Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Most (if not all) of the NYC poker rooms were closed this weekend, biding their time and evaluating the fallout from last week's raid. One club is having a staff meeting today to discuss the issues surrounding recent events; I imagine others will do the same.
While everyone waits to see how things shake out, I wanted to address two of the comments I received to my previous post about the legality of poker in Gotham.
1. Not Being Cashed Out. Two people suggested that losing the chips you have on the table should be deterrent enough not to go to a New York poker club, out of fear that you might be there the night of a raid. I admit that it is a certainty; if you're there when a raid goes down, you won't be cashed out. How is that different from a losing night though? If it happened to me, I'd just go home, note in the spreadsheet that my net for the night was a loss for however much I was in for, and move on. If you're afraid of losing chips, what in god's name are you doing at a poker table?
If the raids are stepped up in frequency, this may become a more legitimate concern. But as it stands now, there have been three raids in the last year: Acepoint in August, Brooklyn Players Club in February (and that was more targetted at bookmaking than poker-playing; the sweep-up of the poker club was an unfortunate side effect of some poor choices by club management) and Thursday's raid of New York Players Club and Playstation. If you drop BPC, that's two raids in nine months. I'll take those odds.
2. Games of Skill v. Games of Chance. One commenter suggested that New York courts have "specifically determined that Backgammon and Bridge are not games of chance, and thus are not gambling and therefore can be wagered upon." I have been unable to find any such New York court decision. As far as I know, New York has never issued such a decision. If anyone has a link to a New York case with the above holding, please post it in the comment section.
There are similar decisions in Oregon and a handful of other states where backgammon players challenged gambling statutes, but those cases addressed the statutes of those particular states. Without reading the text of the statutes at issue in those cases, it's impossible to know how successful applying similar logic in New York would be.
Until then, the fact that the New York statute makes a distinction for "a future contingent event not under his control or influence" is what will convince me that poker is "gambling". Similar logic would, in theory, apply for backgammon, although the thrust of the case in Oregon seemed to be that the roll of the dice is largely irrelevant, due to the skill demands of the game. How can you say that about poker? You can get all your money in with the best hand with one card to come, but if the cards come out the wrong way, you lose - and you have absolutely no control over how they come out unless you're a mechanic.
Beyond that, however, gambling on games is not the issue - the issue is profiting from gambling. The New York statutes are all designed to go after the facilitators of gambling. There's nothing that says you can't gamble on poker, or backgammon, or bridge -- as long as no third-party is profiting from it.
Saturday, May 28, 2005
There's quite a bit of confusion right now about the legal status of poker in New York. On the heels of Thursday night's raids (bonus coverage), I thought it would be helpful to explain to players why, as players, we have nothing to fear from a police raid against any of the poker clubs, and why we should all continue to frequent the clubs that remain open. A quick review of the applicable laws should set the table for us.
Article 1, Section 9 of the New York State Constitution clearly states that:
[N]o lottery or the sale of lottery tickets, pool-selling, book-making or any other kind of gambling [except state-run lotteries and state-sponsored pari-mutuel betting on horse races] shall hereafter be authorized or allowed within this state; and the legislature shall pass appropriate laws to prevent offenses against any of the provisions of this section.
There are additional carve-outs for bingo and for extremely small stakes "casino nights" run by charitable and/or not-for-profit organizations, but otherwise any form of gambling is unauthorized in New York.
"But poker isn't gambling!", you say. "It's a game of skill, not a game of luck." Hold on there, Perry Mason. Who said skill or luck had anything to do with whether or not something is "gambling", as far as the State of New York is concerned? To answer the question of "what is gambling?", we need to turn to the New York Penal Law. Section 225.00(2) defines "gambling" as follows:
A person engages in gambling when he stakes or risks something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under his control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that he will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome.
As you can see, poker falls clearly within this definition. Players risk something of value (money, Section 225.00(6)) upon the outcome of a future contingent event not under their control or influence (the cards to come - whether playing a stud game, a draw game or a flop game) upon an agreement that one of them will receive something of value (all the money in the pot) in the event of a certain outcome (he has the best hand or all other players fold).
The thing is, just because poker is "gambling", it doesn't follow that attending an underground card room and playing poker there is punishable. Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution states only that gambling is unauthorized; it leaves the enumeration of specific crimes to the state legislature. Thus, in order to determine what type of gambling activity is considered a crime, we need to look deeper into the Penal Law, to the actual crimes enumerated by the statute. They're all found in Section 225, and consist of:
* Promoting gambling, second degree - when a person knowingly advances or profits from unlawful gambling activity. Class A misdemeanor.
* Promoting gambling, first degree. Class E felony.
* Possession of gambling records, second degree. Class A misdemeanor.
* Possession of gambling records, first degree. Class E felony.
* Possession of a gambling device. Class A misdemeanor.
I can already see the questions forming. "Don't I profit from unlawful gambling activity if I win more than I lose?" "Don't I 'possess a gambling device' when I use chips to bet?" In both cases, the answer is "no", but we have to back our way into that answer a little bit by looking at the definition of "player" (Section 225.00(3)):
"Player" means a person who engages in any form of gambling solely as a contestant or bettor, without receiving or becoming entitled to receive any profit therefrom other than personal gambling winnings, and without otherwise rendering any material assistance to the establishment, conduct or operation of the particular gambling activity. A person who gambles at a social game of chance on equal terms with the other participants therein does not 'otherwise render material assistance to the establishment, conduct or operation thereof' by performing, without fee or remuneration, acts directed toward the arrangement or facilitation of the game, such as inviting persons to play, permitting the use of premises therefor and supplying cards or other equipment used therein. A person who engages in "bookmaking", as defined in this section is not a "player."
That explains the cryptic remark from a member of the Vice Squad that "It's not illegal to play poker, only to profit from it." The rub for players is that, although they can't be hit with "possession of a gambling device" or "promotion of gambling", since chips are considered "gambling devices", all chips are immediately seized as evidence and nobody gets cashed out.
In summary, while it's true that playing poker for money is unauthorized in New York, there is no specific criminal statute on the books that can punish players. All of the statutes are aimed only at the facilitators of gambling: bookies, owners of card clubs, their staff, etc.
Now get out there and get those cards in the air!
As you can see, the story made a teaser on the front page of the Daily News and is given prominent coverage on page 3. It also got some play in the New York Post. And of course, as I mentioned yesterday, there's the Newsday story.
Even the New York Times covered the story (tip of the hat to SoxLover, to whom a quote is attributed in yesterday's Newsday article).
The timing is fairly ironic, because I was planning a post that would revisit the legalities of poker in New York, and BOOM - two clubs get busted. I'll have some more thoughts about what this means for the scene later in the day.
Friday, May 27, 2005
Female Bookie: All bets are off.
Sol: I'm not in here to make a fucking bet.
Female Bookie: Appreciated, but all... bets... are... off. If all bets are off, then there can't be any money can there?
Sol: I'm not fucking buying that.
Female Bookie: Well that's handy, 'cause I ain't fucking selling it. It's a fact.
[UPDATE: The Newsday story has hit their webpage. I imagine the other rags will have a story tomorrow.]
Seems the NYPD has finally decided that poker's getting too big for its britches. After tips left by anonymous commenters, I've confirmed via independent sources that both the UWS club and the Union Square area club were raided last night. A New York Newsday reporter at Union Square told me (via cell phone) that the preliminary tally is 39 people arrested at the Union Square club, which I imagine *has* to include players; no word about what the damage was at the UWS club. Supposedly, anyone who didn't have ID was arrested, and all staff were arrested.
I have not been able to get any confirmation on whether any other clubs were also raided. Personally speaking, I was at a club in Midtown until about 8:30pm, and everything was fine when I left.
My suggestion -- if you absolutely MUST play a live game this weekend, go to AC. I'll have further thoughts about this as more details become clear.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.
I keep sitting down to try to write up the next installment of the razz series, and every time I start it, I get massively stuck. I wouldn't really call it writer's block; it's more the fact that fourth and fifth street are probably the two most complex of the five streets. Wrapping my head around an effective way to present fourth street without totally confusing the two people interested in reading my razz posts is a bit of challenge that I haven't solved yet. Ultimately, the best method will probably be to split fourth street into several posts, but I need to think about it some more before doing so.
Today did see the glorious reunion of my notepad and me, so maybe I'll have something to write about the Nurse Pauly Farewell Game No. 1 at the Towne House after all. In the meantime, in the spirit of DoubleAs recent most excellent post on pressure, I give you the hand of the night:
$1/$2 NLHE, I've straddled for $4. My stack had been taking a bit of a beating the previous two orbits, down to about $160 from its starting $300. Three callers, and then the big blind also called. A quick peek at my cards revealed a hell of a straddling hand -- aces! I made it $25 straight. The table wasn't really an action table, but I was hoping I might get one person to go fishing against my straddle-raise. Folded around to the big blind, who paused for a moment before reraising me another $40. Wow, did he just limp-reraise me from the big blind?
Very deliberately, I took about a minute to run the numbers. There was about $105 in the pot. With position, I had to call $40. Before the call, I had $140 behind. If I called, the pot would be $145 and my stack would be $100. I was pretty sure the guy had a pair, but I wasn't sure how big. I thought about smooth-calling to try to maximize the value of my holding in the hopes that he'd lead out on the flop, but it occurred to me his pair might not be that big; that would explain the limp with five people in the pot, but the raise when it was headsup.
On the other hand, it's fairly common for a straddler to raise his own straddle if no one else does -- often with crap. As the player on my right was fairly new to the table, he had no idea how tight-passive I'd been playing for the better part of the previous two hours. (Yes, tight-passive. Shoot me, ok?) An all-in raise could look fishy to him, and would also put the pressure peak squarely on him, having to call $100 into a $240 pot.
In addition, if he did have a big pair like KK or QQ, he'd be hard-pressed to get away from it before the flop, and I'd have him at a 4 to 1 edge. Even on the off-chance that he could correctly put me on aces and fold, winning the pot without a flop would not have been a tragedy; at that point, there was $80 of profit in the pot. That sealed it for me.
With a careful stacking of my chips, I announced "I'm all-in."
"I hate it when they do that!" he said. Hearing that remark damn near gave me a poker chub. Even if I lost the hand, in my mind I had already won it. I had good information about my opponent's hand; my own play was somewhat deceptive; and I had placed the pressure squarely on him.
Oh yeah, I won, by the way. He called, and I flopped a set to demolish his JJ and double up.
Last night was Nurse Pauly's second of two farewell games, this one at The Blue Parrot. The cards treated me kindly, and I didn't play horribly. Result: another black session. In fact, the final hand of the night, which Ferrari had to really cajole me into playing (foldaconda, god how I loathe that game), led to me being "the big winner". The two nights of Nurse Pauly's Farewell Tour netted me $300.
With that kind of success, Pauly's allowed to come back to New York any time he wants -- as long as he promises to leave again.
Monday, May 23, 2005
Testament to the popularity of poker, I received the following two invites to poker tournaments yesterday:
No.2: (forwarded by a friend - no way I'd be caught dead with a subscription the New Yorker) --
Date: Wed, 18 May 2005 20:40:43 UT
From: The New Yorker Promotion Department
Subject: You are invited to a special event
Dear New Yorker Reader:
David Carey, Vice President and Publisher
The New Yorker
Claudio Del Vecchio, President & CEO
INVITE YOU TO GET DECKED OUT
AN EVENING OF POKER
with Host Committee
Eric Gertler, Harlan Peltz and Metin Negrin
Benefitting The Irvington Institute for
It really does seem like everyone and their dog has jumped on the poker bandwagon. New clubs keep opening in New York City, players keep emailing me asking me where the action is, non-profits are getting into the act with charity tournaments, and poker continues to enjoy high exposure (and decent ratings) on television. That's all good for the game, no doubt, but it's my opinion we're coming up on the high water mark. I will be very, very surprised if there are more entries in the 2006 WSOP Main Event than there are this year. I'm not saying that I think poker's going to sink back down to its previous levels of relative obscurity, but rather that the "fad" is going to lose some of its appeal to the mainstream. It is inevitable, and since we're a few years into the "Moneymaker phenomenon", I think this will be the year.
In the meantime, I'll still be playing. Saturday was the first of two farewell games for Dr. Pauly. It was a blast - and I went home with almost $200 more than I started with. Unfortunately, I forgot to take my notebook with me when I left the game, so a full-blown write-up isn't going to happen. Take a peek at Pauly's site if you want a bigger scoop.
This week, farewell game number 2, followed by a visit to the newest NYC card room.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Ready are you? What know you of ready? For eight hundred years have I trained Jedi. My own counsel will I keep on who is to be trained. A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind.
Razz Bracelet Race on Full Tilt. Cruising along, hour 1, and then in the span of twenty minutes I was wiped out. Twice I got three bets in on sixth as a 4 to 1 favorite, but I lost them both. The limits at Full Tilt go up pretty quick, so when you throw in a bunch of bricks with three-card bikes, and then the final hand where I got it all in with A-3/2-6, only to go Q-3-T and lose to a 9, it made for a speedy exit.
It was kinda tragic, and yet all I could do was laugh. What made it even better was that one player decided to take the role of "table pro" and explain to everyone why he was so much better than the rest of us. Good times!
I did find playing razz to be much more engaging than the $20 no-limit holdem sit-n-go that I played on Party last night. I was bored in that one by Level 3, and that's NEVER a good sign. Boredom leads to bad play leads to me going out sixth. Why are most poker festivals these days so heavily holdem laden? Are there really that many more people who prefer holdem to the exclusion of other games?
I guess stud games just aren't as sexy as "push it all in" holdem.
I'm not sure what my current blase attitude for holdem means for my poker playing right now. At least I'm in good company. I'll definitely go check out the new club in NYC (not before Monday, however, so don't look for a review just yet), but other than that I may stick to the occassional online razz game. Playing razz tonight has re-energized me to write up the recently promised post on fourth street in razz and to try to learn more about the subtleties of the game.
Despite that, I'll be sitting at a holdem table Saturday with none other than self-proclaimed "internet celebrity" Dr. Pauly for the first of TWO farewell games before his departure to cover the WSOP. I thought the only way to gain fame on the web was to take your clothes off, but Pauly claims he's achieved it while remaining mostly clothed. In the interest of full disclosure, however, I want to point one thing out to all of Pauly's lady internet fanboys:
His cock is THIS big.
Monday, May 16, 2005
Homer: There's your giraffe, little girl.
Ralph Wiggum: I'm a boy.
Homer: That's the spirit. Never give up.
I'm making plans to play some poker again. First of all, I received an email this morning advertising ANOTHER new card room in New York City (review forthcoming). It's located in the area of the old Wall Street Club, which was closed after a patron had a heart attack at the table and died. No joke. No read right now on whether it's the same owners popping up in a new location, or if this club is an independent operation.
All these new clubs opening up has me once again wondering if I have a spare $75,000 lying around that I don't need. That's what I figure I would need to open my own place. It's not much, right? I don't think the kind folks of the New York bar would like it much if my club were ever raided, however. Since I spent a pretty penny getting my JD (and subsequent bar admission), I'd prefer not to watch it be ripped into shredafter a conviction for running a gambling establishment. Those law school loans don't pay down themselves.
Prison, on the other hand, would be cake. Ugarte keeps telling me that I have the body of a 12-year old girl; on "the inside" I'd finally be able to put it to good use.
What is market saturation in the NYC poker market? Ten clubs? Twelve clubs? Six clubs? Twenty? I would have thought we reached the saturation point already, but with a few of the more shoddy operations going belly up, maybe there's room for another upstart or two. If these clubs even manage to fill one table for six hours a night, they gross almost $500. In a week, that's $3,500; in a year, $175,000. Obviously there are expenses that have to be recovered out of that amount -- start-up expenses, operating expenses, marketing expenses -- but even so, I imagine the profit margin after all of that is still in the neighborhood of 30%. Run a good club and get the word out to NYC players, and you'll make even more. The players DO talk to each other about their preferred places to play.
So -- anybody got $37,500 they don't need?
AC is also beckoning, though probably not for a few weeks. There are various weddings and whatnot that get in the way of my doing much of anything between now and mid-June. I won't even be making the Vegas trip with the rest of the poker bloggers. At the last minute, I almost had a change of heart, but a $600 airfare scuttled that right quick. $600 for a Vegas weekend? Eh, no thanks. That's why I skipped the WSOP satellite last night; winning a $1,500 entry to a WSOP event would be nice, but I'd still have to shell out the $600 for the plane ticket.
On the other hand, the Full Tilt Bracelet Race tournaments are more appealing -- they come with $500 in cash in addition to the $1,500 seat. It's been a few weeks since I tried the razz event; real life conspiring to keep me away from the virtual table on Thursdays. This week is looking free and clear, though, so maybe I'll give it one more shot. If I miss, my net investment in WSOP satellites for this year will be ($4). I think I can live with that.
It'd be nice to win a seat and go for the big score, though. Those law school loans don't pay down themselves.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
A hearty thanks goes out to reader Craig S. for contributing the new and improved F train logo which graces the top of my site, replacing the clunky-ass kludge of a logo that I threw up there a week ago (rock on, MSPaint). At first, I thought the email Craig sent, subject "F Train Logo", might be a cease and desist letter from the MTA. While that would have been kind of exciting, I'd much rather take the improved logo. Thanks Craig!
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Ok, ok, I cop to it. I haven't been posting as much as usual. But then again, I haven't been playing as much as usual (see the last post). Since this claims to be a poker blog, one sort of equates to the other, I think.
I don't think I've lost "the bug". How could I? Poker's been in my veins since I was a freshman in high school, playing quarter games in a friend's basement. That's going on fifteen years now.
No, I haven't lost the bug, I've just been distracted. Not the good kind of distracted (that would be female-oriented distraction), not the bad kind of distracted (that would be anxiety/depression/whatever-oriented distraction), just "distracted". I'm in another one of my seemingly annual ruts and what's required to push myself out of it is a swift kick in the ass. Last year, that kick was a quick day trip to Binion's for the WSOP, followed by a move a week later across the country. I'm not sure where the kick will come from this year.
In the meantime, to get some poker content up, I'm going to be typing up some thoughts on playing fourth street in razz. Should be up here "soon".
Thursday, May 05, 2005
Well, since last week's near-win, the only poker I've played was the WPBT WSOP satellite. I found it so dreadfully boring. Flop game. Pfah.
I'm totally hooked on razz now, and I'm sure that my holdem play has suffered for it. Guns (or was it DoubleAs?) would say that "stasis = death", and to a certain extent he's right. I'm sure my holdem skills have degraded somewhat over the last few months as I've dialed down the amount of holdem I've played and tried to concentrate on razz. It is inevitable. That's why successful HORSE players are so few and far between. Each individual game takes enough concentration to master on its own, never mind trying to do five simultaneously.
At the same time as my holdem decline, I haven't been that motivated to play much poker overall. It's not really a result of my February flameout, but just that I've been doing "other things", especially other computer things. Those things have forced my online playing frequency way down. The thing is, it's not like I'm making it up by playing live. I haven't been getting out to the New York rooms that often; I haven't been to AC in three months; and the Above Malibu game, long a staple of my diet, was switched from Wednesday at 10:30pm (a bad enough time) to Sunday at 10pm (a god-awful time). Even the games at the Blue Parrot have become, at best, a monthly affair. Combine all of that with the impossibility of finding a live razz game, and well...
There's only one solution here, obviously, and that's to play more. Poker is not like riding a bike -- if you don't use the skills you have developed and built up, they will deteriorate over time. If you're not out there on the tables on a regular basis, you're giving money away, not just by the money you're not winning, but by the money that you will eventually lose (that you otherwise wouldn't have) by not keeping your skills sharp.
In the end, a shark is really just a big ol' fish.
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
New look, same drivel. I aim to please!
Truth be told, I got tired of the old look. I tinkered with this template to get it to something decent. There were further alterations I wanted to make, but due to the limitations of some of the background images, they just weren't possible. "Alas", as one blogger would say. One day I'll design my own site instead of being lazy and cribbing from other people's work.
Who am I kidding. That will NEVER happen.
Since it's never too early to start promoting a good thing, allow me to start today's post with a link to:
This will be good. This will be funny. This will be $20 for 54 hours of comedy spread across multiple stages. If you were to stay for all 54 hours, that would be a mere 37 cents per hour of comedy. That would also be insane. I prefer to schedule my DCM attendance around a few shows I want to see, and then the rest is gravy. Some of the best improvisors in the world will be at this festival. If laughter is the best medicine, then consider the DCM all of your innoculations for the year.
Have you bought Toby's book yet? If not, you're missing out!
Thirdly, I am ashamed to admit that somehow, prior to this post, I did not have the inestimable AlCantHang linked up in my blogroll. I'm not sure how that oversight has been allowed to linger this long, other than the fact that my blogroll has been sorely neglected for a few months. Al is spending this week writing up a trip report to the Florida Keys. Good shit in there. Some real belly laughs. Not the "hee hee" type for Mr. ACH. Here's a snippet:
"OK, you're on the couch in your own condo. cool, home in one piece. You're fully dressed, also good..... money and wallet are on the coffee table, good, that's means no one rolled me while I was out.... what the hell happened??.... alright, let's try sitting up for a second, see how that works.... ugh.... ok, lay back down for a second.... there ya go..... now think idiot, what happened..... Irish Kevins...Teasers.... ah crap... ugly lights..... this isn't going to be pretty.... by the way, I think a cat shit in our mouth.....get some water, if you don't mind.... great idea.....ah jeez.... being vertical sucks..... why's everyone looking at me funny?"
Finally, tip of the hat to Glyphic (whose link was broken in my blogroll - geezus, what the hell?) for recently turning me onto Overheard in New York. There's a lot of noise to swim through, but there are some real New York nuggets to be found if you do.
Oh, I'm sorry, were you looking for something poker-related? Tough noogies, pal. I got nothing for you today. Come back tomorrow.