And so it begins…

Half an hour ago we shuffled up and dealt in the first event of the Paddy Power Poker Spooktacular Poker Festival In the Red Cow Hotel, Dublin.

With another 2 hours of late reg to go, we have already surpassed the €10,000 guarantee on tonight’s side event!

The weekend’s event schedule is as follows:

24th October: €100+20 freezeout with €10k guaranteed
25th – 26th October: Main Event €500 + €60 with €50k guaranteed
25th October: Side Event €85 + €15 freezeout
26th October Side Event PLO €230 + €20
26th October: Side Event €85 + €15 freezeout

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Friday’s Caption Competition

It’s time for another caption competition. But before we do that, the password for the Freddie Mays Bounty tournament at 9pm tonight is:

mariobal

Shock horror at Anfield this week as man who spends £500 a week on the upkeep of his mohican turns out to be useless at football.  I mean no-one could have ever forseen this happening, could they? What was Brenton Rodgers thinking of when signed him?  Wilfried Bony was available for the same money but instead he plumped for a half time shirt swapping guaranteed trouble maker who created a whole ONE assist in his entire Man City career.

At least he provided some comedy value for his £16m at QPR on Sunday with that open goal. I might laugh now but quick note to self: stop watching games where you’ve bet on Balotelli’s team to win in future – for health reasons. How awful must it be to actually support a team that he plays for?  Here’s a picture of the heroic Mario having one of his good days (I think). Why always me? I wonder Mario.

Balotelli

Congratulation to David Luttrell for winning last week’s competition with: “Do you think my face should be on the back of the pound, Sterling?”

roy-hodgson-talks-to-raheem-sterling

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Nice To Be Wrong Sometimes

Here’s a photograph I never thought I’d see. Oscar Pistorius behind bars.

Pistorius Prison Van

I’ve got a little claim to fame here. This picture was actually taken by my friend’s uncle. He works for the Sun as a photographer – he’s a good bloke though,  honest!

I am amazed Pistorius will serve a single day. I always thought he would – well I won’t say “walk”, not because it’s a awful joke used a million times already but because he obviously can walk, in fact he can run faster than any of us.  I’ll just settle for “never serve a single day in prison” instead.

I’m pleasantly surprised too. I thought the old public sympathy and “he’s been such a role model” attitude from sections of a gullible press and public would have seen him serve no time at all.

You can understand when some people go on trial the public just don’t want to accept that they are guilty. For instance Rolf Harris, a man watched by generations of people on TV growing up as kids – someone they actually liked.  People often just don’t want to face the fact that they could have got it so wrong.  For instance we had this brilliant Latin teacher at school. He was a right laugh and the first 5-10 minutes of every lesson were always spent telling jokes. Next thing you know he’s getting exposed in a Sunday People sting – perving over young boys online in a chat room called “FIST”. Such a shame to discover someone you thought highly of was just a dirty old nonce.

I’ve never understood the love for Oscar though, in fact I’ve always found him hugely unpleasant. There was the time he was dropped from the able bodied relay team and gave a really sulky interview, all surly and bitter and critical of his team bosses. I don’t blame him for wanting to compete with able bodied athletes but I did disagree when he was allowed to.  Sorry, it just isn’t the same. And I always got the feeling once he had competed in the able bodied events he felt the Paralympics was beneath him anyway. He certainly felt he only needed to show up to win in London 2012, evidenced by his cry baby act when he got beaten and complained bitterly that the Brazilian winner had better blades (so they can give you an advantage then?)

So I’d spent the past 7 months convinced that the South African courts would free their beloved son, albeit one of their most self centred and most arrogant beloved sons.  I just took the view he’d get off as easily as if Jonny Wilkinson would if someone in England had accused him of eating pigeons’ heads in Trafalgar Square while punching grannies and then going off to rob a few graves at night. Well I guess it’s nice to be wrong sometimes!

It’s very important that he did get some prison time. Otherwise anyone in South Africa who wanted to murder his wife could just wait for her to go to the bog and shoot her through the door claiming it was an intruder. Now at least anyone planning that caper knows it isn’t an instant acquittal. So his custodial sentence will actually save lives. (There’s no need to add that no copycat killings would have occurred if there wasn’t a cat to copy in the first place).

One of the saddest parts was last week when it emerged that Reeva Steenkamp’s parents had refused Pistorius’ offer of £20k as some kind of settlement, rightly calling it “blood money”. But then it emerged Pistorius had in fact been paying the Steenkamp’s family a monthly sum since the shooting, something like £350 a month. Obviously in comparison to their daughter’s life it’s a tiny amount. But it’s a small sum whichever way you look at it. It transpired that Reeva SteenKamp supported her parents, who do not work. They needed the money to live. Much as they didn’t want to have to take it, they had to survive.

I’m sure they are proud people (I tend to imagine all South Africans as being proud). They didn’t want his money – indeed have paid it back now that they have given interviews about the whole tragic business and are now financially secure.  But they had little choice.

And that’s when it sort of dawned on me. I just had this impression that for the glamorous beautiful people of the world, money is no object and not only they but all their family live in comfort. As for all this reality show crap that she was into – the stuff I’ve so much disdain for – well the girl’s just earning a living. She was earning a living to help look after her folks.

I just felt so sorry for them. Those poor people will never see their beautiful daughter again and in the midst of their grief they face these suggestions that they are somehow hypocrites – because they took small sums of money to survive since their breadwinner daughter had been shot dead. They didn’t ask to be there. Well obviously, they didn’t want to be there.

I hope the state appeals the verdict. Not because it would get the premeditated murder charge to stick but because of the hassle it would cause Pistorius. I’d like to see them bankrupt him with appeals and cause him as much stress as possible with endless hearings. The trouble is, do people like Pistorius even stress? Perhaps it would hurt the family more than it would Pistorius. I’m sure as hell he doesn’t feel remorse.  He’s fooling no-one with his pathetic whining and breaking down in court that’s for sure. And I include the judge when I say that. Just clock her face in this video….

Speaking of M’Lady, she had this to say when acquitting Pistorius of the more serious charge of premeditated murder:

“there is no reason, based on the evidence, to doubt Pistorius’s claim that he thought there was an intruder.” 

Yeah, no reason whatsoever to doubt it. Apart from the fact the place is guarded like Fort Knox, the ultra low burglary rate in that compound, all the witnesses who heard arguing and screaming, the fact Steenkamp wasn’t in her bed when he left the room and the totally circumstantial fact he’s a really angry and very spoilt gun nut. No reasons there at all.

Well that’s justice for you. Out in 10 months they reckon. Two final points post verdict:

I was watching on Sky Sports yesterday as they looked through the various sentences he might serve and whether he would compete again. They mentioned that people serving prison sentences under house arrest are allowed to work and “go to church” (at least I got a laugh out of that last part) – so perhaps he could get released in 10 months and be allowed to compete while under house arrest?

And I just thought who cares if he ever competes again – honestly, who gives a toss? How much of a draw is it anyway – when we’re being honest and not just patronising disabled people – watching Oscar Pistorius win by half the track?

Lastly, this:

Olympic bans 22-10-2014 16-15-33

Michael Phelps got a 6 month ban from USA swimming for drink driving, putting him out of the World Championships. The IOC has said Pistorius is free to compete when he has served his sentence. Do they really need a convicted killer that badly?

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Poll of The Week

It was funny watching Garry Monk talk himself into an almost guaranteed FA charge yesterday, ranting away that it was “disgraceful decision, the ref has cheated us, Mike Riley hasn’t replied to me, that’s poor leadership from Mike Riley” etc etc.

Perspective can do funny things to your opinion.  I actually needed Stoke to win that game and I was pretty sure that if anything the ref had it in for Stoke, not Swansea!

I think Garry Monk should have the book thrown at him for this. Not because he’s moaning like a child. In fact I think he’s right to come out and call the Stoke player a cheat. Victor Moses blatantly cheated! And it is poor of Mike Riley not to even reply when Monk sends him a whiny letter and DVD. How hard is it to send a “Dear Garry we note your comments” letter in reply? No – punishment is due for that simple fact that these diversory tactics have been lifted straight out the Jose Mourinho handbook.  Monk’s side were clearly second best yesterday, they got a helping hand with their own penalty (how many of those are ever given for tussling inside the box at corners?) and they deserved to lose. Monk’s moaning just masks all this.  But he clearly thinks it’s worth copping an FA charge in order to put pressure on officials in future matches. (He must know he will get charged, right? He repeated his post match interview comments at the press conference.)

Monk is in good company. On Saturday we saw Colin Wan*er, sorry I mean Neil Warnock (an anagram of Colin Wan*er), instructing his players not to shake the official’s hand and raging blue murder after the Palace Chelsea game. And Steve Bruce might try to sound all friendly and pleasant but he doesn’t half whinge away in that Geordie accent of his, in fact he never shuts up moaning! And I haven’t even mentioned Arsene Wenger and Furrrrrgie.

This week’s question is: who is the moaniest football manager?  Answer this week’s poll and leave a comment with your Twitter username to be in with a chance of winning a token for my Bounty competition.

Congratulations to @pcbunter for winning last week’s poll.

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Friday’s Caption Competition

It’s time for another caption competition. But before we do that, the password for the Freddie Mays Bounty tournament at 9pm tonight is:

tootired

Raymond Verheijen had some harsh words for Roy Hodgson in the week. “England manager Roy Hodgson once again made himself look extremely stupid. He is the perfect example of a typical uneducated English coach.”  Speak your mind son, don’t hold back!

There was more…

“Embarrassing to see dinosaur Hodgson questioning the fitness regime of the forward thinking manager Brendan Rodgers. Roy Hodgson’s incompetence must be frustrating for educated managers like Brendan Rodgers who travelled the world.”

I bet Roy Hodgson was absolutely seething at that last bit, especially seeing as he’s managed all over Europe. Now Roy might appear calm and collected but I reckon he’s only ever one misplaced question away from a full on “Captain Caveman” moment.

Verheijen might have a point with his “once again” remark though. Hodgson does seem to create these problems out of thin air. When he isn’t swearing in interviews or offending Brazilian mayors he’s dropping his 19 year old star player in the brown stuff and starting public spats with Brendan Rodgers – all of which were…pretty avoidable.   In a country of over 60 million people it is staggering to think it was a two horse race between Harrry Redknapp and Roy Hodgson  for the job of international manager.

I want England to lose to someone crap and  Hodgson to have a full on melt down like he did that time at Blackburn.  I thought it would happen in the World Cup but he let us all down by being really diginified. Surely one can’t be too far away :) ? What could the wise owl be saying to the tired young whippersnapper here?  Submit your caption on Facebook for your chance to win a token to my bounty tourney next week. 

roy-hodgson-talks-to-raheem-sterling

Congratulations to Alan Chipster Nevin for winning last week’s competition with: “This beard is coming off, don’t want Alex Ferguson mistaking me for you Roy.” (Chipnevin)

Roy Saddam Keane

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Hand of The Week – Week 138

I’ve got a delightful little hand of micro stakes cash poker for you this week. It’s rare that you are genuinely amazed when you get to see what your opponent was holding and this hand is a good example of that.  I’ll keep my opponent’s hand a surprise until the end so see if you can guess what he had.

This past week, when I’ve had the urge to play in the wee hours but I only want a quick blast, I’ve taken to firing up 10 tables of micro stakes in the knowledge I can’t lose too much whatever happens.  I find 200-300 hands or so in 10 minutes is quite a good fix :). This hand cropped up in one of those sessions.

I had J-8s in the small blind. I wouldn’t usually play J-8s whilst 10 tabling Speed poker because it’s so easy to just wait for a better hand. In fact the odds are you’re already looking at a better hand from your 10 tables in front of you. However the button limped in and it was a measly 5 cents to call, so I did. The big blind didn’t punish the limping and we saw this flop.

ACES surprise 1 of 4 16-10-2014 14-25-49

I liked this flop because not only do I have 8 outs for a straight, there are a load of cards I can bluff, particularly clubs. In particular if any club appears I’ll be representing the flush. Check calling seemed good because if I’d reopened the betting by raising I might get blown off my hand and I didn’t want that.

Turn card: ace.

He bet his ace, almost pot sized and I had a little think. Well he didn’t raise preflop and the almost pot sized bet indicated to me he wanted to take it there and then. I suspected he didn’t have an ace so calling seemed best to me here. He would surely relinquish the hand if he didn’t have an ace and it looked like I’d be bluffing this river if missed my straight.

ACES surprise 2 of 4 16-10-2014 14-34-45

The river was a very bricky 6d and, straight duly missed, I decided to bluff. Not too much I thought, lest it look like a grab with a busted draw (which it was). I bet a similar amount to what I would with a really strong hand, just over half the pot. He called immediately.

Drat – well obviously I can’t win here. Indeed he took it down, as you can see from this image.

ACES surprise 3 of 4 16-10-2014 14-38-31

Over to you then!

What hand could he have here?  If I didn’t know better I’d say in the first instance that my read was wrong and he did have an ace. Maybe even an ace that turned into 2 pair, like A-5 or A-6. Perhaps he had 10-9 for a flopped two pair and was being careful. Or even a 5-6 that got lucky?

In fact he had this:

ACES surprise 4 of 4 16-10-2014 14-50-01

Pocket aces! I almost fell off my chair. He had AA, turned another one and still didn’t raise on the end!  What does it take to get this guy to raise? This hand was an extremely rare beast: although I lost I was genuinely amazed at what he had to the point I was pleasantly amused. I dare say this wouldn’t have been the case if I’d been playing €5/10, but it really made me smile when I saw his cards. How can he have AA and not raise? There’s no flush out there so the only hand that can beat him is exactly 7-8. That would have meant I’d been drawing to a gut shot the whole way. I think I located a player who will only raise you on the river if he is literally holding the nuts!

I suppose had I been concentrating harder I could have potentially assigned some small percentage to him having aces when he limped. But I wasn’t – I just made up the small blind when I saw a chance to see a flop on the cheap. You know how it is – there you are mid hand, busily planning what you’re going to do if a particular card appears and then you realise you haven’t been attention to what your opponent holds.

By the way, I absolutely admit defeat in my quest to become a winning player at Speed Poker. You’ll probably hold out this hand as an example of why this is true! At the start of the year I had an ambitious plan to win 5 big blinds per 100 hands while playing 100k hands of €0.10-€0.20 cent Speed Poker every month (usually while multi tabling 10 tables). I started brightly enough but after about 60,000 hands something happened. My graph just ran downwards at pretty much the same gradient and the only way I could arrest the decline was to stop altogether. Seeing as my style wasn’t diverging massively over large samples I have to assume they just got wise to me. These pesky regulars worked me out!

I know, it sounds pathetic when you admit you can’t beat 10-20c but it’s the truth. In my defence I was 10 tabling for the most part and not using a HUD, but this doesn’t really detract from the sheer patheticness I admit.  You’ll just have to trust me though, it ain’t easy!

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Poll of The Week

The past week has pretty much been the Phil Ivey show on these pages since he lost his case against Crockfords in court. So it’s only fitting I bring my ramblings to a full stop with a poll of the week to see what you all think about it. I’m guessing you are already familiar with the story but there’s articles here and here if you want the full SP.

This week’s question is: Did Phil Ivey get a fair verdict in court? Answer this week’s poll and leave a comment with your Twitter username to be in with a chance of winning a token for my Bounty competition.

After being knocked for £7.7m by a snooty casino who left their brains at home and after being told his actions amounted to cheating in court by a judge, perhaps the next most sickening thing is that Ivey should have to pay costs (estimated at £200k) because of these welshing scoundrels (I think you can see which way I’ll be voting here.)

The more I think about it the more I am reminded of the very last six words of this classic Lonely Island song.  I desperately hope he appeals. As I understand it, Ivey and Sun/Kelly aren’t allowed to appeal the actual verdict but they are allowed to apply to a higher court to have the whole thing heard afresh. Please do it! I don’t want that verdict “set aside”. In the spirit of the Lonely Island, I’d like to see a new phrase introduced into legal nomenclature. We want that verdict “THROWN ON THE GROUND!”

 

Congratulations to @ironnutzpoker for winning last week’s poll.

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Crockfords Verdict So Wrong

I’ve done a bit of thinking since this Phil Ivey verdict last week and the more I think about it the more I reckon Phil Ivey has been stitched up!  I’ve discussed it with my old man, who knows a bit about contract law and also a mate of mine who is a highly successful professional gambler. Both of them thought the decision was perverse, like I did.

Then I noticed this comment in the section below the post I wrote on Thursday. It basically disagreed with all of us. Well naturally I thought he was wrong at every turn :) and so I began tapping out a reply to put the gentleman straight on a few things.  But when my response got too long for the comments section I thought I may as well answer in full in a new post. So here we go. First this is what the chap has to say about my article:

“I’ve never heard such drivel. Ivey cheated, pure and simple, by manipulating the cards in such a manner that he knew which cards were 7’s, 8’s or 9’s before placing his bets – in a game where the value of cards is not meant to be known until betting is over.

And as for your comment about drunkenly walking up to a Punto Banco table; firstly if you are in a casino you should know that you’re at a disadvantage as soon as you start to play. Secondly, if you gamble whilst drunk then you’re even more of an idiot.

And then to play the establishment vs race card, pure joke.”

Well clearly he feels the same way as the judge! Hardly a controversial stance seeing as the verdict had been announced but to be fair he obviously believes what he is saying and he isn’t just taking sides with the winner.

The use of the phrase “manipulating the cards” is key here. Words like “manipulated” and various similes, such as “conned”, “tricked”, “connived” or “misled” are often bandied about by Ivey’s detractors before they draw the inevitable conclusion that he must have been cheating. But pejorative overtones of these “bad” words alone do not clinch an argument.

An actual reason is still required and the judge hasn’t given one to my mind. All he has said is that Ivey got the dealer to move the cards at right angles so he could see them better and that the dealer would have never done this is she’d know what he was really up to, before concluding:

This is, in my view, cheating for the purpose of civil law.”

Judge Mitting hasn’t drawn on any precedent and he hasn’t pinpointed a specific rule that’s been broken. He has added that this is “my view” and his view is no more convincing than layman’s speak to be honest.

The comment above, which I’d like to shoot down in flames, says:

“Ivey cheated, pure and simple, by manipulating the cards in such a manner that he knew which cards were 7’s, 8’s or 9’s before placing his bets – in a game where the value of cards is not meant to be known until betting is over”

Specifically on the wording: “in a game where the value of cards is not meant to be known until betting is over

Is this an explicit rule? Or one that’s just been made up?

Supporters of the casino will inevitably say: “Oh everyone knows that’s a rule. It’s obvious“.  Well do they? Is it? And what does the law have to say about it? The reasoning in that comment is as flimsy as the judge’s.

No-one is denying Ivey has tucked the casino up good and proper here and I use the phrase “tucked up” with no hint of wrongdoing on Ivey’s part. As this case found itself before a court an actual legal reason has to be produced if we are to say he cheated. To start with, what is cheating exactly? I mean in the legal sense. I’d venture that cheating occurs when a rule is broken. Can anyone name an actual rule that has been transgressed in this episode?

Ivey and Cheung Yin Sun a.k.a “Kelly” can read the back of the cards, at least some of the cards at any rate. So what? There’s no rule to say they can’t do that. This is something they achieved through skill and not rule breaking. If he’d marked the cards for example then this would have been cheating because he isn’t allowed touch the cards. A rule would have clearly been broken, but Ivey didn’t break any rules here. The cards were the casino’s equipment and they agreed to use them. They had their greedy eyes wide open and didn’t have to agree to their requests. Similarly, the casino staff agreed to move the cards at right angles when Ivey/Kelly asked them to (in order they could read the imperfections). Again, so what? There’s no rule to say they can’t do that and the casino staff could have always refused the request.

It comes to something when the judge proffers nothing more than this basic summary of what happened and then adds that it was cheating “in my opinion”. Excuse my legalese, but that is a crock of shit for a judgement. Not only that – Ivey can’t appeal the actual verdict and (as I understand it) has to have the case heard afresh in a higher court. Ivey will surely have another crack and I wish him all the best.

On to the next point:

And as for your comment about drunkenly walking up to a Punto Banco table; firstly if you are in a casino you should know that you’re at a disadvantage as soon as you start to play. Secondly, if you gamble whilst drunk then you’re even more of an idiot.

Apologies to those who understood me first time round but this chap clearly hasn’t so I’ll spell it out again. I’ll deal with the “secondly” part first. I disagree that gambling whilst drunk makes someone “even more of idiot”. They might place more enjoyment on the act of gambling than the money they lose. Perhaps they genuinely don’t care about losing money.  Granted it isn’t a profitable pastime but it’s not on to call people idiots because they like a beer and a bet.

(The real idiots in this case are Crockfords. I hear that upon their dawning realisation they’d been had over  – again no negative connotations – the staff informed them “we’re not using these cards any more” – and Ivey and Kelly immediately stood up and said “thanks for the game, see you later”.  Still it only took Crockford several hundred hands and £7.7m quid to arrive at their “duh” moment.  But I digress.)

Of course people in casinos know they getting the worst of it when they play games of chance in a casino. This is an obvious and self-evident truth. The reason I made my mythical “drunken punter who doesn’t understand punto banco” point was as a counterargument to the judge’s “broken contract” fallacy.  Recall how according to the judge, Ivey deceived Crockfords by claiming his bizarre requests were due to his superstitious nature. As we know, this was untrue. We know Ivey was making these requests (eg asking for particular cards and have them turned them at right angles etc) in order to gain an advantage. According to the judge he voided the implicit gaming contract by deceiving them. Now this is simply preposterous. He’s under no obligation to answer these questions seriously. By the judge’s own logic Ivey could have literally said:

“gotta get an edge, man, gotta get an edge”

every single time they asked why he wanted this and that and not elaborated any further. He would have been telling the truth and hence the gaming contract would not have been broken.

Hence my drunken player point: just as the casino didn’t understand why Ivey made these requests, do all the losing punters since year dot now have a case that they too were victim of a  broken contract, even the drunks and the insane? If the standard for “breaking the contract” is so low you can argue they do! If I ask the floorman for a precise description of the mathematical edge the house has and he fails to explain it to my satisfaction, does this void our contract? This is the kind of thing I was getting at.

To state as a matter of fact that a punter should have to walk into a casino in the full knowledge he is getting the worst of it doesn’t sit well with me. Why should the casino have a God given right to get the best of it? I hear stories (unconfirmed) that Crockfords even greedily flew Ivey in from Spain in a private jet as well as agreeing to all his little whims. And all these concessions for a top professional gambler who really knows what he is doing. How could they be so bloody foolish and why should they get blanket protection from the law?

Onto the last point:

And then to play the establishment vs race card, pure joke.”

I admire the guy’s faith in the British justice system but I can assure you it is a not a “pure joke”. Do people still seriously believe the rule of law applies equally to all men?

Imagine Prince Harry and his mates pulled the same caper at Crockfords in 2012 and it got to court last week. How would you bet the verdict if you were a bookie? I’ll start the betting at 1-8 in favour of Prince Harry and I’d expect those odds to shorten. And that’s no joke.

The sad fact is that in the UK black people are more likely to get arrested, they have lower acquittal rates and get harsher punishments when they are convicted. It’s not as bad as the USA but we ought not hold ourselves to such low standards. Again, this not a joke but a matter of fact.

Judges are human and they can have prejudices like everyone else, steeped into every fibre of their being. For instance does anyone believe an admitted atheist would get a fair trial in Georgia or West Virginia if he had a dispute with a church pastor? As my Dad pointed out to me, Judge Mitting went to Downside school and would have had a staunch Roman Catholic upbringing. It is a very short price that he has a low opinion of gambling and gamblers generally and it’s a similarly short price that he subscribes to the view it’s a mug’s game and that the house will always win (just as the writer of that comment appears to).

That’s just the way life is. There’s no use pretending differently and it’s not just naive but probably unhealthy to assume that “all will be decided fairly” in the courts.

This verdict is a travesty based on the stated reasons. Isn’t it always the same when the legal system gets involved with gambling cases? Witness the US Department of Justice’s application of the ridiuclous 1961 Wire Act and the $300m fine of Anurag Dikshit in the last decade. A few years later they said “Yeah actually that law doesn’t apply any more”, so they probably had a fair idea it was a weak case at the time! And remember the underhand way the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was sneaked into US law in the first place in 2006? Not to mention every other case where a court has deemed that poker is NOT a game of skill, despite the fact it is so obviously is.  Society has this deeply entrenched view that gambling is bad and it influences legal decisions without due regard for the actual law.  Especially when the people calling the shots have a bit of “the Lord” about them.

If a man’s starting point is that “it is impossible to beat the bookies or the casino” then he will inevitably find a reason to tally with his pre-conceived belief. He will assume that cheating has occurred. I believe the judge has done exactly this.

It comes across very clearly from the gentleman’s comment he is of the view that the punter is simply supposed to lose.  I find this attitude so depressing.  It is astonishing how many people actually believe that the only way to beat the bookie or casino is by cheating. Even intelligent and well educated people are guilty of subscribing this mass produced “conventional wisdom” (not that a catholic school necessarily constitutes a good education.)

Yesterday I read a fascinating story about two men who spotted a fault in a Las Vegas video poker machine. By doing no more than pressing a sequence of buttons they could get jackpots to repeat. After fleecing a few machines Downtown and on the Las Vegas strip  guess what happened? They had their doors smashed in, were thrown in jail and treated like criminals before the trumped up charges were eventaually dropped after two years  of hassle and grief. The police even offered the pair immunity if one grassed the other in a classic Prisoner’s dilemma (both played the optimal strategy and told the police to go f**k themselves).  It was absolutely outrageous behaviour from the authorities, but typical of the attitude that you can only win at gambling if you cheat.

This is why the verdict is so terrible. It’s a message to the gambling fraternity that when the little man legitimately beats the casino he will inevitably get a perverse decision in court because you’re not allowed to win. It reinforces the “conventional” view and it is wrong.

Conventional wisdom is bullshit anyway. People who believe in “conventional wisdom” are the type who will hear a story about someone being mis-sold a pension by a silver tongued advisor at their high street bank and just shrug saying “yeah well, caveat emptor eh? What did he expect? Can’t win at gambling, can’t beat the system, don’t try it mate. Give up.” Some lunatics get so hung up on this notion they even proclaim “markets are always efficient” but now’s not the time for that discussion. Suffice to say… what an appalling mindset to have.

How far has conventional wisdom got the average Joe in his life in any case? Work hard, go to church, keep your head down, trust your government, be patriotic and go fight for your country, you’ll be a hero! Never complain and whatever you do, don’t challenge the accepted order. It’s a load of old bollocks.

Thankfully there are a few free spirits out there who know better than to accept the conventional wisdom. You can win. I personally know people who have made millions out of gambling.  

But this verdict is a depressing reminder of the far larger population of servile, accepting masses, shackled to their downtrodden belief that they won’t ever win

Just how defeatist can you get?

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Friday’s Caption Competition

It’s time for another caption competition. But before we do that, the password for the Freddie Mays Bounty tournament at 9pm tonight is:

roykeane

You’ve got to hand it to Roy Keane. He really couldn’t give a ****.   Roy reckons Mourinho would be lucky not to get a slap in Sunday League football if he tried shaking hands with an opposing manager before the final whistle. By the sounds of things he’s lucky he didn’t get a slap managing Premier League games against Aston Villa! Asked by a Guardian journalist about Mourinho’s motives: “Disrespectful then? Arrogant?”, Keane replied:

“What do you think? That’s a stupid question.”

He’s such a kind and friendly man. I’ve been enjoying his mouthing off all week, particularly his digs directed at Furrrrrgie, whom he quite rightly says is treated like a saint by far too many people in the game. But I think he took matters too far when he invaded Kuwait and gassed the Kurds ..hang on a minute.

Roy Saddam Keane

What could these bearded wonders be saying here? Submit your caption on Facebook for your chance to win a token to my bounty tourney next week. 

Congratulations to Justin Scott for winning last week’s poll with “did u get slapped on transfer list as well?” (justin1875)

Welbeck Cleverly

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Judgement Day

The long awaited verdict in the Phil Ivey vs Crockfords Casino legal saga has been announced. The case was heard at the High Court of Justice in London before Mr Justice Mitting and he gave his verdict yesterday (8th October).

It wasn’t good news for Phil Ivey, who gave evidence at the hearing. The judge found in favour of the casino and they won’t have to honour the £7.7 million that he won, but have withheld since 2012.

As you probably know by now, Ivey won the cash over a weekend in August 2012 playing a variant of baccarat called Punto Banco. Ivey and a female associate called Cheung Yin Sun used a technique called “edge sorting” in order to gain a small but significant edge over the house.

It transpires that it was the hitherto mysterious Chinese companion and not Ivey, who was the brains behind this ingenious plot. From the BBC:

“Mr Ivey also told the court he had used the technique in Australia and the United States with friend Cheung Yin Sun, who had introduced him to the strategy in 2012 and who he calls by her English name Kelly.”

They made a variety of strange requests claiming it was because they were “superstitious” and the casino agreed to all of them. In fact these requests were all designed to facilitate the edge sorting and it is quite preposterous the casino didn’t suss that one of the world’s best poker players would be some superstitious crank. I suppose they just naively took the view that if this oddball wanted to throw his money away they’d make it as comfortable for him as possible to do so.

Ivey asked for a specific brand of playing cards, easily the most important factor in the plan. The brand had ever so slight design imperfections and the backs of the cards had tiny differences which revealed whether they were a seven, eight or a nine.

They also requested a shuffling machine, a Chinese dealer who spoke Mandarin and that the same card decks be used. The casinos granted all these requests. Cheung Yin Sun spoke Mandarin and could communicate with the dealer. From time to time she would ask the dealer to place the cards at right angles which would make it possible to view the imperfections (apparently they really are tiny and a trained eye is required). When placed back in the shuffling machine the correct edge would be maintained and that card would remain readable.

Unfortunately their efforts were in vain. The casino withheld the money and now the judge says they don’t have to pay it back. In court the casino bleated that they were under the impression Ivey’s conditions were based on superstition and not to gain an advantage. I mean cumon, ffs, duh (etc etc)! This is why I am surprised the judge found in the casino’s favour.

This has got to hurt but Ivey, who was “disappointed” with the outcome, issued a fairly calm statement which included the following:

“As I said in court, it’s not in my nature to cheat – and I would never do anything to risk my reputation.  I am pleased that the judge acknowledged in court that I was a truthful witness by saying that, ‘I am entirely convinced that Mr. Ivey did not consider that what he was doing was cheating.'”

You can probably tell from that wording that this isn’t the same thing as the judge declaring that he hadn’t cheated. Full written reasons aren’t available yet – these will likely take a couple of months -but we have a very clear flavour of his opinion from his comments. In his ruling, the judge said that the case turned on whether there was cheating:

“If Mr Ivey cheated, he is not entitled to recover his winnings. If he did not, he is.

What Mr Ivey and Ms Sun did was to persuade the croupier to turn some of the cards in the dealing shoe to permit them to know that they were or were very likely to be sevens, eights or nines, and in circumstances where she did not realise she had done so – and, if she had, would have immediately stopped play.

The fact that Mr Ivey was genuinely convinced that he did not cheat and that the practice commanded considerable support from others was not determinative of the question of whether it amounted to cheating. 

Mr Ivey had gained himself an advantage and did so by using a croupier as his innocent agent or tool. It was not simply taking advantage of error on her part or an anomaly practised by the casino for which he was not responsible. He was doing it in circumstances where he knew that she and her superiors did not know the consequences of what she had done at his instigation.

This is, in my view, cheating for the purpose of civil law.”

So there you have it.

I have to say I’ve come full circle on this. At the time I did suspect he was cheating on the basis it was impossible to beat these kind of odds and we looked at phenomenal numbers in my piece “Something Fishy”.

Anyone with half a brain knew that statistically something HAD to be up. (This precluded zillions of Ivey fans who seem to actually believe he can walk on water and defeat multimillion-to-one odds all through his God given talent.)

The fact Ivey was playing these games in the first place was a massive clue. Why would a professional gambler known as the world’s best poker player play a game of chance and give away 5%? Now we know something was fishy, but not as fishy as having an inside man or personally marking the cards. That’s what I would call “cheating”.

Imagine playing poker and noticing one of the cards was already marked. Would you alert the dealer and get the deck changed or do you carry on playing and use this information to your advantage?

Ivey was doing the latter.

In a poker game I’d get the deck changed but if I was playing blackjack in a casino I am pretty certain I wouldn’t and I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it either. It’s their equipment and they are responsible. If I was playing that game of poker with someone who didn’t mention the marked card I wouldn’t be happy playing with them in future but it would be a stretch to call them a “cheat” if they didn’t mark the card personally.

I suppose Ivey did go a step further though, by persuading the casino to supply the marked cards.  But the actual basis on which he has lost the case does leave a bad taste.

Apparently when you go into a British casino to chuck a few quid down on the roulette table, you are actually entering a contract. Who knew that?  By pretending his requests were made on the basis of superstition Ivey deceived Crockfords. As a result, Ivey’s conduct defeated the premise of the game, meaning the gaming contract was void.  (Does this mean if Ivey had cheerfully declared “I’m making all these requests in order to fleece you” that he would be entitled to his winnings?)

Contract my arse! When you drunkenly walk up to a punto banco table and you’ve never even heard of the game can you claim you did not understand the advantage the casino had and that you’re due a refund? Because it doesn’t seem like there was a meeting of the minds in the transaction to me.

Ivey’s disciples are enraged. Well they would be, wouldn’t they?  I think he’s been hard done by as well.  One opinion I read said:

“Putting it bluntly, if the casino fouls up from start to finish, that’s the gamblers good fortune.”

When I read this I couldn’t help but think of a certain budget airline.

Ryannair has an internal motto: if the customer screws up they are fair game. So for example, if a recently married customer doesn’t enter her name perfectly on the passport and it needs amending it’s fine to charge her 100 sheets. Or if you don’t show up with an A4 printout of your ticket then it’s absolutely fine to rip them off for 60 sheets. It’s OK because they screwed up. Or if an elderly gentleman accidentally selects travel insurance that he don’t want because he doesn’t realise he needs to uncheck a box and he is offered it three times (yeah “accidentally”) then Ryannair should have no sympathy because it “his fault” and he is fair game. No matter that the bloke is a bit doddery because he’s elderly and unbeknown to him he’s got Alzheimers.

Sorry that’s almost totally irrelevant – I just really hate Ryannair.

Getting back to Ivey being hard done by, some people might believe the “rule of law” applies equally to all men. I’m not so sure. What if the defendant had been called Lord Ponsenby-Smythe, a toffee nosed upper crust from the landed English gentry – instead of a black poker player?

Poor old Phil. When you enter into any transaction in a foreign jurisdiction, gambling or otherwise, one of the risks you need to assess is the law of the land in that jurisdiction. But even if Ivey had done his due diligence, told a lawyer of his plan and sought out a legal opinion, he still might have got the wrong answer.

This is all quite relevant because a second judgement awaits. Ivey did exactly the same thing in the Borgota in Atlantic City, chopping it off for $12m actually getting paid. This time the casino are suing him for the return of the money. I really hope he doesn’t lose the Borgota case. The UK verdict ought to have no bearing on the Borgota’s, being as it’s in a different country and a different legal jurisdiction. I believe the Borgota might be time barred in any case.

Final thoughts.

Ivey’s attorneys were also denied permission to appeal the verdict, although they will be allowed to renew their application to the Court of Appeal directly (if that makes any sense.) So we might not have heard the last of this.

There’s one little mystery that isn’t resolved. We still don’t know why they insisted on having a Chinese dealer. Apparently when questioned on this point by 60 Minutes Sports – it aired in the US on Tuesday but I haven’t been able to find the whole programme online yet – Ivey got all evasive and wouldn’t say.

Speaking of whom, pity the poor dealer – who had nothing to do with Ivey and his friend and who was completely innocent – she must have come in for some ferocious suspicion while Crockfords conducted their internal investigation.

Lastly, I can’t help feeling greed got the better of him. Had Ivey left Crockfords one or two million up he would have probably got paid no questions asked. That would have been plenty and he would be free to play at other casinos to his heart’s content. Most importantly there would be no looming $12m legal action from the Borgota, who no doubt only learned of his trick through the Crockfords legal action. Pity.

Should the Borgota succeed in their case and it all goes tits up – well you might just see Phil Ivey declare himself bankrupt.

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