Forum Files: Tough Crowd

Alex Weldon : February 23rd, 2016

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The forums crowd may be tough to please, but they’re usually not too hard to get some sort of reaction from. True, the usual spectrum of reactions is a narrow one, running a gamut from outrage to schadenfreude, with occasional forays into hilarity or grudging approval; nonetheless, there’s usually a certain intensity, not always a pleasant one, to the mood in TwoPlusTwo’s News, Views and Gossip subforum.

Things feel different this week. Browsing through the supposedly “hot” topics of the past seven days, the word that sprang to my mind, vis-a-vis the tone, was “unimpressed.” If you follow Forum Files on a weekly basis, you may have noticed that it was taken over by Steve Ruddock the last couple of weeks; the reason is that I went through a bit of a burnout period, caused in part by the relentless negativity of the poker world in general, and the forums culture in particular. The second half of 2015 was, after all, a pretty big mess for poker, with scandals and allegations galore both online and off, and culminating in the whole PokerStars debacle.

Perhaps everyone else is little tired and slightly burnt out from it all as well, or maybe this week’s good news and bad really are both equally uninspiring. Either way, it seems that we’ve come to expect larger dramas from the world of poker, and it’ll take something big to get the trolls and pundits fired up again.

Not the bill they were looking for
Thread: New California online poker bill introduced

Ever since Black Friday, American poker players have been pulling for legislation to bring online poker back to the United States in regulated form. Since that’s unlikely to happen any time soon at the federal level, the effort has taken place on a state-by-state basis, with Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware being the first to bring such laws in effect. California is on the short list of states seen as most likely to follow suit, but the legal and political situation is complicated, and producing plenty of material for our more wonkish friends over at Online Poker Report.

The forums have long been a staging ground for the pro-legalization crowd, and previous efforts towards regulation in California were beginning to stall, so one would expect that a new, more-likely-to-be-passed bill would be welcomed as good news. Instead, the majority of posters in the thread are expressing the opinion that things might better as they are than they will be if the bill is passed. There are a few small complaints with the proposed regulations – that non-US citizens residing in California won’t be able to play due to the requirement of a Social Security Number to register an account, for instance – but the main problem for most people is that there will be a waiting period of nearly two years before the first sites are allowed to open in California, yet playing on illegal sites will become a felony as soon as the bill is passed.

At the moment, many pros and would-be pros in California are supplementing their live earnings by playing on unlicensed sites like Bodog and America’s Cardroom. Although they face challenges in getting money on and off those sites and risk having it seized in the process, it’s currently the sites and not the players who are criminally responsible. Under the proposed California bill, that would change, and the threat of a felony conviction should be enough to convince many of them to stop, cutting off one source of income for what really is quite a long period of time. No wonder the reaction is ambivalent and unenthusiastic.

Few plusses for Six Plus Hold’em
Thread: iPoker launches Six Plus Hold’em (The Macau game Tom Dwan and Phil Ivey promoted)

Last summer, there was brief excitement on the forums when a video emerged of Phil Ivey and Tom Dwan promoting a game called “Six-Plus Hold’em,” which they were apparently playing in the Macau high-stakes cash games. Although people were curious about the game itself, the interest stemmed mostly from the fact that one of the forums’ favorite pastimes is ridiculing Dwan and speculating about the likelihood that his near-total disappearance from the poker scene is due to supposed debts to Chinese triad gangs.

Now, the game has made it into the online poker world, having been introduced to the iPoker network, which includes Bet365. The game is dead simple as poker variants go: It is simply conventional Texas Hold’em, but played with a deck from which all cards Deuce through Five have been removed. The only other change is to the ordering of hands. The reduced number of card ranks makes straights and pair-type hands easier to make, and flushes harder; Three of a Kind therefore beats a Straight in Six Plus Hold’em, while a Flush beats a Full House.

It was quickly pointed out in the thread that such a game is strictly “smaller” (in the game theory sense) than conventional Hold’em, and therefore easier to analyze. Given that even conventional Hold’em is starting to feel played out, with criticisms of tight, formulaic play and worries about bots and “dream machine” assistive software abounding, the idea of courting recreational players with a still-simpler game was met with justifiable skepticism. Since the game was actually introduced (currently only available at 0.02/0.04 stakes), a few slightly more optimistic takes have been floated, but I suspect that the posters’ initial suspicions will prove correct, that there will be a flurry of interest for a week or so due to novelty, but that the game will not prove to have much lasting power in an online environment.

Not provocative enough, it seems
Thread: A Provocative Idea For The Woman’s Tournament

David Sklansky may be one of the most respected writers and players from the pre-boom days of poker, but old-school cred only gets you so far on the forums. Sklansky created a thread last Friday to propose a suggested modification to the World Series of Poker Ladies’ tournament, which is to allow men to enter for twice the buy-in. As it stands, the Ladies tournament does have a provision allowing men to buy in for $10,000 rather than $1000, as a way to get around Nevada anti-discrimination laws, but the practical effect of that rule is to make it an absurdly foolish and loss-making decision for men to do so.

Sklansky’s “provocative” thinking behind the suggestion is apparently that it would allow men who believe that women are inherently inferior at poker to put their money where their mouths are, if they think they could achieve over 100% ROI against an all-female field. Such transparent trolling proved a bit much even for the typically misogynist forums, however, and despite a few “lol feminists” type memes, the most common reaction in the thread has been head-shaking dismissiveness. Poker may have a long way to go on gender issues, but at least it appears that most people understand that the purpose of women-only tournaments has to do with comfort level and freedom from harassment, not skill level.

The Winamax blunder
Thread: Winamax credits € 1,546,522 Euros on a player account

Due to a staff member’s blunder, Winamax accidentally added over €1.5 million to the account of player “le-requin34.” Although the player in question clearly would have known that the money wasn’t his, he proceeded to play above his usual stakes and lose a couple of thousand Euros and then withdraw another €9000. When Winamax realized their error, nearly a week later, they asked the player to return the money and offered to write off his losses and grant him €1000 compensation if he would do so; instead of taking them up on that deal, however, he has decided to fight in court to try to keep all the withdrawn money.

This one has produced a double-whammy of unimpressed posters. On the one hand, it was foolish of le-requin34 to lose and withdraw money as quickly as he could and expect that he’d be allowed to keep it. On the other, it doesn’t inspire a huge amount of confidence in Winamax’s checks and balances that this mistake could happen in the first place, let alone go undetected for so long. Since le-requin34’s account was suspended before much of the €1.5 million disappeared, it’s not quantitatively a disaster for Winamax whatever happens from here, but qualitatively, the whole thing is a bit of a train wreck on both sides.

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