No full post today, but can I tell you how impressed I was that Minted got me a cashout - from request to receipt in 15 HOURS? I had a small amount of money on there and I decided I couldn't play there because they only had micro and low small stakes tables, so rather than just leaving the money on there, I cashed out. It's all about bankroll leverage. Less than a day in today's environment is absurdly good.
I played a session the other day on Merge and as I was looking around at the tables, I realized that I basically knew everyone at the tables. Not personally - but everyone looked like they were regs I had played thousands of hands with (other than a scattering of players on a few tables I had never seen before). And then it dawned on me that Merge is a closed system, since the almost 2 month long freeze on accepting new players.
What is a closed system? It's a system where no one can get in. What happens when you take a table of regulars and have them play for a long period of time? Player B wins the first pot and pays the rake. Player U wins the second pot and pays the rake. Player S wins the third pot and pays the rake. Player T wins the fourth pot and pays the rake. Player O wins the fifth pot and pays the rake. Lemme get this straight... the money keeps changing hands between the players and the house takes money out of every (flopped) pot. And then throw in an extra 50 cents for the Bad Beat Jackpot. Can you figure out the happy ending to this story?
Now I'm not saying that a cash game among regs can't be a fun and challenging game. But you have to realize if the game continues long enough, there will only be two winners. The winning player and the especially the poker room. I'm not sure if a freezeout among regs is what cash game players are interested in. If your local casino shut its doors to new entrants, would you still go? After a few days, all the bad players will have left (except for maybe the few die-hard fish), and then only the better players would be around. Purists would say the game's the same. But not really. The challenge might be there, but the other major reason people play poker is to make money.
Which brings me to this... a closed poker system is a game of attrition. I am reposting Merge's graph from last week. See the attrition the last two months? This is not sustainable.
I suppose on the one hand, I appreciate the fact that Merge is being so careful about making sure customer service is adequate and that cashouts can be processed quickly before taking new players. But you can't have this closed poker system continue. It's like starting a dating service and not accepting new people - after a while, you're just going to be left with a bunch of people no one is going to want to be with.
So my message to Merge is two-fold:
1) Just re-open now! - before your player pool ends up like the the dating service full of undesirables. This situation is going to be very unhealthy for business if it continues. Allegedly, cashouts are only taking 3 weeks, and I think it's only reasonable to expect cashouts will take longer once they start accepting new players. Cashouts taking 2 months like Cake is going to kill business too, but you are already killing your business NOW. So rather than delaying the re-open, just bite the bullet and do it now.
2) Think about how you can alleviate pressures on your cashout system. How? Tune in later...
Don't be like the closed-to-new-entrants dating service.
I had noticed the last few weeks that FT funds are now trading between 20 and 25 cents on the dollar. So a bunch of people on the FT thread were discussing what FT money was actually worth. Here is a paraphrasing of my original posts on 2+2:
Sadly, the markets don't lie. So 25 cents is probably somewhat "close" to fair value. I think this price is a little skewed because most people who would like to buy at 25 cents already have a ton of money on there (like maybe Galfond, Durrr, regs, etc). But it's not going to be *that* much higher. Not 50 cents. What I find interesting about 25 cents is that it is so low, if given a choice, I would MUCH prefer to just take the full money as extra rakeback (like an additional 50% on top of the regular rakeback, so we would get close to 100% rakeback). I think most of us could make the money owed to us in less than a year, possibly two (obviously there are exceptions). It would only take me 2 months (bankroll leverage, baby!). Of course this assumes FT will reopen to the US. I still think FT is a good buy (unless that moron Bitar thinks he needs to still run the company), and it could be a win-win if the potential buyer can pay the players back in future rake.
It's just speculation, but I don't see how a deal gets done without Bitar stepping down. I also don't see why any buyer would want to accept $150mil of player debt (probably a lot more since I thought $150 was the amount of US player assets). Considering how idiotic FT management is, it wouldn't shock me if they didn't even have all of the non-US funds whole (i.e. they spent some of the non-US player's money that they weren't supposed to). Because if you were a potential buyer, would you make everyone (US and non-US) whole? The shortfall could be anywhere from $150-300mil. If it was me, I most certainly would not. But I think offering all former players a credit is a very good gesture.
I've never worked in private equity, but I do have a pretty good sense of estimating business parameters. And if I was a potential "investor" (and I'm not) here is what I would be thinking:
* The FT software is the best in the industry and they have the rights to Rush, which was the best poker invention since the hole card cam.
* I refuse to "invest" in any company with the current management intact. There is obviously a lot of waste and incompetence going on, and I'm not trusting those bozos with more money.
* I would be interested in purchasing the assets of the company (maybe just license the software), but would have no desire to participate in their legal woes or their outstanding obligations to current players. I would want to start a new company.
* My plan for getting the players back would involve me offering 40-50% additional rakeback to current players, until their accounts are paid in full. Maybe kick in an extra 10% afterwards to massage any leftover bad feelings. Really, who is going to refuse this offer? *I'm* not the one who lost your money - I'm the one who's trying to give you a chance to get your money that SOME OTHER PERSON lost. How can you realistically expect anyone to pay off someone else's debts? Not for $150-300 mil. I don't see how any rational person would have any bitter feelings towards the new company.
* Current FT affiliates get screwed. Sorry - I'm a new company now. Wow - I just increased my take by 15% of rake, which is going straight to the players.
* I do not have enough information to determine if I will re-open in the US. But the player credit will be there whenever the US allows online poker again.
This is all just random musings. I think it's a reasonable idea for the players. For me, 20-25 cents on the dollar is not something I'm going to care about. I'd rather just ride that baby down to zero. But tell me I'll have a chance to get all of it back in a short amount of time AND I get to play Rush again, and now we're talking! If I thought this was likely, you would see FT funds head north of 50 cents (assuming the "credits" are transferrable) and I would be buying.
Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the current management is going to want to step down. Right now, FT isn't worth very much and taking an 8 figure amount to GTFO can't be too bad for a bunch of chimps. My advice to Ray Bitar comes from my good friend Kenny...
You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, Know when to walk away and know when to run.
It's been 4.5 months since we moved to Texas. For the most part, we've been very happy here - the schools, restaurants, shopping, attractions, the house with a pool, and the people. Well, except for our neighbor who happens to be the town bitch (later post). Lucky us! The biggest gripe?
The weather. No wonder people around here are so religious - it seems like the "wrath of God" is showing up every other week. In the short amount of time we've been here, we had the worst tornado season in decades, a bunch of unusually large hail storms and the clincher? Not sure if you guys in the rest of the world know, but we have had almost 60 consecutive days of over 100 degree weather. This is the second-longest stretch... EVER. Like in the history of recorded time! (all right, I may be exaggerating). What are the chances we move to an area and within 4.5 months we get the worst winds in decades, the worst hail in decades and the worst heat wave in decades? All in 4.5 months?!? I guess the only thing missing from the above illustration is the snow. Joy. All I know is, if our pond turns into blood, or the pool is teeming with frogs or the skies get dark from locusts, we're getting the hell out of here.
You literally can't stand in direct sunlight for more than 10 minutes at the highs before you feel like you are going to spontaneously combust. I feel like Birdman for 30 seconds and then after that, Birdman wants to go back inside where there is air conditioning. Call me Birdboy. My electric bill the last two months averaged $900. That's an unrealistically large number of small stakes full ring nits I have to overset every month just to pay for AC.
At least this means Mrs. Fly will keep having to wear her skimpy outfits - especially by the pool. On second thought, maybe this heat isn't too bad. "Oh honey, let me put some more sunscreen on your decolletage. You don't want to get all leathery like Magda from There's Something About Mary. Stop resisting - I'm doing this for you baby!"
1. Your reputation and honor are worth more than money (or a cheap thrill/laugh). All right, maybe for most people only up to a certain point, like 7-9+ figures, but we are not talking about that kind of money here. You would have to be some kind of whore to be to sell yourself for 6 figures, but that's just me. I think this should be self-explanatory to most decent people. Anyway, they did this for 5. What is below whore? Girah and Dog-Is-Head are both going to be looked on like Russ Hamilton and Ray Bitar (you still have a chance Ray!) - social outcasts of the poker world for the rest of their lives. I mean you can't ever show up to another WSOP, or set foot in a major poker room every again without being mocked. Maybe they just didn't like poker that much. But even outside of poker, how can you look at yourself in the mirror every morning?
2. In many arenas, you make more from your image than actually playing that sport. Many sports stars make more from endorsements and other opportunities outside of their sport than actually playing their sport. Like Tiger Woods. Oh yeah - he tainted his image and look at him now. But whether he was at his peak or trough, he's made waaay more from endorsements. You don't even have to be that good at what you do - look at Dale Jr. or Anna Kournikova. So it's just mind-boggling that you get yourself to a place of prominence (as crooked as Girah's methods were) and you decide the best thing to do is to try and cheat people out of a dozen buy-ins. Because people would never suspect anything - not high stakes poker players, who are trained to look for patterns of unusual play. For a full-time grinder like I used to be, an endorsement deal could be easily worth 6 figures a year (free rake, tourney sponsorships, etc) for possibly the rest of my life. Maybe if things work out, you get a sweet deal like Benyamine's where you get get paid $500K a year to eat beignets all day. The dude just pissed away possibly several million dollars over his lifetime to cheat for some buy-ins. Wat?!? O mudo prostituta.
3. The Spiderman Syndrome: With great power comes great responisbility. Poker has an image problem to begin with, and having a high profile douchebag add to yet another unsavory story of poker just tilts me. Because you know the next time any kind of poker legislation comes up, Girah is going to come up, along with the AP cheating scandal and a host of other stories. As it is, the most recognized player by the masses is probably Hellmuth. As awesome as Ivey is at poker, he has a sick degenerate craps and props problem. Jungleman is tainted with this whole affair. Can someone please step and be an ambassador and role model for the game? It's such an awesome game, but many of our most vocal or well known representatives are all douchebags or people who have no self-control. It's kind of like those dudes who work their whole lives to gain a place of prominence in the community (governors, senators, etc) and then they decide the best way to use that power is to call up some hooker or send X-rated photos of yourself to people. Nice.
If any of you guys ever get that big in poker, my advice to you is, "Don't be a moron. But if you can't help being a moron, at the very least don't be a whore."
A bunch of people got scammed on the 2+2 Player to Player transfer thread the other day. Apparently "ericlee" decided he wanted to do a bunch of trades with various people using Chase QuickPay. It's kind of weird because I have a 2nd nephew named Eric Lee. The scammer's real name is Eric Fields - the motherf*cker is trying to bring the Asian man down (again)!
Apparently he was able to cancel all the transactions because according to Chase: "You further agree not to use the Chase QuickPay Service to receive money from anyone to whom you are obligated for tax payments, payments made pursuant to court orders, fines, payments to loan sharks, gambling debts or payments otherwise prohibited by law." The douchebag ripped a bunch of people off and then had the nerve to post that in 2+2. I need to get a special tree branch for this dude.
I guess stuff like that really sickens me... because in this low time of online poker, players should be COOPERATING WITH EACH OTHER to make the most of our current situation - NOT RIPPING EACH OTHER OFF! There seems to be way too little cooperation and way too much of everything else. Anyway, in light of the current state of cashouts, transfers and liquidity, I'm curious to see how successful my informal group of buddies is going to be on working together to improve liquidity.
From a theoretical business school process management perspective, you have say 10 people and each person can only cash out $2,500 a month. That sucks. The group should be able to take out $25,000 out of the system assuming perfect and optimal funds transfer. That's like burger-flipping money. Make that $50,000 a month if each person has two accounts. $75,000 a month if that second account is on a site that has two cashout mechanisms. Multiply by a factor of 1.5 to 2 if some of those members are international and can cash out easier. Multiply by another factor of 1.5 to 2 if you can combine some cashouts to take advantage of the faster wires that some sites offer. That's $169K to $300K a month between 10 people. What cashout worries? The big hurdle is getting that trust and teamwork together. I think the best answer is by having everyone only have to trust as few people as possible (that's me!) and have everyone put up collateral (at no cost to them). It seems so simple.
How it looks on paper can be vastly different than in real life. It is going to take a strong player network to be able to achieve something like this, so I'll be curious see how things go. So far, my goal by the end of the year is to improve liquidity by 50%, but as you can see from the above, it's theoretically possible to do over an order of magnitude better. It never hurts to think big.
It's time for my quarterly review of US poker traffic. I'm trying to remember if anything's changed since May... Oh yeah! FT went busto and stole our money! I hope Ray Bitar enjoys living outside the U.S. the rest of his life. I have a special oak branch just for him.
Stars is no longer a US site, but I think looking at the traffic of the world's number 1 site will give a good indication of the industry. US poker customers were about 1/3 of the market. They seem to have made a nice recovery off the lows, even with the loss of US customers. Seasonally adjusted, I'm not even sure if they lost any customers, because the summer is the low period in terms of online poker (see a graph from the same period last year, where they went from 35K to 25K). Imagine that! When you take care of your customers' money, the strength of online poker just takes care of everything else. Shocker.
Among the US sites, Merge is the #1 network. And it's really the only option for mass multitabling regs. I suppose taking 4-6 weeks for a cashout AND halting new sign-ups is going to put a damper on growth. I hear cashouts are now only taking 3 weeks or so, but it's hard to say if that's a fluke. And after they get flooded with new accounts when they open, it wouldn't be surprising if cashouts went back to the 4-6 week average. Not trying to be Debbie Downer - just putting together 1 and 1. But I think the graph is more of an indication of their self-imposed no new inflow, and not of demand. Hopefully they will open soon, because I really like the site.
Bodog is the #2 US poker site, but they are being spun off at the end of the year. I hear their VIP benefits suck, but I suppose when you can only play 4 tables at a time, you're going to eliminate a lot of multitabling regs, so the games must be soft enough to compensate. I'll look into the site more when I have time.
I've been playing a little bit of Cake to see what it's all about. My review in a later post. I'm actually shocked that they actually had some growth, considering it takes 2 months for a cashout, and there was some issue with them refusing to pay out a high stakes player on suspicion of chip dumping. Most of the trades I've seen on 2+2 have been for 0.5 to 0.65 cents on the dollar. I'll have a review later, but I'm having some trouble getting past the fact that I have to use PT3 and there seem to be no full set of hotkeys that works.
I was bored last week so I put some money on there to check it out. HUDs and mass multi-tabling are okay. The US games have the standard rake up through NL200, but the Euro games have a max rake of 5 EUROS. WTF?!? The games seem somewhat soft tho and the rakeback and promos are probably a little above average. I'll keep my eye on it, but there just aren't enough (or any) tables at the stakes I'm interested in. But it might be worth taking a look at if you are a beginning player.
Texas is a Bible Belt state. I see more churches in our area (mostly Baptist) than in the Northeast. I don't see as many ads for things like the lottery or planned parenthood. And after four months of living here, I still have no idea where the strip joints are because there are no ads - anywhere! But as God is my witness, I'm going to find them!!! (If I'm dead tomorrow, tell the police it was Mrs. Fly)
Even tho I'm an atheist, I really enjoy seeing some of the magnificent places of worship. We've traveled all around the world and some of the most impressive architecture and art has been at the major religious centers. Since my sister is visiting us, I thought it was only proper to take her to the biggest church of its kind in the world and where over a hundred thousand go to worship on Sundays.
Cowboys Stadium! In Texas, football is a religion. In the Northeast, there are so many transplants that I'll meet Bears fans, Niners fans, Seahawks fans, etc. But may God have mercy on you if you live in Dallas and don't like the Cowboys - enjoy being a social outcast.
I'm generally not a fan of going on tours of stadiums, but the architecture was so spectacular that I wanted to take a peek before the football season. I don't mind spending a few bucks on baseball tickets and only stay for a few innings, but I'm not going to shell out primo bucks to take my boys to a football game and only stay for a few quarters - not for $100-1,000+ a ticket. My family room is too comfortable. So I'm not sure when I'm going to go... maybe when my brother and Sister-in-LAW come over. My brother is a huge Eagles fan, but SlawFly is a huge Cowboys fan. What's funny is my brother-in-law (Mrs. Fly's brother) is a huge Redskins fan, so between the four of us, we have the NFC East covered.
The stadium is super-clean and probably the nicest sports stadium I've ever been in. They even have quilted toilet paper in the bathrooms... and I didn't have to scrub the toilet down! Sure - it's the offseason, but there were plenty of people at the tour. What was nice was that you got to go down and run around on the field. I was a little surprised the field was somewhat lumpy and you could see gaps in seams on the turf. I'm pretty sure this must be one of the nicest turfs in the NFL. So now when I see some running back or wide receiver stumble for no reason, I won't attribute it to the alcohol or crack the night before. I guess it's like what I hear about the Boston Garden, where the playing surface is remarkably uneven for a major sports venue. Maybe there's more to this home-field advantage than I thought.
But the best part was going into the cheerleader's locker room. Seeing the player's locker room was a little meh. Been there, done that. Call me a dirty old man, but there's something kind of exciting about going into a place where hotties congregate and get undressed. It was kind of cheap-looking to be honest. Just the way I like it. The player's locker rooms had wood - the cheeerleader locker room had laminate. But they had huge sexy glamor shot posters of each them above their lockers. I felt like the Sultan of Brunei. Been there, want to do that! (Seriously, if I'm dead tomorrow, tell the police it was Mrs. Fly).
It appears Merge is starting to take new sign-ups again - at least one skin (Sportsbook) started taking new signups a few days ago. It seems reasonable to assume that other skins will be following soon.
As much as I think the player cooperative is a great idea, it doesn't make sense for me to run a full-blown business like I was considering. I was actually thinking of having a feature-laden web site, a forum on 2+2, etc. Interest was rather tepid, but more importantly, it appears some of the potential legal headaches just aren't worth it. Thanks DOJ. You've won the battle, but not the war. One day, if you find a big Asian dude squatting and laying a huge deuce on your well-manicured-from-robbing-US-poker-players-lawn on your night-vision surveillance cameras, that'll be me. You will know it's me for sure if you zoom in and see the letters "F.U. DOJ" on the left cheek and "<3 Doublefly" on the right (I have a big ass), with some hair in the middle.
I still play some online poker when I have time and I have a network of poker buddies. So we are going to incorporate some of the concepts, just to make playing poker a lot easier post BF. Some of those ideas were pretty good (if I do say so myself). As I always say, as you go through life, it always pays to have outs. Having a network of peers (like ours) give you some outs. Sometimes outs are presented to you, and other times you have to create them, but always make sure you have outs. If you're interested in participating, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you use one of the US poker referral links on the right, I'll automatically include you.
Speaking of referral links, I decided the best thing to do with the "void" left by those cheesy Google "buy gold" and vocational school ads was to refer people to various poker sites. You'll get all the standard VIP benefits, bonuses and promos of all the US sites by signing up thru me, and you'll get a lot of extra perks. I also teamed up with Schwallie (RakeTakers) to provide players with non-US referrals. There are also some undergound sites for both US and non-US players. At the end of the day, promoting online poker is my own version of civil disobedience. Poker's not illegal (unless you live in WA state). So F. U. DOJ!!! I am going to sit in the front of the bus if I feel like it. God help anyone who tells me otherwise.
I'm going to have to take a little break from the blog... my sister came to visit us for 12 days. Yee haw! I love my family!
And I'm happy to announce that we recently had a VERY welcome addition to the Fly family. No - Mrs Fly is NOT pregnant!
That's right! It's a gas smoker. I think I went a little too hard-core last time when I got the wood/charcoal smoker. That's like starting to play poker at NL10K. As my friend Lawrence Jamieson used to say, "Know your limitations. You're a moron." So the next level down is the gas smoker. I almost don't even feel like I'm smoking, since I just set the temperature and let the wood and water work its magic. I might as well make sure I get all the other BBQ concepts down, without the complication of maintaining low temperature with fast-burning wood and charcoal over 6-12+ hours.
We had no immediate plans to get a smoker, but the Food Gods seem to be pointing us in that direction. Lately Mrs. Fly has really been into marinade and rub recipes (not the good kind of "rub"). Last week, we ordered in from Dickey's (a large regional BBQ chain). We ate the brisket and we were shockingly unimpressed - no smoke flavor, but it was moist. A few days later, we were at the supermarket and a 14 pound slab of beef brisket was only $20 (LOL), we decided it was time to get the smoker.
Since we can't eat 14 pounds of brisket by ourselves, we decided to invite some of the neighbors and have a little initiation party of sorts. We had never made brisket before, but we figured it's dead animal - how bad could it be?
Well, we sorta found out. The thin part of the brisket was meh and chewy, but I think it's mostly because the thermostat was off. But the center of the thick part (that we left 4 hours longer in the smoker) was really outstanding. Mrs. Fly wasn't too happy with the rub, and I think it would have been better if we trimmed all but 1/4" of the fat. But we love eating and trying new recipes. So we're looking forward to it. I'm hoping we'll get it pretty close in out next few tries.