Saturday, December 31, 2016

PPC Poker Tour Facing Demise Amidst Aruba Final Table Payout Scandal

The following article is my first go at reporting for my new gig with Part Time Poker. I have loosely known the guys who run the site for quite a few years now, and I have always found them to have both the best poker content out there, in addition to running the best business. I am happy with the fruits of my first assignment, although unfortunately started to fall very ill during the home stretch and wasn't up to the task of doing a few final edits, particularly with regards to shortening some of the longer sentences. Luckily, it seems I will have the opportunity to go back over it and give it some touch up work, so if you happen to drop in to our site and everything seems perfectly fine, just disregard this part and enjoy it!

Sandy Swartzbaugh and Bryan Oulton of the PPC posing with Aruba Main Event winner Stephen Deutsch
Sandy Swartzbaugh and Bryan Oulton of the PPC Poker Tour posing with the as of yet unpaid winner of the No Limit Hold’em Main Event in Aruba, Stephen Deutsch.

For what in hindsight now appear to be suspiciously vague reasons attributed to gaming laws in Aruba, the PPC put a cap of $10,000 to be paid out to winners at the event, with the promise of full payment coming within two to three weeks via wire transfer. In the time since Philbin broke the news, it has come to light that the PPC has had a history of delaying payments to its winners, a fact that was not considered to be newsworthy until very recently, as reportedly virtually all of the players in question were eventually made whole within a few weeks’ time.

It appears that this time around, however, patient players won’t be getting so lucky. Current news of payment delays not only encompasses recent tournament winners, but also several PPC employees and at least one sponsored pro. The tournament co-owners, Sandy Swartzbaugh and Bryan Oulton, have been dodging the spotlight and gone dark on their communications with the media and debt holders. As news of the tournament’s Aruba troubles have gained traction, they have failed to respond to inquiries regarding the missing funds, deleted any messages or criticisms concerning payouts on their Facebook page, stripped information and links from their homepage, and deleted their Twitter accounts.

Continue reading at Part Time Poker...

Monday, December 19, 2016

What's the Difference Between Pro Poker and Pro Daily Fantasy Sports?

The following article is a piece I had written for publication while I working a brief stint with PokerTube this past summer. Until I offered to do a random topic that their editor needed ASAP that none of their other writers wanted, I knew very little about Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) and cared even less. I gave myself a weekend crash course on the subject that consisted of articles and podcasts and it turned out to be some pretty fascinating stuff. While I have no interest in pursuing any profit motive within the game, given the (hopefully) more or less accurate info I came up with below, I am certain that if I had applied myself to that endeavor with the same intensity as poker, I would have totally kicked ass at it as well....only to find myself broke and homeless again in another 11 years' time!

P.S.  Bonus points if you can spot where I whored myself out to the industry!

There's money to be made in football...
If your guy catches that pass, you be gettin' that ass

What's the Difference Between Pro Poker and Pro DFS?

The massive popularity of Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) has reached the point that it is now a viable contender with poker as a career choice in professional gaming. Assuming that you have the basic understanding of the level of commitment needed to succeed in each of these options and are starting off completely from scratch (like I did in poker), there are several important differences that you need to consider with respect to each when choosing to pursue one of them as a profession.

Scheduling flexibility

Poker may allow you to escape from being oppressed by demanding bosses and a glass ceiling, but in the very short term, you are actually more tethered to your job than just about anyone else. Pro poker players may often find themselves stuck in one spot much longer than they would like, but they do have the option of sleeping in and compensating by grinding it out through the night. This means that players are not beholden to the schedules set by others. Of course, this must be done within reason, as even degenerates halfway around the world get a bit stingy with their vices after 2 AM Eastern Time.

There's a reason that pro DFS players can take a swig off a Mountain Dew bottle without sniffing it first to make sure it's not yesterday's piss. Once you have opened up Draft Kings and bought into your matches, you aren't going to be penalized if you are forced to get up and answer the door for the FedEx guy or have a sudden onset of diarrhea. Many aspiring poker players stray away from tournaments precisely because of the lack of scheduling flexibility, but even cash game players will find that spending too much time on the toilet will quickly eat into their profits.
Waiting for the blinds to come back around to restart your session, or worse, having the fish you were targeting get felted in your absence will inevitably hurt your bottom-line. Having some time being isolated in a tiny white room with no distractions can actually be beneficial to the avid DFS player, as there is no more appropriate place to pick up a copy of Sports Illustrated and stay current!
Draft Kings

The role of study

Not everyone has the stamina or patience to slog through long poker sessions and large tournament fields. Harder still is doing this while maintaining tight focus and keeping your emotions in check. Any poker pro who has had a lengthy track record of success will tell you that in order to stay competitive, time must be allotted away from the tables to study. Nevertheless, poker study is no substitute for actual play, and there are many existing superstars who have never read a book on poker, nor have any grasp of mathematics beyond the sixth grade level, yet still succeed through logical deduction and a strong awareness of psychology.
In DFS, your study time is your play, as there is no room for intuition. Confidence that the Patriots will mop up on Monday Night Football means nothing if Tom Brady slams his fingers in the car door four hours before game time and you were too sloppy to double check if he was actually starting. One hundred percent of your results are determined by your efforts prior to kickoff. Provided that you have done your due diligence in picking your lineup and do your final revisions before game time to ensure you aren't crippled by last minute player substitutions, you can apply all your efforts when you are at your sharpest.

Skill scales in DFS

If we start with the assumption that the king of the hill at Draft Kings is the site's very best player, he got there by being the consistent highest scorer. This means that the strategy he employs at the highest stakes will also be the highest scoring at every buy-in level below. This gives him the ability to click a button and enter every single contest using his top line-up at stakes so low relative to his skill level and bankroll that he is practically on a small stakes freeroll.*
This factor wildly separates DFS from poker. Barring some crazy prop bet, world class poker players have no financial incentive to play all the available high stakes games while diverting their attention to pummel microstakes minnows. When deciding whether or not to go DFS or poker, you should give serious consideration to the pros and cons of this feature. This creates a barrier of entry lower for poker players, as you won't face superior competition while building up your bankroll. However, if you possess enough skill in DFS, you can use this to your advantage as you rise through the stakes.
Poker players moving up the ranks will often experience culture shock once they reach a certain level and the general style of play diverges drastically from what they are accustomed to. This can even happen when switching to a new site with a different player pool, making it seem as if they are playing an entirely different game.

The importance of diversification

Unless you are playing very high stakes poker, it's perfectly acceptable to choose to specialize in either NLH or PLO and make a career from a single game. This is not the case in DFS, as choosing to wager on just one or two sports means that you will be spending several months driving Joey Knish's truck. Since all major sports are seasonal, you are likely to have to get out of your comfort zone if you want to stay busy 365 days a year. This could very well mean that if you want to maximize your earnings potential, you will have to start taking an interest in sports you just plain don't like. The upside of this is that it should be easy to carry on a conversation with the old barflies at your local pub on any day of the week.

Current and future markets

Lastly, and in my opinion, most importantly, before putting all your eggs in the DFS or poker basket. Poker has proven its longevity and is well established, but has suffered through many scandals and is under constant threat from regulators and legal uncertainties. DFS is decidedly legal, but relatively new, and will doubtless face its own challenges. It's very strong at the moment, but don't let the hard lessons we all learned from poker go to waste and stay vigilant!
* DFS sites are taking steps to limit this practice in the hopes that the games become less predatory and more welcoming to new, casual players.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Where's Karl??

I now have a new service that I can add to my writing resume! While it is quite likely that I will never get an opportunity to do something like this again in such an important context, I've always found that one's talents are best applied when doing good things for good people. Thus, when my best poker friend, and one of my best and most trusted friends, period asked me if I could write him a character reference as part of a CV (curriculum vitae) to submit to the Kenyan Gaming Commission on his behalf, I told him it would be ready by the time he wakes up. Even better, he not only allowed me to post this on my blog, he actually thought it would be great to add a back link to it to give it some heft, lol!

Karl Javadi posing for a selfie with a gorgeous Kenyan native.
Karl doing what he does best: making friends and winning hearts at his new home in Nairobi, Kenya.

What a strange idea that this blog has taken me from struggling poker pro, to short stack scum, to widely regarded voice on strategy and the industry, to a paid writing position with River Street Writing, and ultimately to a trustworthy source to vouch for a great man's character. While I sincerely hope that this most recent development will pay off in Karl's favor, I am honored that he would choose me to do so, nonetheless. I'm going to gush and ramble here for a bit, so don't be surprised if the following letter looks different after Karl has had a chance to review it and tell me if and where I may have gone on too long. Here goes....

To whomever this may concern in the Kenyan Gaming Commission:

I have known Karl Javadi for just shy of two years now. I was getting a Sonic the Hedgehog tattoo when he added me as a contact on Skype by request of a mutual friend and poker coaching client of mine. Being that I was forced to stay in one spot for several hours with very little to preoccupy myself, I was able to chat with Karl at length as he laid out the details of what he was currently doing in the world of poker. At that time, Karl had secured a spot as a customer service agent/liaison of sorts for a skin operating on the Klas Gaming poker network.

In our first encounter, Karl immediately revealed himself to be an interesting and forthright character. Having spent many years in the pokersphere, I have learned to take first impressions with a grain of salt, yet I still left the conversation with the strong sense that I had a new ally in the poker world. Later on that evening, when speaking to him further on a Skype voice call, I felt like I had made a new friend.

First and foremost, Karl is very transparent with his self-interests. Being that poker on the professional level is, at heart, a business venture, I am very comfortable with the aspects of one forming new relationships with a profit motive in mind. In this regard, Karl separates himself from the pack in the best way possible-- by making sure that not only are his motives clear, but that he will only move forward with them in a business relationship if he believes that it is also in the best interests of the other party. He very clearly states the risks involved, and makes no promises that he can't make good on personally if the worst case scenario does occur. As the gambling laws of the land vary widely from country to country and sometimes even state to state, Karl is very keen to the idea that what may be legal in one locale may be explicitly illegal in another. Thus, he always advises to exercise caution in any undertaking that may or not put the other party at risk, and makes it known when he is uncertain of the legal implications of moving forward.

In the world of poker, a man's honor is always at stake, and this almost always comes down to matters of money. Currency and trust in poker are deeply entwined, and often transactions of hundreds or thousands of dollars are traded back and forth on a whim and guaranteed by nothing more than a digital handshake. This is where Karl's character has truly shined over the time we have known each other. He always gives first and often asks for little or nothing in return. For example, he has always offered the very best percentage deals in terms of staking arrangements, as he has a strong sense of the notion of taking care of the people he invests in and making sure that these people leave the deal happy, even if that means carrying the burden of additional financial risk himself. On more than one occasion, Karl has even swallowed losses to ensure that his friends and partners are taken care of if something unexpected on the higher level falls through, though it be no fault of his own or otherwise outside of his control.

Going beyond matters of money, Karl has always been available to be a sympathetic ear for personal matters. The most memorable time was when I had gotten into an awful argument with my then-wife and subsequently fell down the stairs (don't ask!). In the figurative sense, Karl picked me up and dusted me off. He listened to the entire story, and then his first move was to hold me accountable for my share of the blame before going on to help me resolve the issue. While it may feel great to be able to vent about personal matters, even though I had only known him for less than two months at that time, I knew that he was exactly the person that I could go to for an unbiased opinion.

I can offer many additional examples if required, but hopefully I have painted enough of a picture of this great man already. Please let me know if anything else is required and I will be more than happy to oblige.


Lorin Yelle, aka "The Short Stack Hero"
My Blog: 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Coming Full Circle- From Server to Gambler to Server Again

Barley's Knoxville in Old City
I know she ain't pretty, but true beauty is on the inside!
In order to preface how I have been spending my time lately, I would like to travel back in time eight years ago to reference my 17th post, which is reprinted verbatim below. Before I was a poker pro, I had worked as a waiter in several different restaurants. When transitioning to playing poker full time as a professional, I found that the skills I had honed as a waiter had a lot of crossover value, particularly with regards to effective multi-tasking. 

Much of this year was extremely painful on the personal level, as I went through a difficult divorce that eventually led to complete financial insolvency. I had to move out of the so-called "marital home" with few choices to live, which were, I shit you not, the tropical island of Curacao, India, or good little old Knoxville, Tennessee.

It was a difficult decision.

While I couldn't take my school age children with me to any of those locations, at least in Knoxville, I was only 4 hours away from home and I could stay with good friends while I set about rebuilding my life. The original goal was just to save up money via what I had always considered to be the best option, which was, sadly, poker. In the mean time, to try to cover the small, albeit personally  significant amount of court ordered temporary child support, I thought it would be great to get a serving job like back in the old days, particularly because cashout times at Bovada poker were becoming alarmingly slow.

It had been nine years since I had a boss, and even that brief gig was just a four month stint as a mortgage broker, right before the fallout of the subprime market. This may strike you as odd, but I was actually excited by the idea of working under someone for a change. A gambling professional in the US is technically self-employed, meaning that you end up playing the roles of both boss and employee simultaneously. The burden of making decision after decision, arguing internally with yourself constantly, and ultimately second guessing yourself all the time quickly gets old, if not downright maddening. Even on your very best days, you will go to bed ruminating over ways you could have played just slightly better, only to wake up the next day finding yourself inventing excuses to skip or show up late to work. That's is work.

I had been doing this for just over 12 years by the time I had arrived in Tennessee, and I was exhausted. I was looking forward to going into work, punching the clock, doing everything right as per the rules of the establishment, and ending my day at a set time with little or no regrets. I was also looking forward to getting back out into the world and being social again, with some modest expectations that the skills and life lessons gained through a lengthy career in professional gambling and coaching would show some value.

After two months into normal, everyday gainful employment as a server at Barley's in Knoxville, I can wholeheartedly say that literally everything I learned or was taught about surviving in the cutthroat world of poker not only applies to the outside world, it can also give you the opportunity to excel at it as well. Naturally, I realize that there were many things I could have done better at my short time there, and there was much, much room to improve. 

 I will speak more on those aspects later, but in the mean time, I want to point out that the advice given in the article below was not only the advice I have doled most frequently to students, friends, and fellow pros, but also quite likely the single piece of advice that I followed myself that allowed me to hang on for as long as I did. While I don't disagree with a single word of it even eight years after print, I will soon rewrite it and color it up with my new experiences to give it more depth and clarity.


Playing Too Many Tables

Do you consistently get the feeling that you are always doing something wrong or could be doing something better? Trust me, I get that feeling all the time but hopefully if I am able to follow my own advice, I won't be getting that feeling anymore. The question at hand is: have you been playing too many tables? Other than the obvious indicators that you have been, here are a few other ones that might seem minimal when you do them that could lead to grave errors.

1) Have you forgotten who raised the pot?

2) Have you missed seeing a third player in what you thought was a heads-up pot?

3) Have you made your standard button raise with a hand like T9s only to see that the BB was practically all in?

4) And most importantly, do you find yourself playing certain hands EXACTLY the same way every time?

I understand the theory behind playing multiple tables perfectly and believe me when I say that I have had this same argument with myself over and over again to justify doing it.


Actually, you probably aren't and I will use a direct analogy to explain why. My last job was waiting tables. In a smaller section consisting of 3-4 tables, I was usually seriously limited in how much money I could expect to make on that shift. After all, if I was working one or two more tables, I could expect to make more money, right? And that was true. But at least there, I KNEW that after reaching my load of 6 tables, my ability to serve our guests well began to decline rapidly. In what ways? Tell me if some of these sound analogous to you:

1) I could not give each guest special attention (playing the player and missing value).

2) I would forget who ordered what (missing who raised the pot or who was in the blinds).

3) I might deliver the wrong food to the wrong table (thinking you are playing AA when in fact you are holding JJ- ouch!)

At some point in time, by playing too many tables you will reach a critical limit where your ability to play even 1 correctly collapses entirely. Presumably, we are limiting ourselves to that point just before where that decline begins. But even if that were true, there are some unpredictable external events that could push you over the edge immediately. Maybe your phone rings and it is that important call that you have been waiting for. Maybe your dog just puked on the floor. Maybe your kid just woke up and began crying uncontrollably -- all while you were trying to "maximize your expectation" while playing 12-16 tables simultaneously.

Of course, we expect to make some (small) mistakes but these are the only ones we are noticing. In fact, it's almost like using selective memory. We remember the small mistakes that we spot, but will never "remember" the ones we never realized we were making. But the bottom line is that by playing too many tables, we are ultimately stunting our growth as players for some possible (and I do mean possible ) short-term gain. By playing too many tables, it is easy to get too ingrained in habits that are used to beat the average players at your chosen limit. By learning to beat consistently the best players at your limit, you are preparing your self to beat the higher limit.