PTP Podcast 11 – Cautionary Tales

Alex Weldon : August 30th, 2016


Despite the summer madness having come to an end, both of the show’s hosts have come home to find mountains of neglected work waiting for them, so the podcast has yet to resume its biweekly schedule. Alex and Andrew did manage to find enough time over the weekend to record an episode, however, and it’s a long one, featuring four stories plus the strategy segment. They had agreed to keep things brief and spend only ten minutes or so on each of the topics, but if you know our hosts, you can imagine how that went.

The general topics of discussion are: an unusual prop bet between PocketFives editor Lance Bradley and Antonio Esfandiari; a controversial article at PokerNews, and whether rules lawyering is the same as angle-shooting; tournament formats and payout structures; and an experimental promotion being tried out quietly with Canadian PokerStars users.

For strategy, we have a hand from a Pot-Limit Omaha tournament played by Andrew at the World Series of Poker this summer. Unlike the usual format, Alex goes in blind this time and has to work his way through the hand on the fly. As usual, despite having only 16 big blinds to work with and a fairly decent hand, he and Andrew manage to disagree on the correct course of action on every single street.

Excuses, excuses (0:00-0:38)

Before recapping the previous episode, Alex quickly makes excuses for the delay between Episodes 10 and 11.

Back into the quagmire (0:38-2:20)

The ongoing regulatory battle in California has been a topic discussed on the last couple of episodes, so Andrew and Alex do a quick update on that front. As should not be surprising to anyone following the saga, things have become bogged down yet again, and look unlikely to be resolved for at least another year. Andrew takes a pessimistic view of the situation, and says he would be surprised if agreement is ever reached.

Episode preview (2:20-4:45)

Alex gives a quick preview of the evening’s stories and the strategy segment, and bemoans his lack of skills in Omaha. Andrew assures him that if he’s as bad as he says, he’s not the only one.

Bradley’s Bet (4:45-9:45)

Andrew gives the nutshell version of the bet being discussed, that PocketFives editor-in-chief Lance Bradley must wear the same shirt for a year in order to collect. Alex fills in the details of the terms of the bet and how they were negotiated.

Seriously, stay off your goddamn elbows (9:45-13:30)

Andrew wonders how likely it is that Lance actually risks wearing his shirt out entirely in the span of a year. Alex is of the opinion that the biggest danger is wearing through the elbows if Lance is in the habit of leaning on them. This leads to a segue into our first cautionary tale of the episode, as Alex recounts his experience of being hospitalized for – no joke – leaning on his elbow too much, a condition he describes as “Thinker’s Elbow.” It turns out that Andrew is no stranger to this condition himself, though fortunately for him, his bursa did not become infected. On another related note, IKEA’s “Markus” chair is brought up for its ergonomics; both Alex and slightly better-known podcaster Joey Ingram are fans of the chair in question, which the latter describes as “GTO.”

The Practical Fashionista™ with Andrew Barber (13:30-16:00)

Assuming you can avoid wearing out the sleeves, Andrew is of the opinion that incentivizing yourself to wear the same thing every day is actually a positive, rather than a hardship. His reasoning is that there’s a non-zero time cost associated with selecting one’s daily wardrobe, so committing to wearing the same thing every day amounts to a time savings. He’s not the only one to think so; Steve Jobs (famously) had a closet full of nothing but identical black jeans and gray turtlenecks, and (infamously) floated the idea of making it the uniform at Apple.

Humiliating yourself for fun and profit (16:00-18:30)

Andrew follows up by musing about whether there’s something ethically distasteful about wealthier people offering less wealthy people freeroll bets on this sort of proposition, where a certain element of humiliation is involved. He wonders whether it’s all that different from elementary schoolers offering each other their lunch money to chew gum found stuck under a desk. For Andrew, the sum of money involved is a factor, with accepting a smaller sum for a given challenge being intrinsically more humiliating. Alex disagrees, saying for him the biggest factor is which party proposed the bet in the first place.

It’s about fame, not fashion (18:30-20:30)

Back on the subject of whether the bet actually has an upside for Lance aside from the money, Alex opines that the time savings isn’t something he’d be thinking about, but that the attention Lance is getting for the bet – this podcast included – has career value for him. A philosophical difference between our hosts?

Is selective rules-lawyering angle shooting? (20:30-27:15)

On to the next story, Alex lays out a situation described by Robert Woolley for PokerNews, where a player absent-mindedly tapped the table while the action was on him, and Woolley encouraged the dealer to rule it a check, despite the player’s protests that the tap had meant nothing and he’d intended to go all-in. Andrew is of the opinion that Woolley’s attempt to get the rules enforced in his favour makes him “a shitty person,” while Alex takes a more pragmatic view.

Another cautionary tale (27:15-30:40)

On the subject of dealers and floors staff exercising discretion, Alex shares a horror story from his experience at this year’s WSOP, in which he attempted to bet 4,000 into a pot of 11,000, using a single 5,000 chip and a declaration of “four.” Because the blinds were 200/400 and the dealers are not allowed much discretion, this had to be ruled a bet of 400. The moral of the story here is not to assume the rules you’re used to from one venue are the same elsewhere, and not to rely on context to make your actions clear.

A brief digression from the digression (30:40-35:00)

Getting back on topic for a few minutes, Alex presents Andrew with a variation on his experience, in which Andrew is in the other player’s shoes, the dealer does not intervene, and he knows that if he opens his mouth, the bet will be ruled 400, but if he says nothing, the dealer and the rest of the table are evidently thinking of it as 4,000. Would Andrew’s behaviour really be consistent, regardless of whether one bet size or the other was clearly to his advantage? Andrew insists he’d ask for a ruling in any case of ambiguity, but does concede that it’s unreasonable to expect players to speak up in all cases when rules are being misapplied to their own advantage.

Andrew’s cautionary tale (35:00-39:45)

Andrew now has a sob story of his own, in which he loses a $500 bet which he thought was free money. The dealer declared that a certain hand needed to be shown after the opponent mucked at showdown, and Andrew and Darryl Fish (also at the table) thought the ruling was clearly incorrect based on past experience and common sense. Another player bet Andrew that if they asked five other floor staff members, at least three would agree with the dealer and the floorman who’d been brought over. He ended up losing the bet 3-2, producing the slightly different moral that not only should one not assume one knows all the rules at a given establishment, one should not assume the staff do either.

Grand Prix and Quantum at Playground Poker (39:45-51:45)

On to the subject of tournament structures, Alex explains the Grand Prix and Quantum formats being experimented with at the World Cup of Cards at Playground Poker in Montreal, both of which blur the boundary between satellite and tournament by offering multiple ways to play the first day. He wonders whether this introduces any concerns about accidentally offering better-heeled players an additional ICM advantage, but Andrew thinks it’s not worth worrying about.

Differing incentives and fairness (51:45-57:40)

One odd thing about the Quantum format as implemented at Playground, however, is that all Day 1 players receive an immediate cash payout for making it through the day, and additional money for forfeiting their smaller stacks if they make it through more than once. Since these payouts don’t depend on the size of the stacks, there’s the possibility for weird incentives towards the end of a starting flight for a player who has already made it through a previous flight. Andrew compares the problem to the controversy surrounding Jason Mercier’s bracelet bets and how they affected his strategy at WSOP final tables this summer. Alex makes the point that it’s important whether the additional incentives are coming out of the prize pool or from outside sources, and in the latter case, whether the other players at the table all have the same information or not.

How many get paid? (57:40-1:10:10)

To finish off the tournament structure segment, Alex and Andrew discuss the recent decision by the European Poker Tour to pay 20% of seats instead of the previous 15% (and the overall live poker standard of 10%). Some uncharacteristically positive discussion of Daniel Negreanu and his polls is had, as well as a comparison of the EPT’s new structure to previous, largely unsuccessful experiments with the Double Bubble format (at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, part of the EPT) and DraftKings 50/50 at last year’s WSOP.

Card Match – fertilizer for the ecosystem? (1:10:10-1:18:45)

PokerStars is currently trying out a promotion on its Canadian userbase, which may be a contender for the permanent “Card Hunt-like” promotion alluded to in Amaya’s Q2 earnings call. Alex, being a Canadian, has had access to try out the promotion, and says that, based on his experience, it looks like the terms of the promotion are such that low-volume players single-tabling 10 NL Zoom Hold’em will effectively be playing rake-free for their first hour per day. That means the promotion will offer little direct value to higher-volume and higher-stakes players, yet changes the nature of the game substantially at the bottom end of the ecosystem.

The new gig (1:18:45-1:20:40)

Discussion of Amaya’s finances leads Alex to mention his new job with PokerScout, which is one of the reasons he’s been less active on PartTimePoker. He describes his responsibilities in a nutshell, and mentions that one recent piece involved the way Amaya’s revenue figures suggest, on first glance, that PokerStars has been growing, when in fact all of the company’s gains have been from its new casino and sportsbook offerings, while poker revenue has actually been on a gradual decline despite the changes.

Note: Alex apologizes if his phrasing in the podcast seems to imply that Steve Ruddock misinterpreted Amaya’s revenue figures in his analysis piece; Steve was brought up in passing as someone who would have a different view on the subject and any slight was unintentional.

Strategy: Probably don’t stake Alex in any PLO tourneys (1:20:40-1:39:20)

To finish off this marathon episode, Alex and Andrew break down one of the latter’s post-bubble hands from this year’s $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha event at the World Series of Poker. Andrew has AQxx double-suited in the big blind in a limped pot, and flops a Queen-high flush draw, backdoor nut flush draw and broadway gutshot. Neither can agree on how to play the hand on any street, but perhaps it doesn’t matter, as the final outcome of the hand would have been the same either way.

Goodbyes (1:39:20-1:40:30)

Deciding to call it a night, Alex says the usual goodbyes, including all the necessary contact info to get in touch or find previous episodes of the podcast.


The following are links to the articles discussed on this episode of the podcast. Links by one of the co-hosts are in bold, offsite links are in italics.

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