPhone and scanned it. After scanning it i just laughed out loud…the Borgata, the epicenter of poker in NJ and one of the classiest and most luxorious casinos on the east coast – with one of the best websites and some of the greatest marketing around…WAS DOING IT WRONG. Here is the result of my scan:

Their QR code was supposed to set up an SMS, yet on the iPhone it was an epic fail…apparently their agency didn’t realize that iPhone doesn’t support that SMSTO syntax. I dont know if it wasn’t tested, or if their agency just doesn’t care, but on that day the Borgata dropped about 10 points in my mind. They’re now a notch below Trump Marina, and just edging out Resorts in terms of lameness.

This sort of thing is unacceptable. We just deployed a campaign for a major (MAJOR) brand, and they wanted a QR to resolve to an SMS. Unlike Borgata’s agency who either doesn’t care about or doesn’t understand mobile user experience, we created a routine that actually worked, instead of throwing some slop against the wall and likely charging far too much for it.

Im thinking they probably sent tens of thousands of this piece out to poker players. Some bean counter probably expected some result, but that bean counter is in for a surprise…not a single iPhone who scanned that can participate. They’re pretty much saying ‘hey you’re our customer, but if you have an iPhone screw you, you can’t use our QR codes.’

Its one thing to do it wrong accidentally, but this is a clear case of negligence, not thinking, not testing, and delivering crap to your client under the guise of pretending you know what you’re doing. A story written by my business partner John Lim called ‘can you trust your geek‘ hits on some of these issues. But the fact is people, your interactive agency is NOT your mobile agency. You can’t be a part-time professional anymore. Its like back in the 1990s when the www was forming. Your print company offered web services. Some companies stayed with them and got an inferior product. Others went with a dedicated interactive agency, and got a better product, more service, more technology and in almost all cases more results.

The old drug slogan, ‘just say no’ is applicable here. When your interactive agency or web design company offers you a mobile service, just say no. Then find a mobile agency (like Mobile Card Cast – shameless plug) who can listen to your objectives and put together a plan to achieve them and even surpass them. Let your print company do your flyers, your web company do your website, and your mobile company implement your mobile campaigns.

As for the Borgata…I still love you guys. Give me a call and let me help you do it right. A free seat in that 2,500 NLH tourney would get you back in my good graces, then we can go from there. But, next time you see the moron who put this together, walk up to him and bitch slap him in the face, and say (with an english accent) “Im mad as hell, and Im not going to take it anymore!!!!”.

Poker Bankroll Management

I just read about Chris “Jesus” Ferguson and his 0 to 10,000 quest. For those who don’t know, Chris is a pro player, endorsed by Full Tilt. He went on a quest to turn a $0 bankroll into $10K and recently achieved it.

To accomplish this, he played in freerolls to make startup cash, then played tourneys and cash games to build his bankroll.

That is super cool and he proves that a good player can turn nothing into alot. But, whats even cooler is what i read on his bankroll management. Most of us can play the game, but to be profitable bankroll management is ESSENTIAL. Here are his guidelines (from

– He never buys into a cash game or a Sit & Go with more than 5 percent of his total bankroll (there is an exception for the lowest limits: he is allowed to buy into any game with a buy-in of $2.50 or less).
– He doesn’t buy into a multi-table tournament for more than 2 percent of his total bankroll, but he’s allowed to buy into any multi-table tournament that costs $1.
– If at any time during a No-Limit or Pot-Limit cash-game session the money on the table represents more than 10 percent of his total bankroll, he must leave the game when the blinds reach him.

These guidelines may seem restrictive to some of us, but seeing what Chris accomplished using them is truly amazing. Im wondering his buy in for cash games…seeing that if his total on the table reaches more than 10% of his bankroll he would leave, i’d assume his buy in would be 5% of total bankroll. So if you have 200 bucks, buying in for 10 bucks and cashing out at 20 is probably the move.

Borrowing from Chris, my new philosophy on cash games is if i ever get up more than 50% of my buy in, i leave. So if i buy in for 40 bucks and get up to 60, i leave, bank the 20, and play elsewhere…unless i have the table pinned, but even then i may leave and come back. Too often, especially online, you catch a great hand only to get outdrawn…i find that people online will chase ANYTHING…case in point:

I was just playing, had A9s in early position, reasonably passive table so i call. The only other caller is the BB. Flop comes Ac Jh 8h. I bet pot, call. Turn is 6c. I bet pot again, call. River 3c. Check to me, i check (why did i check here? Ask me, or Antonio Esfandari – see my last post). BB shows Q10c, for a flush. So, he called pot with inside strt draw, and back door flush (4-6 outs…about 1 in 11). Called pot again with flush draw and inside strt (about 13 outs…1 in 4 to hit). So, he put about 20 bucks into the pot with at best a 1 in 4.

My point is, even if you’re catching and crushing, you can always get sucked out by some calling station and lose some cash. Note to self, leave when you’re up.

Cashing out ahead,

Book Review: In The Money, Antonio Esfandiari

I just finished Antonio Esfandiari’s book “In The Money”. Overall I loved it and will read it again…it reminds me a bit of the Andy Bellin book ‘Poker Nation’ from a tone perspective. Antonio and company aren’t near the writer that Andy Bellin is, but it shares some of the tone in the stories. After reading it you’ll definitely want to hang out with Ant, Phil Laak, and the rest of his crew.

This book is great for those tight aggressive or even tight passive players. It has a lot to do with being more aggressive, how and when to do so. Also, which is the key of the book, Antonio instructs you to question alot of things you may take for granted at the table. For instance, when deciding whether to call or raise – he (correctly) advises you to think about why. If you raise, what will your opponent call you with? In some cases you’ll ONLY get action if you’re beat, in which case check or call and take a free card instead of risking a reraise.

Firing bullets: perhaps the most important message. He says something like ‘amateurs will fire a single bullet, where pros will keep firing’. What this means is alot of people will miss a flop and throw out a bet. If they miss the turn tho, they’ll usuall check. A better player who smells even the least bit of weakness will fire another bullet…alot of folding happens on the turn.

I think the above is one of the keys i took from this book, and have been able to incorporate into my style of play. Specifically adapted, ive learned that betting the flop is good only if i intend on betting more on the turn and/or river. Also, i analyze every bet more, and try to determine what that bet is buying me…a chance to win, information on my opponent, or building the pot.

Antonio also talks of the importance of position, and how to use it to your advantage. Alot of books talk about this, but there are some cool spins on position, and the discussion of heads up play regarding position is very good.

In sum, read this book twice. Its the kind of book where you have to jump online or hit a poker room and try things out. Ive been surprised at how many pots ive been scooping up just by changing my state of mind and thinking about every bet. This book isnt for the absolute beginner, but more for the average to good player who wants to add a bit to their game. Also its a good look at what all of these hyper-aggressive players are thinking.

Now if i could only figure out how to party with these guys, you all may not hear from me for a few years 🙂

I raise.

Online Poker being illegal is BS

OK so in thinking of this whole online poker being illegal, something came to mind…a parallel if you will.

The deal is, for those who dont know, putting money into an online poker account is illegal. Some sites are getting around this and letting us play.

But lets boil this down to the roots. You can subscribe to tons of online sites, and pay per month or per use. The trade off is, you cant get money out. You are essentially paying for a service with no return.

Then you have online games. You can buy and sell digital items in games like World of Warcraft, Second Life, and others, for a profit if you are good. Some folks make their living selling items in these games…deriving wages for time spent ‘playing’.

So it seems that, in our backwards-ass society: it is ok to pay for a service, either recurring or monthly. Also, it is ok to pay for a service, then use that service to derive wages (WoW, Second Life, etc). BUT, it is NOT ok to put money into an account, and use your skill and knowledge to make money playing poker.

Another parallel can be drawn to the stock market, which in my opinion for most people is more gambling than poker is. Yes sure there are investment stratagies in stocks, but there are playing strategies in poker. Plus, i would argue, its harder for the average person to learn how to effectively trade stocks and make money in the market than it is to make money at poker. The list can go on and on, but i will end my rant here.

So do what you have to do to keep playing…after all, Alfonse D’Amato is on our side!

Raise on. 

One strike and you’re out!

Im sitting here and lamenting a mistake i made in a recent poker tournament, and figured it was worth mentioning. I think theres a transition from being an average player to becoming a good player or even a very good player. It has to do with your skill level of course, but more importantly the amount of risk you’re exposing yourself to.

Heres the situation: Im in late position holding KK. Blinds are 50-100. UTG raises to 500 (a good raise), 2 callers, now its my turn with one player left to act. My first instinct is to smooth call and trap…if a K or less hits the board (ie, no ace) I can pummel everyone. My second instinct is to raise big…theres already 1250 in the pot.  

So i made a mistake…i smooth called. In hindsight, i shoudl have raised it to at least 2,000. Most likely, unless im up against another big pair, everyone folds. AA would call or possibly reraise, something like QQ or JJ or AK on a weaker player may push here.

The hand turned out terrible for me…board flops Q J 2. Now im thinking im in great shape. BB bets out 2000. I figure “nice, hes on AQ” and bump it to 8K total. He instantly puts me all in for my other 4K in chips, i happily call. He flips a set of 2s. I lose.

So what went wrong? I played that hand as i would have 5 years ago, not as i do now. Recently my style has been tight-aggressive, even tight-hyperaggressive. I overbet, it pisses people off and makes them call me. This time i didnt, and it cost me the tourney (or at least a chance at the money).

So, my point in this rant is the more you try to trap, often the more risk you’re exposed to…especially with an overpair. Save your traps for sneaky straights, flushes, and sets. WHen you have a big pair, make people fold…don’t slowplay big pairs.

Raise on.

Internet Gambling

So i have to address this one. The government once again is trying to think for us, and in the name of ‘protecting’ us, trying to ban gambling online. I wont even get into splitting hairs about what is gambling, games of chance versus games of skill, etc. This is a perfect example of the new government, which is people pushing their beliefs on the rest of us, just because they can.

I see it this way…if you gamble your house away on the internet, then either seek help or jump off a building…you’re a moron. We dont need the government to protect us from ourselves. Its just like the seat belt laws. If i dont want to wear my seat belt, who are you to tell me i have to, or take my money if you catch me NOT wearing it. The real issue there is not that the goverment gives a flying frog tit about you (cause trust me, they dont), its cause if you wear your seat belt and get into an accident chances are the hospital bills will cost less money. So the reason you’re forced to wear your seat belt is to save insurance companies money. Thats it, plain and simple.

Ah I digress. Back to gambling online. Again, this comes down to money. The real reason gambling online is about to become illegal is because the government feels that the money gambled online is being sent out of the country, and they’re not getting a take. Its ok that we spend a trillion dollars on a ‘war’ (dont get me started there), but its not ok if you play poker against some dude in england and lose 10 bucks. Its all a crock of shit, and quite frankly im tired of being told what i can and cant do by a bunch of preppy losers who were most likely beat up and made fun of in school, who unfortunately have the power to influence the things i can and cant do during my tenure on earth.

So for me, im going to make sure i find a way to keep gambling online, and by any means necessary get around the ‘laws’ that these corrupt, ignorant, insignificant dweeblets are passing.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, im going to go gamble my life savings away playing roulette and craps online. Try to stop me.