Thursday, October 21, 2010

Poker for Cash on the your Phone

You don’t need to visit a poker blog to know that smart phones have been the single greatest target of innovation in the past five years. The abridged recent history went something like this:

  1. The iPhone is introduced

  2. Blackberry and Nokia are all like “aww, crap”

  3. everyone and their red-headed stepchild release a failed iPhone clone

  4. Google introduces Android

  5. Blackberry and Nokia are all like “aww, crap”

  6. Apple and Google continue to gain in the mobile market while everyone else struggle to hold on.

The buzz word in mobile as of late? “Apps.” There’s an app for nearly everything on iPhone, some of which I have reviewed. The only apps missing are those Apple has arbitrary laws against. One such law? No gambling. That's why I have the Nevada of mobile operating systems; Android has no laws. And finally, it’s paid off.

Full Tilt Poker now has a beta version of its poker software on mobile. Strangely enough, it isn’t an app in the traditional sense. It is a web app. Unfortunately for Apple fan-boys, it is a no-go on the iPhone because it relies on the Steve-Jobs-denied Adobe Flash.

The Full Tilt experience runs as while as any poker game available in the Android Marketplace, which is to say, very well. The controls and customization are considerably stripped down from the PC version. The only missing component to the game play is chat, but really I can’t complain. I know one other Texas Hold’em game for Android that supports chat and sharing the limited screen real estate make the risk of missing the action too high now that actual cash is on the line. Besides, the action moves far too quickly in that the only game supported is Rush Poker. This also is hard to find fault. I doubt I would settle down for an hour or more session on my phone, even if battery life wasn’t a more ominous threat than Phil Ivey joining the table. No, this app was meant to fill time while out and about. For a serious game, the PC is still your ticket.

What would I change? Down the line I’d like more games supported, and yes, even the long-term games. It would be awesome to play an hour plus tournament on my PC, decide I have to take off and continue the endgame on my cell. That’s what I call freedom. Thinking even more outside the box, I’d like a warning before starting a game in a sketchy data zone. Dropping a call is nothing compared to dropping a game. It would also be pretty slick to replace chat with voice chat. However, I know that’s pie -in-he-sky for now considering FTP would have to revamp their whole system, both mobile and desktop for that to happen.

Overall, I’m hellahappy. If you want to try and get in on the beta, your best bet is to private message FTPSean over on the Two Plus Two forums with your Full Tilt handle and device. That is, if your device is one of these:
Acer Liquid Stream S110
HTC Desire
HTC Droid Incredible
HTC Evo 4G
HTC Google Nexus One
HTC Desire HD
Motorola Droid 2
Motorola Droid Pro / Droid 2 World Edition
Motorola Droid X
T-Mobile G2

Get it? Go it? No? Then... demo.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Do 80% of Poker Players Really use Preformance Enhancing Drugs?

A number of blogs and other news outlets have reported  on a Nova Southeastern University study finding that 80% of poker players use performance enhancing drugs. It is a misleading headline in many ways, not least of which in that when you think of performance enhancing drugs, you think steroids. Of course, physical strength isn’t what needs enhancing at the poker table, that is unless you need to strong arm winnings out of a deadbeat player. Looking further into the study I found just what drugs they included in their statistic.

In descending order of use, players employ caffeine, energy drinks, marijuana, alcohol, nicotine, sports drinks, and cocaine.

I think more than 80% of the people I know, poker playing or otherwise, use some combination of coffee, soft drinks, Gatorade, beer and cigarettes daily. The fact that the study is getting any press at all is a symptom of society’s desire to paint poker in a bad light. Connecting one vice, drugs, with another vice, gambling, is a win in appealing to a conservative audience.

If any of those listed drugs are “performance enhancing” it is only in that caffeine and energy drinks are helpful in keeping a player awake during long sessions. A better study would be showing the effects on how weed or alcohol affect a poker players’ results at the table. I guess that they would mellow out an overly aggressive player, but I don’t know because NSU opted not to perform an actually useful study.

To be fair to NSU, most of my rant is directed toward the echo chamber reporting the 80% headline. Their study also found that 28% of players use prescription drugs while playing poker and 46% of players use dietary supplements. I find those numbers of more interest, but when it comes down to it, the study was just an online survey of a self-selected sample size of less than 200. Big deal.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Poker Leagues

Poker is a game of risk and reward. Using this definition I could argue that free poker isn't really poker at all. In fact, I do argue "play money" internet poker isn't. Freerolls are a step away in that they offer some small monetary reward and you risk wasting your time completely rather than slightly. Playing in a "poker league" hosted by your local bar is yet closer to real gambling in that you now risk your time, gas for travel, and some sliver of dignity.

Locally, I have a few options for poker leagues: Full House Poker, Any Two Cards, the Georgia Poker Club, and the Atlanta Poker Club. If you would like a formal review post of each, let me know. As I am unsure of the international popularity of these leagues, I am holding off.

Leagues are usually well organized and have a weekly following of regulars. They are free to play and charge the venue for bringing in customers. My issue with using leagues as an avenue to improve your game comes from their alternate revenue streams.

  • Players can buy more chips by purchasing food or drink from the bar. For example, a league may offer an additional 500 chip for every $10 spent.

  • Players may have the option of buying premium league memberships for $100 or $200 for the year which ensures a certain chip up nightly.

  • Players who volunteer to deal the table can receive a chip payment.

  • Players who refer newcomers to the game can be rewarded with a chip up.

In short, if you show up to play in one of these leagues and don't expect to spend anything, expect to be at a major chip disadvantage.

At first this bothered my sense of fair play, but it only brings the game closer to real poker. More at risk and, assuming the league uses some money to offer better prizes, more reward. I don't blame anyone for a fair business model. However, it is important to know what you are getting into. Once you start playing "free" poker every night you may find yourself out of a lot of money. That is money you could have used playing real poker, and even if you lose, it is a better gauge of your skill level. Have fun at the bars, but when you start to get serious about your game, risk for the real rewards.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Are the “Learn to Play for Free” Poker Sites Good Learning Tools?

We’ve all seen the poker commercials for free poker sites over and over. They bombard us all the time. They are quite entertaining and often a bit humorous even. “Learn to Play Like the Pros” and “Find the Poker Pro in You.” Their basic message is always the same – come play with us and you can learn how to be a top notch poker player for absolutely free. It won’t cost you a thing.

Since you are reading this blog (and thank you, Grundy, for allowing me to contribute to it), you probably aren’t too worried about playing on free sites. You’ve moved past them or never played on them from the start. However, if you are like me, you also have a lot of friends asking you for advice on how they can learn to play poker or get better at it. So, the question is, are the claims of the free poker sites true? If our friends play free poker, can they become top notch poker players? Can they even become winning poker players?

I’m afraid the answer to those questions is an emphatic “Heck, no!” In fact, these sites will probably teach your friends to become losing players if they play there long enough.

Tell your friends to avoid the free poker sites at all costs. Anything they learn from them will probably be counter-productive to being a good poker player. Worst yet, and here’s the kicker, the reasons why these sites will not teach you how to become a good player are not the reasons you may think.

Many people believe “free poker” is bad for you because players play differently if money is not involved. We’ve all seen a player comment, “I wouldn’t have done that for real money.” Don’t believe them – they would have done that for real money and they have probably done it for real money. (Similarly, I wish I had a nickel for every time somebody published a poker hand in a forum and prefaced it by saying “I don’t normally raise here, but …” Yeah, right…tell me another one.)

The truth is that you can find all kinds of players when playing free poker, and most of them are competitive enough to legitimately try to win the “play chips.” The reason to be afraid of playing for play chips isn’t that people are not trying to win; it’s that they don’t know how to win.

Not only that, but the few players on these play sites who are decent players are drowned out by the poor players who readily throw around their bad advice (and criticisms). Let’s take a look at some of the comments I’ve seen on free poker sites recently and explore why they are so dangerous.

  • “Never raise pre-flop in Omaha Hi/Lo.” – Are you kidding me? Who knows where this kind of crappy logic originated, but the scary thing about it is that many players on at least one particular poker site not only believe it, but get right down angry when other players raise pre-flop. Players who do not believe in pre-flop raises (they not-so-affectionately call it “pre-flopping”) often stall when deciding to call the raise (presumably to punish the “pre-flopper” for raising), call players who raise pre-flop idiots, and often ridicule players when they raise pre-flop and don’t win the pot without ever realizing it’s not the number of pots you win, but the number of chips you gain or lose. These types of players are the worst you can encounter. Not only are they wrong, but they are so convinced they are right, they freely give out their bad advice to unsuspecting players – very dangerous, indeed.

  • “You should never bet after somebody is all-in.” – This may be my favorite online tournament fallacy. Again, this is something that many, many players who play free poker believe to be a cardinal rule of poker. As we all know, there are times it is unwise to bet when another player is all-in in a tournament. There are also times when you should bet into a dry side pot. Unfortunately, players who play the free poker sites like to create hard and fast poker standards so that they can play more “formula” poker and use their judgment less. This is a bad lesson to learn since there are no hard and fast poker standards in a game in which no two situations are ever the same. (NOTE: This comment also seems to occasionally rear its ugly head in cash games, too. How anybody can believe this in a cash game is beyond me.)

  • “I’d rather not get pocket aces, they are a losing hand.” – I was amazed at the number of times I saw this comment. What I noticed was that people who play free poker simply do not play pocket aces (or other strong starting hands) very well because they simply do not understand poker odds or choose to ignore the odds. A hand that is a 3:1 favorite still loses 25% of the time and will lose even more often if you misplay it. It’s amazing how players remember the one loss twice as long as any of the three wins and assume pocket aces are simply not that good.

  • “This game is mostly/all luck.” – This is what losing players say to justify their losses. Their ego can’t handle their incompetence. So, they convince themselves that they play well, and they are just unlucky. The second a player buys into this theory, he/she is a losing player. Don’t subject your friends to this nonsense.

Overall, free poker sites are just not what they are cracked up to be. You’ll get bad advice, see players trying to remove judgment from their decisions, see players ignore poker odds, and fail to take responsibility for their own incompetence instead of trying to better themselves through self-analysis.

If you want to give a friend a good start in learning how to play poker, I’d suggest buying them a good poker book or two, and then taking their money in some good home games. They’ll learn more and you’ll profit (for awhile, anyway).

This has been a post by amateur poker journalist Ken Carlson. If you like the article, please let him know in the comments.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ready, Set, Tilt!

For those of you that want acting to be your source of income, I recommend Hollywood. At the table I forgo deceptive acting for a good poker face. I know two things. One, I'm not that great of an actor; and two, people overestimate their acting prowess. In other words, you are not as good as you think you are and I'm even worse then my poor estimation.

That said, there is one time that I do recommend pushing your table image with a little theater--after a lost pot, especially when a bad beat is involved.

There you are processing your loss. You have the strength of will to accept it and move on. That is awesome, you are a good poker player, but lets not let an opportunity pass you by. Say your next hand is strong--a pocket pair or big slick. Bet big like you are on tilt, because the table expects you to be on tilt. Act like you are throwing caution to the wind with a touch of "poor me." You will likely get a call from a sub-par hand and be in position to take them for a ride to the river if in fact you are confident that you still hold the winning hand.

For me, this act means even more. After a bad beat, I am on tilt. It's only natural. I'm not full tilt, but I am still stewing. After all, the poker gods have forsaken me. When I act as though I am further along the road to tiltsville than I am, I usually right my course. I focus on the role that I'm playing rather than focusing on the last hand. By acting on tilt, I am no longer on tilt.

Give this strategy a try. In fact, make it a point to play the next hand after a bad beat as long as the position advantage is on your side. The state of your image may well earn you better implied odds when the betting starts.

Warning: If you are the type to easily go full tilt, do not try this. The acting will only be fooling yourself.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Touchscreen Poker

The following is a shared article with my new poker site Enjoy!

It’s 2010. We really should be on some kind of space odyssey. Hell, we should be on the sequel. I am willing to accept that I still don’t have a flying car or a robot butler, but do I have to accept playing cards with the same dead trees we’ve had since Gutenberg? Actually, no, I don’t. There are two innovations currently on the rise that allow players to holster their decks in favor of touch-screeny goodness--the Apple iPad and the Microsoft Surface.

First, a word on the iPad. To me, the main draw is the interface. The iPhone made navigating cell phone features not just easy, but fun; the iPad does the same for laptops. There is something exciting about not using a mouse and traditional keyboard to browse the web and interact with apps. It’s new, it’s shiny, I want one. One of Apple’s first apps for the iPhone was a Texas Hold’em game, so I have no doubts that a poker game will be available for the iPad soon if they aren’t already. I am confident it will be fun, on-line enabled and, unfortunately,  “play money”. In other words, no matter how slick the design, I won’t be playing more than a couple games before returning to Full Tilt and the like.

Apple’s app store is a walled-garden as they say in the tech world. This means corporate has to approve every app before the unwashed masses gets their grubby little hands on it. Full Tilt has little incentive to make an app for the App Store because it will either be denied or lack real-money play.

So why do I even bring up the iPad? Because it is the shape of things to come. “Me-too” tablet computers with follow Apple’s lead. If history has taught us anything, these new tablets will be less elegant yet more open than Apple. Imagine Full Tilt ported to a touch-screen tablet running a Google Android or Chrome OS? Sign me up!

The Microsoft Surface’s gambling application is already apparent. The consumer electronic blog Engadget has already featured a video of the Surface running a poker table. Picture a Surface at your local casino. You place your drink on the table and it lets the bar know when you need a refill. You place your credit card on the table and the transaction provides you as many digital chips and you’d like. Your cell phone pairs with the table over bluetooth or Wi-Fi and displays your hole cards. The touch screen recognizes all the gestures you already know. Tap the table to check in poker or hit in blackjack. Swipe your cards forward to fold. Drag your chips into the pot as if they were real. Who needs a dealer?

Of course, we may want a dealer. I doubt casinos will ever run their whole operation as a Microsoft Surface farm, but it would be a great supplemental option. Expect to see them soon. The future is now.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hard-Traveling Hero, Part II

About my last post: first mistake, I was too aggressive to bet out in money game with AK. I should have just called. Knowing that if any one on the table had a hand they would raise. All I had to do was re-raise. If the raise was not too big I would have re-raised, and fold if he re-raised back.

Second, I got greedy. I should have checked the turn after being called because the pot was already huge. By now, I should known either he is chasing or is sitting on trips. I should have cut my losses.

Tournament later that day. 86 players...

I was the third man out. I went out little by little. I did not play tight, and when I did have a hand I was scared to play. I did not converge from my good hand. To paraphrase a famous player, all you need is more chips every round then what you had in previous round. Meaning as long as you are up from previous round you are on your way to final table. I did not do that. I simply kept calling...and let my opponent catch their cards. Where I should have been aggressive I wasn't and where should have been passive I was aggressive. I had my game mixed up.

Vegas is tough, especially for online players. Online is fast paced. Live is slow paced. Online poker is like playing poker on steroids.

Next week I gain experience, and return with a vengeance in Sin City. This time I am ready.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Hard-Traveling Hero, Part I

A friend of mine travels the country in his big-rig, stopping from time to time to play cards. He will begin to chronicle his casino hopping exploits on HCD starting today in a series I'm calling "Hard-Traveling Hero."

Hello, all you online poker foes! I have traveled to almost all the casinos in the continental US, the only exception being the Hollywood casino in Connecticut. Yes, Connecticut has a casino and happens to be one the top casinos in United States.

Sure, you already know that playing a live game is different from playing online. Here is my experience in past one year traveling around the country

First time I ever walked into Bellagio I was "awwwwed". Luckily, Bellagio's poker room is right near the entrance if you take the bridge. And that's what I ended up doing. I sat down on a live table, decided I can play few hands before the $300 buy-in tournament. (You can find all the tournament times and buy-ins online.). I lost $380 dollars in 45 minutes. 1/2 blinds no-limit. 30 minutes in I raised with AK, something I am use to online. I raised $15 dollars, 1 person re-raised me $15 more. $63 in pot. Flop was A K 2. Money hand for me. I bet $80 on flop. He calls without much hesitation. $223 in pot. Turn was a 7. I bet all-in $180. He calls and shows KK. River did not help me. Can u guess what I did wrong?.

Next week I will write about the live tournament at Bellagio.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Happy St. Partick's Day!


St. Patrick and Irish culture has contributed much to the poker community. Just look through a deck of cards. The suit of clubs is nothing more than a three-leaf clover. So drink you Guinness and rub your lucky charm for a favorable river card, Happy St. Paddy's Day!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Reasons to bet

Being aggressive in poker is vital to becoming successful. Passive play may be rewarded from time to time but on the whole it will be the players who show aggression, by betting, who will be raking in the money at the end of the day.

The first and most obvious reason to bet is because you think you have the best hand. You find a pair of aces in the hole and make a bet as you want to win more money with what is certainly the best hand at the moment. But have you thought that by betting you not only do so for value but also for protection?

Say you hold a set of queens on a board reading 8KQ with two clubs. Your hand is currently only behind to a pair of kings but there are many turn cards that could see your opponent outdraw you. Clubs are the obvious danger for the flush draw but also any ace or nine could see someone with jack-ten fill their straight and potentially stack you. By betting here you are charging your opponent to draw and offering him incorrect odds to call you. This means you have more chance of winning the hand and forcing your opponent to fold.

Betting also gives you more ways to win a pot than simply calling. By calling the only way you can win the pot is for you to have the best hand. However, by betting you can get someone with a better hand then yours to fold, you can be called and still outdraw them to a better hand or be called and have the best hand anyway. It should be obvious by now that the merits of betting are far greater than those of playing passively.

One phrase I always try to remember is that betting when you shouldn't leads to you losing a bet, but not betting when you should can cost you the entire pot.

Even the best poker hands are worthless if they have been folded, so a little bit of aggression can pay dividends.

Friday, January 15, 2010


In poker the term 'slowplaying' refers to playing a particular hand much more passively than you usually would in an attempt to deceive your opponent into thinking your hand is much weaker than it is.

Used sparingly it can be a very powerful tool that can increase your profits when you play poker, but if overused or used in the wrong circumstances it can be a high-risk and costly move to make.

The best time to slowplay is when you have a strong hand on a board that contains no or few draws and your opponent is someone who is aggressive and bets frequently. For example, in a cash game you decide to limp with a pair of black nines and an aggressive player makes his standard raise, which you call.

The flop comes down 4d 9h Ks. Now is a perfect time to slowplay. If you check with your set of nines, your aggressive opponent is almost certainly going to bet to represent the king even if it has not helped him. When he bets you can flat-call and hope to repeat the same action on a safe turn. Alternatively, you could check-raise him and win at least the extra bet he has just put into the pot, something he might not have done if you had lead out. If he is aggressive or reckless enough, he may even come over the top of your check-raise with top pair and commit his entire stack as a huge underdog, which is obviously a great situation for you to be in.

Whenever there are multiple players in the hand or the flop contains a big draw it is not advisable to slowplay your hand. Imagine you have a pair of black nines again but this time you and three others see a flop reading 9h Th 5c. While there is a high chance you have the best hand right now, there are a number of possible holdings your opponents could have that have the potential to outdraw you by the river.

It's possible your opponents could have hands such as eight-seven, queen-jack or a flush draw, so you should bet out to protect your hand rather than try and trap other players as you could give away a free card and allow someone the chance to outdraw you.

If you are in any doubt it is probably best not to slowplay your hand as it is much better to win a small pot then lose a large one.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Social Networking for Cardsharks

In the beginning, Al Gore invented the Internet. He said let there be social networking, and there was MySpace. And it was good. At least until Facebook came along, then MySpace was crap. There have been many iterations of social networks in the past decade, with Facebook the clear winner in the US. At this point the only way to compete is to spin off into something different, like Twitter, or find a niche. PokerNations found our niche.

As poker players, we were never left without a place to find each other on-line. Both MySpace and Facebook have poker communities that are searchable in their respective Groups functionality. As a member I belong to various special interest networks created by members. Although limited, I found my share of poker buddies in his manner.

The search for a poker playing social network branched out to other dedicated web sites. Most added to the poker network category as a group blogging engine and little else.

Which brings me to the good news: Poker players now have a bone fide community in It has all the trimmings one would expect: user profiles, commenting, blogging, events, polls, forum...think MySpace. Don’t think Facebook because the design and functionality is not nearly as refined as Facebook. Yes, think MySpace, only without the glitter and animated gifs. (thanks God)

I’m not trying to discourage you from joining, just trying to manage your expectations. PokerNations is a very young web site and is bound to improve. They are off to a good start. They have relationships with the Poker Player’s Alliance, the Twitter Poker Tour and other online poker organizations. They have courted a few pros as members. They are integrated with Twitter and use keywords like apps and widgets to define them self. They even have a chip earning system to encourage activity on the site which can be used as entries for prizes including a (non-main event) WSOP Vegas trip.

Long story short, every on-line poker player should probably be a member of PokerNations just for the sake of community. They will no doubt host PokerNations endorsed tournaments and freerolls and rakeback and all the other poker playing/marketing tropes, some of which I may want in on and some of which I may block. When it comes down to it, poker players are online to play more than network, but when you're invited to the party, I say there is no reason to be antisocial.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Cheat Night!

For those of you who run a friendly home game with people you care about and trust whole-heartedly, throw a corrupting, money-hungry, greed -powered wrench in your goody-twoshoe system. Announce that tomorrow night is Cheat Night!

Cheat Night: (n.) Night in which it is understood by all that no lasting punishments will be issued for foul-play. The rules are as follows: Let all players know beforehand (preferably with 24-hour notice) that a Cheat Night will be held. Proceed with your poker game as normal. If a player catches another player cheating and calls him or her out, the offending player mucks his hand. Each player can call for a card count no more than twice each Cheat Night. there a point to all this? Yes. The usual player wastes most of their suspicion on Internet card rooms and saves little for in person game play. Your friends likely shift their attention from their cards, to other player’s faces for a read, over to the TV and back again. This exercise gets people looking at the deck, other player’s cards and gets their suspicion running wild. Their healthy suspicion. Cheat Night is a wake up call. It is a call to arms to prepare you for the real world. It gets you thinking like a cheater.

The importance of the 24-hour notice is that it gives your frienemies time to bring their own cold decks, enter uneasy partnerships for collusion and whatever other preperations they see fit. It is important not to get found out because if you have to muck, you loose whatever investment you had in the pot. This also shows why it is important to play for real money. I suggest your usual stakes. The card count rule is important in case you suspect a player of hording cards from past hands. It is also important to limit the amount of times one can confirm a 52 card deck or it would happen every hand.

Poker would cease to be fun if every night became Cheat Night, but if you have an adventurous crowd it could become the most fun night of the year. I do recommend setting up at least two Cheat Nights. Players will get idea from other players and will be considerably better cheats the second night.

A couple tips: Don’t use your best cards as they may get marked. Don’t assume whoever doesn’t get called out for cheating opted out of cheating, it is likely that he or she is the best cheater. If you are dealt a statistically unlikely good hand and are re-raised, consider folding as you were probably the mark for a set deck.