Thursday, October 30, 2014

PokerStars Increases Rake in Attempt to Eliminate Concept of "Poker Pro"

Rakeback grinders violent protest
The Rakeback Grinders Union (RGU) are not ones to fuck with.

This is just...sickening. In the interest of fairness and being as impartial as possible, I don't do their accounting and haven't looked at their books, so I have to ASSUME they have a good reason. Perhaps their business is tanking and they are implementing a desperate measure to stay afloat. If so, then good for them.

I had originally assumed that PokerStars targeting Pokertableratings with accusations of stealing their intellectual property (a charge no one believes, but a billion dollar company can basically "extort" smaller companies with highly paid lawyers and the threat of a long and drawn out legal battle that the defendant can't possibly afford) as a means of shielding their sponsored pros from public humiliation. Pokertableratings also had (and still has) a horrific commenting feature which only serves as graffiti wall for shame and schadenfreude motivated trolls. A friend of mine pointed out a much more plausible scenario, in which Stars didn't want the public at large to see how much rake people were paying.

The rake idea makes sense (and even more sense as of today's breaking news), yet another idea just struck me at this very moment as I was heading into a related point. Why didn't other big players in the industry, such as iPoker not use the same reasoning to go after Pokertableratings? It's all clear to me now. The obvious answer is that there is a solid base of active players who are putting up fantastic winrates at 6-max tables, often in excess of 4bb/100 over large samples. PokerStars, out of shame, don't want people to know that even most pros are putting up negative to breakeven winrates and only squeezing out a modest living by virtue of collecting bonuses. Bonuses and rakeback, lest we forget, are simply a rebate on the rake that WE, as players, pay. This means the house is still getting their cut of the action, even from the so-called "winners" who are somehow destroying the games. PokerStars' choice to extort Pokertableratings into "voluntarily" eliminating their players from searches no longer seems to be in the public's best interest, it is now bordering on simply being unethical.

In light of the new crushing rake changes, Hyper SNG's are almost certainly going to be unbeatable, as the current pool of regs seem to collectively agree that a 0% ROI is "boss". For those of you on the outside, this means that people who are playing thousands of these ridiculously high variance games are only "crushing" by reaching the highest tier of bonuses in the form of Supernova Elite status, while not making a single fucking dime at the tables. The players who move beyond "boss" status into the realm of the truly elite are earning an ROI of just 1-2%, but surely these new rake changes should drive at least the 1%ers into the breakeven range or negative, especially because many of the weaker regs will no longer be able to beat the game and depart of their own accord, leaving only stronger competition with even fewer fish to feed them. Oh yeah, there will be plenty of clingers who spend a few more months battling it out before being bled dry and broke from the rake. But hey, those guys are just ruining the games, right? Good riddance!!

Well played, PokerStars. With Amaya's purchase of Rational Group, the company that owns Stars and FTP, I am thinking that a name change is now in order, since there won't be any stars anymore. How about something like "PokerMoon" or "PokerClouds"? The idea of reaching for the stars is now no more than just false advertising.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

McDonald's Employees Feel They Deserve $15/hr. We All Disagree

McDonald's employees take to the streets in protest of wages
Threats of making Ronald McDonald even scarier are showing no obvious gains.

**Post-script note: After discussing this post with a friend, I want to make clear that this post is NOT in anyway commenting on the overall state of minimum wages, which I am not qualified to discuss.  This is merely commenting on a select, disgruntled group of idiots who make the faulty assumption that being employed by a highly profitable business means that they deserve more money, despite consistently showing overall poor performance.

The fact that McDonald's employees rallied together in the mutual goal of raising their wages to a whopping $15 an hour had the ironic effect of proving exactly why they don't deserve it. Don't get me wrong the same vein in which I believe that teachers should be paid more (to attract better talent, though this wasn't mentioned in that post), I fully believe that all workers should be paid a living wage. However, McDonald's workers aren't teachers, in every sense of the word. They add no value to the communities in which they operate, they can be trained in less than a week, and don't even require as much as a GED. For my foreign readers, that's a General Education Diploma, which is reserved for those who didn't care enough to finish high school or whose teenage years vanished from their lives by getting pregnant or taking a detour through the penal system.

Let's get real here, people. Should that magical moment that you fantasized about ever become a reality, all of your asses are getting fired on the spot. For those of you who pleasantly greet us when we step up to the register and don't need to call a manager every time someone has a special request such as ordering a McChicken sandwich with no lettuce, you can stop reading right now, because I'm not talking to you. I'm talking about those drab imbeciles who speak in monotone voices and shuffle around slowly like the walking dead because they don't care enough to conceal the fact that they wish they were doing anything besides, well...working at McDonald's.

You are disposable. You squirt gobs of mayonnaise on my sandwich as if I had asked for a triple serving, you haphazardly dump massive amounts of salt on a batch of French fries because you can't be bothered to even look at them while you are doing it, you toss everything into the bag without regard to whether or not the items are right side up or upside down, spilling said fries all over the place, and can't understand what I mean when I ask for half of the amount of sweetener that you normally put in an iced coffee, no matter how many times I ask or how I choose to phrase it. The last time I went through the drive through, I thought I was pretty specific when I requested a Happy Meal for a boy and felt pretty confident that I was going to get the Hex Bug that flashed onto the confirmation screen, only to reach into the bag before driving off to find a Monster High brand bedazzled set of faux pink sunglasses with no lenses to hide your look of shame for wearing them. Should my son grow up to be gay, I want to be certain it had something to do with the contents of my sperm and not have to wonder endlessly if it had something to do with the contents of his Happy Meal.

Hex bugs from McDonald's Happy Meals
These gross looking things are called "Hex Bugs"
Monster High Spooky Spectacles from McDonald's Happy Meals
These are Monster High Spooky Spectacles.
Being able to tell the difference is not only required to attain a GED,
but also is an automatic $2/hr pay raise.

I wasn't mad, of course. If I was, I wouldn't patronize this place. However, it does beg the question: would these derelicts perform better with higher incentives, such as a totally undeserved pay increase to $15/hr? In my experience, this just isn't how the real world works. Should the minimum wage be simultaneously increased for everyone, there is no incentive to do anything different. I think it's possible that a large wage increase could promote more productivity amongst a selected group within the store itself, but only if they must worry that it can be taken away should they fail to meet quality standards. Under a mandatory minimum wage, it couldn't be taken away. This isn't to say that ALL people under this new scheme would putting in the same performance. Those people who are running the businesses and putting up all the capital with the associated risk- they will be working harder than they ever have in their lives trying to find a way to make up for all the cash they are hemorrhaging to their employees who aren't doing a minute of extra work or risking a dime of their own money.

We are all familiar with phrase "I'm not been paid enough to care." People say this because they view their job as replaceable; that they can make the same amount of money elsewhere doing the same amount of work or even less. When everyone starts making $15/hr, no one is making enough to care because the guy working at McDonald's can take his I-don't-give-a-shit attitude right over to Taco Bell and make the same money, except now he can over-apply sour cream through a modified caulking gun rather than mayonnaise. A likely unintended consequence of this is that the lower management staff, the ones who actually cared enough in the first place to work their way up, will now probably be making marginally more than their less qualified underlings, if anything more at all. So that person that I mentioned in the beginning who gets called to the front all the time because he's the only one who knows how to use the register and makes sure there isn't piss all over the toilet seat in the bathroom? Guess what...he's no longer getting paid enough to care anymore.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Truth About The Next Poker Boom

Strip poker tournament
Remember when poker was this fun? Didn't think so...
you weren't old enough to gamble or have died of old age.

Sorry folks, but it ain't gonna happen. There are simply too many hurdles to overcome, but the most important one of all is the one that is probably the most difficult to measure scientifically: Americans just don't really give a shit anymore.

Those longing for a new Boom have either forgotten or never knew what the driving forces behind it were. Texas Holdem was a new cultural phenomenon.  Watching people play televised for hundreds of thousands of dollars in huge dramatic pots was exciting, and after rank amateur Chris Moneymaker parlayed a tiny satellite win into $2.5 million in the world's most prestigious poker tournament, it was poised as the latest and greatest get-rich-quick opportunity.

If the Boom were measured simply in terms of traffic and interest, the dollars generated by the industry would be scoffed at by today's standards. What made this time so magical was just how bad everyone played. I clearly remember the days when I was the only person sitting at a full ring $2/4 limit Hold'em table who knew it was possible to check raise. I also have the fond memory of reading a comment in one of the chat boxes back then saying, "this is a pretty good table- except for the PFR." It was explained to me that "PFR" meant "preflop raise", implying that my refusal to open limp was ruining an otherwise good game. It just now occurred to me that if the game was good *except for my raising, what exactly made for a better game?  An average of 8 players open limping instead of 6? Nowadays, your average competent player in a free pub tournament could have probably made a solid living during that tiny 2-3 year window.

More importantly, poker was fucking cool. In the early days, we had something to aspire to. Riches, fame, and perhaps even a ranking among the world's sexiest men, as was bestowed upon the somewhat-better-than-average -looking Gus "The Great Dane" Hansen, whose two early televised WPT titles apparently shrunk down his oversized ears and added about 4 inches of length and 2 inches of girth to his penis. We had out-sized personalities that made it fun for people to watch, even if those people had no idea what a kicker was.

We believed the fairy tales of the old poker road gamblers who spun great yarns of cheaters, robbers, and murderers in their autobiographies. They conducted themselves honorably- they never cheated anyone and always repaid their debts. That didn't even matter, though, as Rounders proved that even a slick and talented poker cheat pushing forward all his chips with pocket kings just to keep from having his legs broken was better than driving Joey Knish's delivery truck for an honest day's pay.

Yep, poker was cool...until we realized that it wasn't.

The Great Dane now holds the Great Debt, having the dubious distinction of being the first player on record to have documented losses that have crossed the $20 million mark, although to be fair, he still looks damn good in those jeans. Danny Robison, a longtime friend and gambling partner of the late Chip Reese, who was widely regarded as the world's best all around player, excitedly told postmortem tales of their past travails on the TwoPlusTwo podcast and made a passing comment on how they used to cheat. One of the podcasters said, "wait, you said you guys used to cheat?" Robison, seemingly blissfully unaware of how badly he was tarnishing the legacy of his dearly departed friend, said "yeah, we all used to back then!"

Though we haven't been able to connect any well known legend to a violent crime (as of this writing), we have since been struck with disillusionment on a worldwide scale on Black Friday, when a murderer's row of WSOP bracelet holders that included a gangly Main Event Champion bearing the reverent nickname of a religious figure bestowed us with a miracle of white collar crime of such magnitude that even Jesus himself couldn't undo.

One could probably fill an entire Bible just giving the Cliff's Notes to all the scandals that have happened before and since the Full Tilt Saga. America's confidence in the industry is never going to return to the days of the Neteller debit card cashouts, and even if we could be convinced of such, the notions of poker glory have faded as surely as that white line in the center of the road that the old timers speak of so fondly. Poker has been hijacked from American mythology by the pencil pushing geeks who found a way to make a living from subterranean dwellings who dare not step outside, lest their pasty skin get scorched on contact from a sun they haven't seen in the past three days.

Hyperbole aside, if you were hoping that American legalization of poker was going to rekindle the dying light of your poker career overseas, you are guilty of possessing an optimism so perverse as to be a delusion. A simple glance at of the abysmal traffic of the current legalized sites is just all you need to see. Barring a spray tanned guido invasion on the Jersey shore by meatheads with more money than muscle mass, the only thing that has the potential change any of this for the better is if California decides to jump into the sausage fest. Even so, what are the chances that they will offer to share their liquidity with the rest of the nation, let alone give a piece of that pie to the rest of the world, which, given the current state of affairs, has nothing of value to give in return? California may be the largest blue state in the union and home to millions of illegal immigrants, but I would bet my life that there isn't a politician in that state interested in providing welfare for poker players overseas.

American online poker is fucked, so don't hold your breath. Learn to play the Spin & Goes or try the good old Work 4 Pay. Those are your two options, sad as it may sound.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Should Teachers Make as Much as Doctors?

Doctor laughing at old woman
"You really think you are worth as much as me? How about I just let you sit in your own piss for the next 48 hours?"

I probably could have ignored this stupidity had I heard it only once, but I must have heard it at least two more times since then.  Although I had originally set out to make this a poker/memoir/comedy blog, my interest in politics, gender, and inequality issues has taken over my thought processes and what I would like to blog about, but I like to look at these issues with the groomed mind of a poker veteran.

Perhaps the only issue to get unanimous support across the political spectrum in America is that teachers should be paid more.  I do not disagree with this and have never met anyone arguing to the contrary.  But how much?  Is a doctor's pay suitable?  There is absolutely no need to touch on the subject of whether or not they job they perform is just as valuable to society, because I can shoot down this horrifically idiotic statement instantly.

If teachers were making as much as doctors, they would be making more, in fact, much more than doctors!  In the US, you can teach as high as high school with an undergraduate degree and you can teach college with a master's degree.  However, in order to become a doctor, you need 8 years of education...and the financial cost of that education far exceeds that of a simple undergraduate degree.  This means that they are paying off much larger education loans and have fewer productive years of employment.  Therefore, even if the base rate of pay were equal, paying off that debt alone is a cost that is effectively reducing one's pay.  The teacher is also now getting a 2-4 year head start making money.

Next we have the issue of hours worked: doctors work significantly more hours than teachers and often put in time on weekends.  US teachers get the summers off due to a now archaic reason that simply no longer applies to the modern world.  This was because students used to get the summers off from school so they could help their families with the intensive farm work during the warm summer months.

In a nutshell, in the hypothetical scenario (which is never going to happen, nor should it) that teachers made the same money as doctors, we would need at least this much from them:

1) A PhD, or some level of equivalent education.
2) Longer hours, specifically in the form of research or devoting services to special needs students.
3) An ongoing certification program required to keep a "teaching license."
4) Zero ability to get tenure, as there is no such thing as a doctor who can't get fired, particularly with regards to malpractice.