(Warning: This blog is long. Its very, very long. Its my first one and I spent a lot of time putting thought into what I want to say. But if you are in the US, with online poker wearing a "temporarily out of order" sign, let's be honest...what the fuck else do you have to do?)
"Sometimes you just get beat."
This is one of my favorite sayings. I actually don't know if it's a saying I created or not, as college was a bit hazy. I certainly championed it though. I would use it to describe the often-times when my best laid plans, whether it be going to some great party that sucked or taking shots at soft higher-limit games online and dropping 5 buy-ins, would fall through in monumental fashion. Three Fridays ago, the poker industry, and all of those related and dependent on it, just got beat.
Before I get into the reasons for starting a blog, now of all times, let me preface this with some selfish announcements. Feel free to skip down to the "WELCOME BACK!" section if you are better at poker than I am.
I am going to start back up coaching. Over the last few months I had been scaling my coaching back from very active to almost non-existent in lieu of playing. Feel free to contact me through here, or 2+2 (irockhoess) if you don't have an account here, to discuss further details. I usually get back to people within a day, though this weekend (Apr 29th) will be an exception as I am away for a wedding.
I am going to continue to make videos here and have 2 new ones almost done as of this entry. I have about 5 or 6 sessions of 5/10 and one of 10/20 that I had recorded previous to the blackout. Some of these were meant to be released for CR, and some were for my personal use. I will spend the next couple of weeks vetting the personal ones to make sure the quality is up to the standards CR members have come to expect from me. As a side note, I suggest everyone that is looking to improve record as many of your sessions as possible to review. This will allow you to track your progress and gives you a library in case you seek out personal coaching.
As one could guess, until I am able to play online again, the back-footage I have will not last forever. For those of you outside of the US who are looking to improve, a leakfinder can be invaluable. I believe I have done three of said series so far. The first two I thought went great. The third, which was with D.Redstone, had technical problems when it was posted. Those will be resolved in future leakfinders. Even with the video turning out to be technically inadequate, D.Redstone still got a free coaching session, so even if that series can't be saved due to file corruption there is really no downside to submitting leakfinders.
I am actually surprised more people don't submit the higher-stakes leakfinders. If that option was available to me when I was coming up I would have jumped at the chance. I guess the embarrassment of someone combing over any flaws in your game in a public setting may be a deterrent, but frankly that's bullshit. The only way to get better is to make a ton of mistakes. The worst thing possible for development is to think you are above the skill you are at. I watch pretty much every video across the major training sites, from .5/1 to very high stakes. I am trying to pluck pieces of information that are useful. If I disagree with something a player is saying, no matter their relative skill-level, it forces me to think about their view and to critically break down my own thoughts.
So with those quick announcements out of the way, why I am I starting a blog now?
Well, first off I love to write. I was reading the blog that Wiggins' linked:
about coping with the stress and uncertainty of what is going on. One of the suggestions is to write about it. I knew I would start a blog right as I read that. I have taken a week to collect my thoughts before posting something for the world to see. I think we often forget how permanent the things we say on the internet are. I want to make sure everything I write here is exactly what I want to say. This doesn't mean things I write here won't upset or offend some people, but I don't want to give the internet less respect than it deserves.
Another reason to start a blog now is that I have more to say than I ever have before and have been granted an unexpectedly high amount of free time to do so. So "Black Friday" eh? Is that what the kids are talking about these days? Alright let's do it.
When I took off from Chicago destined for Pittsburgh (aka the city that God would live in if he had a choice) the morning of April 15th, all my ducks were in a row. I was playing better than ever, with great results since Vegas. My gf and I were doing really well, having just came back from a week-long cruise (I may write up something on that in a future blog with a recap and suggestions for people thinking of cruising soon.) On the heels of a great cruise followed my cousin's bachelor party in Vegas, starring my brother, my two cousins who are basically brothers, myself and all of his friends during March Madness. Needless to say, life was good.
God 8am flights are brutal. I am not one of those poker players that wakes up just in time for after school cartoons (do those even still exist? TMNT-4-EVER), usually awaking by 9am, but 530am wake-up calls are early for almost anyone. My gf was attending a conference for work in Pittsburgh so I hopped on her flight that she had obtained through her employer. Apparently her boss is a rooster.
Coupled with the early flight times, I just hate airports in general. I was destined to be in a shitty mood. To quote Role Models, which was a surprisingly badass comedy, "I like the idea of it, more than I actually like it." On the surface, airports are exciting. They are a remarkable gateway we have built to almost anywhere in the world. In reality, airports are fucking terrible. I actually take that back. American airports post 9/11 are fucking terrible. Double actually, this blog is already going to be too long. I'll tackle airport security in a later entry probably entitled "You can't spell 'Stasi' without TSA." (No one steal that title...that's mine now)
We flew out of Midway. If you ever fly out of Midway and have the idea that the Taylor Street Market is an establishment worthy of your business, take a pass. My breakfast sandwich was scrambled eggs, boiled ham, and a cheeze-whiz-like cheddar.
My airport mood always brightens once I am on the plane. It gives me time away from almost all distraction to pursue whatever I have been wanting to; usually this manifests itself in a non-fiction book on the world around us or a documentary I have downloaded for the trip...sometimes Skymall Magazine.
Once we landed, we took the shuttle to the hotel my gf's convention was at. A bit of advice for anyone that visits Pittsburgh. Public transportation in Pittsburgh is abysmal. For all the biased pride I have from growing up there, even I can't deny that if you don't have a car in Pittsburgh, you ain't goin' nowhere. For first-time visitors, I equate the chance of finding a cab with spotting a unicorn.
Once we settled into the room, the news reached me. I knew from the Neteller fiasco that this could be bad. I knew that my only chance was to get ahead of this. That's what I did with Neteller. I was able to get almost all of my money out then before it was frozen for seven months. I did so by staying on top of any and all information possible. This was much more difficult in 2006, as there was no twitter and I knew far less people in the industry. This time I was refreshing 2+2 every minute. I created twitter (@mr_hoes) a few months back for fantasy football drafting and was now glued to any update from @kevmath. I had my phone ready texting people also affected who might have more insight. If there was going to be a way out of this rough water, I was going to go Odysseus all up in this bitch.
Within 10 minutes of reading I knew I was fucked. This was different from Neteller. When Neteller went out, there was a window to get out. Partypoker was pulling out faster than the speed of love, but if you were active you could make some moves and be okay. This window was closed, locked, and bolted shut before I even looked outside. I estimated it was a much worse idea to try and force through any transactions while the domain had the DoJ symbol on it. I converted whatever points I could to tournament tickets as per advice on 2+2, which I guess was one of the few things I was able to get ahead of through my diligence.
The gravity of the situation wouldn't hit me for some time. The first inkling came with the singing of the National Anthem before the Pens game that Friday. My dad and I had tickets to game 2 of the first round playoff series and were very excited. During the anthem, something I hadn't seen happen before happened. The guy who usually sings for the Pens games held his mic up to the crowd and all ~20,000 people sang it for him. Well, I guess ~19,999 helped him. My voice was lost somewhere in my throat. I am always one to jump on the chance to go to a game, whether it be the Pens, Steelers, or even the Bucs. I am also one of those guys that takes the anthem seriously, thinking about how absolutely insane those in the revolution must have been. So it is a big deal when I am not singing the anthem. Something must have been wrong. Something is wrong.
If those in the American Revolution would see what had transpired on Black Friday, they would slap us in the jaw for allowing this to happen. By "us" I don't mean poker players. I don't mean the PPA. I mean every US Citizen. How did we get to this point? One of the main reasons to break away from the tyranny in 1776 was taxation. The colonies were paying an exorbitant price without any voice or avenue to argue their case. That is exactly what we are doing now. It's almost worse. The US Govt is trying to control its citizens even more than they already do by simultaneously telling them how they can and can't use their money by playing a game between consenting adults AND setting precedent to further regulate the internet itself in future cases. It is such an arrogant stance its almost hard to comprehend. This is the reason the mainstream media is picking this story up all over.
For those of you who are now in poker but were not during Neteller in 2006, how much did you hear of it? Maybe a small lead on CNBC. That was it. Neteller was a huge deal. Before Neteller was banned in the US, it was possible to put money from your bank account(s) onto their site. Then, they would act as a currency exchange of different sites. You could take money from Partypoker and put it on Full Tilt on the same day. This made everything much more safe. With their absence the black market of inter-site trading arose which was responsible for all sorts of people getting scammed. You didn't hear about scamming when Neteller was in the US market. There was no reason to trade except for very extenuating circumstances and even then it was carried out in the way it was meant to, between two friends or at least acquaintances who knew each other away from online poker.
When they went out, not a peep from the mainstream media.
Now almost every network, both domestic and across in Europe, has picked up the recent story and have had experts on to weigh in. That's a great first step.
So what now?
For me, its a 3 step process:
1) Secure my money online.
I was able to cash out of Stars today. I had to send in extra documentation even though I have cashed out for years from there (That may be an exaggeration...God I run terrible over there.)
Hopefully this will put pressure on FTP to follow the same route.
2) Secure future means of income.
I was looking to move in a year or two regardless of this situation. That is one of the best things about our chosen path. If you have the opportunity to travel and don't, then you are missing out. My whole view on the world changed during my two week trip with Taylor, Wiggins, and Spud to Asia. Everything and everywhere I go is more exciting since the first time I really traveled. I have also never lived abroad, even in college when most of my friends did. This might be a great time to explore a new place.
3) Find an avenue to have my voice heard.
That is part of the reason I am starting this blog. I used to run a poker forum which some CR members were a part of. It was a great spot to write articles and interact with people talking about something I loved-poker. That laid the groundwork for my future coaching and video-producing ambitions. Outside of the people that will read this blog, we as players need to find an avenue to be heard. No, I don't mean join the PPA (I'll probably get into my thoughts on the evolution of the PPA in a future blog as well...this is just too long already.)
No one in this fight is on exclusively the players side. That is a dangerous and helpless position for us to be in. We are forced to align ourselves with Democrats who are with us just to take down Republicans. We are forced to be against Republicans with more allegiance to their warped-morality base than their party platform. What's crazy to me is how someone can simultaneously fight for deregulation of our financial markets while at the same time denouncing online poker and everyone that plays it. We must really be fucking evil then.
So where do I think this is going? Well, anyone who has been in the industry knows that the Las Vegas casinos used to be completely against online poker. Now they are chomping at the bit to get in as Vegas still suffers from our recession. If you were trying to get into a market saturated by foreign companies who were circumventing silly laws (is it a crime to circumvent unjust laws? I don't think so and will go further into that later this week.) how would you go about accomplishing this goal? If it was me, I would push for the prosecution of my competitors and then slip in to save the day when there is a populace backlash against the DoJ and the administration in power and instantly have the backing of both the government and the customers who you are bringing online poker back to in an apparently much safer environment. That's what I'd do, anyway.