Writings from Truckin'


Poker Blogs

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Rethinking the UIGEA

I talk to mamagrub on the phone once every couple months and she usually does all the talking.

Now that she's retired, she has time on her hands and has been taking a lot of trips -- the vacation kind (New Zealand, Canada, Hawaii) and the casino kind (every week in California or Las Vegas).

Chatting for 2.5 hours about slot machines can be grueling because I know what she's talking about already -- from new games to wins and losses to comps to the gambling experience. I can get a clear visual picture, though, since I tend to know the exact locations of the games in the casinos, just from visiting them so many times. If someone were to ask what my superpower is, it would be that, as meager a superpower as that might be.

But within those 2.5 hours she'll say things that have me laughing, usually about her own life.

A few days ago she visited grubette, who was taking care of a friend's black labrador. Before retiring this year, mamagrub taught elementary school for increasingly rowdy and unruly kids who had even rowdier and unrulier parents. She said that the dog was beautiful and all, but she couldn't look it in the face because it looked exactly like a kid she taught, who was the worst student of her entire career.

The image of a kid's face superimposed onto the dog's and mamagrub steering clear was enough to get me to forget about gambling losses for the day.

* * *

And oh those gambling losses.

In the apartment across the hall (which used to be the apartment above before I moved upstairs), I hear a loud TV blasting the Bears game. The guy is pretty vocal, so I can follow what's going on based on what he's yelling.

And what he just yelled is: "Oh my God, fucking hell! Jesus Christ! Fuck fuck fuck!"

Sounds like the Cardinals scored.

Or it could just as well be a bad beat on the river.

His timings seem coordinated to my poker sessions. I generally show no reaction (positive or negative), but my thoughts are conveniently projected through him.

Gambling has been of crushing proportions lately. I currently have less than $500 in my Full Tilt account, which is sadly more than what's in my bank account.

Thinking back to my time in Vegas, I had maxed out my credit cards, cashed out my 401(k), and took an $8.50/hour job in my second year there. If not for Pauly signing on as a roommate to split costs (which he paid for a few months in advance), I don't know what I would've done.

Now, even with a full-time job that pays more than $8.50/hour, my credit cards are again close to maxing out and I've borrowed against my 401(k).

Three years later, I realize I'm in pretty much the same position as I was then.

Poker has taken a drastic downturn. I can be up $4000 after a month and then lose it all in a few days. The swings aren't just from sit-n-gos; when I'm on a Sharkscope Super Tilt, I tend to load up the heads-up and 6max games where I'm usually crushed for double what my Sharkscope graph shows.

I began recording 50/50 hands, where I'm all-in against someone else pre-flop. After almost 300 of these, I'm averaging 31 percent. Even giving myself 10 percent for errors and forgetting to record in my favor, that seems pretty far off. Then again, it may still be a small sample and in the near future I'll have a lot of pocket pairs that will hold up.

I don't think online poker is rigged, but I do think I'm getting terribly unlucky.

And that's par for the course in other luck areas -- slots and online blackjack being the primary culprits of my addiction. You'd think I would've hit something big in slots, for the amount I play.

Playing on a bank of Cash Express slot machines, a woman sitting next to me said she only plays Geisha at 27 credits a spin (at nickel denom, $1.35). And she's hit the top progressive nine times.

Nine friggin' times! Seven of those times were for $10,000 or more.

I'm now making it my life mission to win one of these.

I no longer play games such as Mr. Cashman or Gold Fish, where I can only win 40x bet or so. Instead, I'm going for the big scores.

Over in blackjack, an online casino sent me a personal offer that I couldn't pass up: on any deposit, an instant 10 percent bonus that I can immediately play with, and 25 percent of any losses would be comped back to me. Also: no playthrough and unlimited withdrawals with no fees whether courier or wire transfer.

And in addition to that, they still offer cash comps based on playthrough.

Seemingly the advantage play would be to deposit a large amount, play with just the 10 percent bonus, then withdraw the whole thing. They'd probably kick me out of the VIP program if I did it too many times.

I had stopped playing this online casino because I had 5 credit cards/gift cards registered and it wouldn't let me register another. A quick online chat had them remove all 5 and allowed me to register the new card.

And I was back in business with a higher deposit limit of $5k per month.

Not that I would ever reach that, but then, last year my limit was $3k per month and I maxed that out pretty often.

My credit card let out a sigh as I did several deposits and used the 25 percent comp several times. Within that, I picked up a royal on quarter video poker ($1000) and was dealt quad Aces with a 3 kicker on dollar ($2000).

And still lost.

Last night I deposited $500, lost that, deposited $400, and won that back plus $1700. Then gave that $1700 back. I drowned my sorrow in Panda Express.

I've now withdrawn my $900 to see if I will get 25 percent on that original $500 lost. I also requested my entire blackjack play history for the past 4 weeks.

In my gamblin' heyday in Washington, D.C. and Las Vegas, I was playing online blackjack at a playthrough of $1.6 million per month (I knew this because I would get cash comps of $1600 every month, plus giant gift baskets every holiday).

The house edge on the blackjack I was playing was very low -- assuming perfect strategy (which Microgaming had on autoplay), I was playing a 0.3 percent game.

Even at 0.3 percent, though, I was expected to lose $4800 per month.

That seems unfathomable now. But the play history will be a wakeup call, I'm sure, to see just how close I am to reverting back to my old ways.

I want to put a stop to this, he says, being a few days away from going to Vegas.

I signed up to the Poker Players Alliance but elected not to renew after sending my name and email to senators who now spam me with their form letters. I rescinded my support, because I now think that we (meaning I) would really be better off without online gambling of any sort.

And if online poker is considered part of that, so be it.