Tuesday, April 21, 2015

No Itch for Twitch

Jason Somerville entertaining the masses
Unless you’re living under a rock, you have heard about the “exciting relationship” forged between Poker and Twitch (the “new” live streaming service).  That relationship is that some poker pros are streaming their online play and gathering substantial followings.

Wait… why all the “quotes” around “key words” in that paragraph?

Well, first of all, Twitch isn’t all that new – the service has been active since 2011 (just after Black Friday), and the gaming community has been actively using Twitch for nearly that long (I learned about it from one of our employees at the ice cream parlor, an active gamer).  I used the term “exciting relationship” only because I don’t know what else to call it…as you will soon see, I have a slightly different take on the subject than most.

Nearly everyone has hailed the fact that Jason Somerville has more than 50,000 subscribers (at $4.99/month) and that big names like Daniel Negreanu and Chris Moneymaker are coming online (and many made a big deal of Daniel’s “live streaming” in the loo this weekend).  And while I agree that ANY exposure for poker is a good thing, to me Twitch seems like a combination of the following: 
  • The early days of radio, when half the fun was the technical wonder of it all and finding out what stations you could listen to from how far away, or
  • The early days of TV, when half the fun was the technical wonder of it all and watching damn near anything because you could, or
  • The early days of online porn, because…well, just because.

Because the barrier for entry into being on Twitch is virtually non-existent (anyone can do it), it’s a lot like the early days of radio in that there are some entertaining and informative players, there are some who are entertaining, some who are informative…and many who are neither.  Just there.

Because of the technology involved, and the fact that the Twitch audience has been brought up in a TV/digital world, almost any Twitch poker broadcast has something for everyone.  Busy screens with multi-table action, commentary, the chat room that progresses as the action continues, replays of the action…it’s Bloomberg TV with poker, in that the screen is covered with ads, chat, this, that…busy-busy-busy (and the tiny font is hard to see for us old folks – just sayin’).

Because it involves something we all love, and love to do, it’s a lot like porn.  Sometimes fun to watch, but wouldn’t you rather DO it than WATCH?

I liked the idea of the cash/profit graph.
But the screen is cluttered and unreadable.
And that’s my main beef.  I watched a variety of live and prerecorded Twitch over the last three days.  There are times when Somerville’s commentary was illuminating…and others when he was quite defensive about his play (he seems more illuminating when he wins, BTW).  I missed all of Negreanu’s Sunday action (including the piss), but it might have been fun (in a vicarious way) to watch him pocket $50G.  But I did spend some time watching a couple of low-level grinders win $1.79.  Meh.  And the commentary from these “semi-pros” were about the level you might expect. 

Another beef – the chat room seems to be a way for watchers to “be involved” but a more narcissistic group I’ve never met.  As if they could care less about what was on screen and more about “HEY, WHAT ABOUT ME?”  Is there a way to turn that off?

Ads are a problem – one interrupted my feed at a time that seemed Somerville was about to make a very good point (and then the stream came back garbled, so I missed it completely).  Ads in general piss me off, but $4.99 per month? C’mon.  And one player (forget who) had his own “donation” station and actually had sponsors ponying up $50, $100…no wonder people want a channel.  Of course, Twitch says some of the $4.99 goes to the broadcasting player, too…so that’s another way to add to the ol’ bankroll.

Lots of action here - fold, fold, fold, fold.  Repeat.
But in the end, my feelings are like one guy who was watching Somerville and added this to the Chat room “conversation:”

These tables today is so boring to watch, 3+ people sitting out or folding every single hand, holy crap 

Not horribly articulate, but accurate.  Kind of like Twitch.  It has promise, and it might be fun to pop in and watch for a little while.  You might learn something (nothing so far I haven’t learned elsewhere in books, videos, etc.).  You might be entertained a bit.

And you might want to go do it yourself and have even more fun.  Yeah, it’s like porn.

PS – one final complaint.  It seems that anytime anyone critiques or complains about Twitch, and, like me, doesn’t absolutely love it, others harp back with the same jab:  “Oh, you must be a winning player and know it all already” (and yes, I recognize it as sarcasm, thank you).  What’s with that?  Are you saying the only people allowed to say “damn, this is boring” are experts, and that I “show my ignorance” because I don’t watch to watch?  Hey, perhaps I have a busy schedule and MY TIME IS MORE VALUABLE THAT WATCHING DANIEL NEGREANU TAKE A LEAK, OK?

Now, if it was Kara Scott in the can…I’m there.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

How Easy Is It For CSIG To Fabricate? VERY!

My job is to watch Sheldon Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling and report on the various myths, half-truths, and outright fabrications they use to persuade people that online gambling is bad, evil, dangerous, and in need of extinction.  In the 14 months I’ve watched, I have NEVER seen a blatant, dishonest, and full-of-shit presentation as today’s post.

It’s a 10-page pdf file of a PowerPoint presentation that takes forever to load.  If you want to see it, click here and be prepared to wait – apparently, they don’t know how to do file compression to save time for downloads (don’t these people understand how the Internet works?  Oh, wait…). 

The summary goes like this:

  • Slide 1 – How easy is it for kids to gamble online?  VERY!
  • Slide 2 – Demo on how to load an app that SIMULATES a casino from iTunes
  • Slides 3-4 – Discussion as to the age restrictions for the game and how to download with password from iTunes Store account.
  • Slides 6-7 – Demo on how to get free coins from Facebook signup and more about the bright colors of the game and how easy it is to play.
  • Slides 8-10 – Explanation as to how it’s possible to buy more coins to keep playing the game.

Yeah, that’s it.  Of course, they “hype” it up a bit, using Caesar’s Slots as their example (how convenient), with this clincher:
Players are then encouraged to purchase digital gaming coins.  In essence, real money is now being used to gamble online.

Well, bullshit.

First – gambling is placing a wager in the hopes/expectation of winning something of value, such as money or prizes.  Can’t win shit here, Shelly.  It’s a FUCKING GAME, like Candy Crush or Words of Wonder.  This is NOT gambling.

Second – it’s not as simple as you showed.  Yes, the child needs to have an iTunes Store account – WHICH THEY CANNOT SET UP THEMSELVES – a PARENT must create the account for a minor.  Once they have an account they can download whatever game they want (provided it’s OK with the parents – restrictions are easy to establish). 

So, in essence, a kid can’t download a casino game if parents say no!  Gosh, that sounds completely different than what CSIG said. 

These people are pathetic. 

PS – I’m SURE they received permission from Caesar’s to use their game, logo, and screen shots in this presentation.  Right?


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Technical Difficulties

This is part personal and part poker.  And it’s about technology, but not really, as technology is just a fancy word for “tool.”  Like any tool, such as a hammer or a screwdriver, it can be useful in the right hands, but if misused…well, that’s not the tool’s fault.  Which is the moral of this story, but we’re not there yet.

I haven’t posted much over the last couple of weeks because my main computer decided to mimic Congress and “took a vacation.”  What actually happened was the hard drive began to fail (and was nice enough to tell me before it did, allowing a proper backup of my world).  I expect stuff to break occasionally, and I expect that most problems can be resolved in one form or another.  The key is information and communication – if you tell me what you’re going to do and how long it will take, I can make plans to use a backup computer and my saved data for that duration, and plan to do the things I needed to do at a later date.

However…if it takes longer and there are other problems AND YOU DON’T TELL ME, then, that causes more problems.  And it’s not the technology – it’s YOU.  Communication is the key, remember?  Long story short is that we eventually got the computer back and it’s working fine, but in the meantime we really did have to do what we didn’t want to do (load programs we used on the old Vista machine onto the laptop), and then we discovered that one wasn’t Win 7 compatible, and that caused other issues, but we did pay our taxes on time and did payroll for the ice cream shop and I got all my email, eventually, and now I am typing this at work waiting for the plumber to install a new toilet.

And how’s your week so far?

OK, so what does this have to do with poker, specifically, our battle to restore online poker in America?  Well, as you might have surmised, it’s not about technology.  One of the CSIG’s “talking points” of late is the claim that families are vulnerable to their kids gaining access (somehow) to gaming sites and blowing the family bankroll playing craps or poker (never horse racing or Fantasy Sports, of course).  Side note:  isn’t it funny that these whiz kids can bypass all sorts of security, yet, are too stupid to win anything?

Of course, as has been demonstrated, the LEGAL and REGULATED sites here in the US (Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware) have technology in place to prevent the very disaster the CSIG tells in its tale of woe.  If that wasn’t enough, there are software packages (more technology) available to prevent the little munchkins from gaining access from Dad’s laptop, Mom’s tablet, or Uncle Andy’s cell phone.

But again, this isn’t about technology, but communication.  In this case, it’s the fact that the messages are being ignored.  It’s damn-near impossible to believe that a sophisticated corporation like Sands Corp., one that runs its own mobile network for sports betting within Nevada, doesn’t know diddlysquat about how all this works.  And that continually pounds this myth about kids accessing gaming sites (and other falsehoods about money laundering and “preying on the poor and vulnerable”) over and over on their website and in hearings and wherever they feel necessary to convince decision-makers that online gambling is bad, evil, and needs to be exterminated.

Except, of course, those forms of online gambling that are OK, like the aforementioned Sands Corp. (Venetian) mobile sports betting, and horse racing simulcasting, and DFS, and…maybe lotteries, too?  Does one really believe that the technology for these forms of online activity are so different (and safer?) than technology for online poker?

Not if one is sane.  Or not a politician.

For this battle isn’t about technology or about communication.  It’s about politics as usual, or, in other words, money.  It’s about how many politicians Adelson can buy off so that they ignore the facts about technology and believe the fear-mongering fables that he and his coalition peddles.  We must reach out to all of those who can’t be bought and convince them that “Adelson’s bill” is nothing more than crony capitalism designed to harm his competitors while enriching one of the wealthiest men in the world. 

No amount of technology can be created that is stronger than the truth.  Oh, look, the battery in my mobile mouse is dying…at least the plumber showed up…two hours late.  Communication is the key,   Yeah, right.


Friday, April 3, 2015

People Just Wanna Gamble

Three recent news articles made my hair stand on end this week, and they say plenty about the state of gambling here in the US, which, as we all know, is pretty fucked up given Adelson’s RAWA rampage.

The first was a story from the Pew Charitable Trusts called, “States Consider Slapping Limits on Their Lotteries.”  Ignore the faulty graph showing sales per capita (more on that in a moment) – most of the quotes (and backlash) come from two sources.  One is our “buddy” Les Bernal of Stop Predatory Gambling, who really wants to stop ALL gambling, not just set limits to lotteries.  The other battleground is Minnesota, where real buddy Mike Qualley can tell you what the real issue is.  It’s not so much limiting the lottery (though there are folks who are cousins to Bernal on this), but limiting WHO can sell the damn tickets.

Which brings us to story #2 – The New York Times writes about “A Texas Ban on Gambling That Doesn’t Quite Work.”  The ban on slots in Texas can hardly succeed when the counties charge $500 fees each for the machines (to be used only as entertainment with non-cash prizes).  Hell, the STATE cashes in, too - the Texas comptroller’s office collects $10 million annually on eight-liners (slots), pool tables and other devices as part of a coin-operated machines tax.
One county hauled in $1.5 MILLION last year.  There are an estimated 30,000 to 150,000 machines in Texas, and pretty much everyone looks the other way about this.  Counties collect much needed revenue, and people do what they want to do.  Gamble.
Because face it, folks.  People just wanna gamble.  It doesn’t matter what the law or society says – we’ve been gambling ever since we’ve been upright, almost, and we’ll keep on doing it until we die.  No pun, of course.
And because people wanna gamble, governments are gonna wanna get their share.  Nothing new.  Screw laws and morality, what was decided last year, whatever…the desire for money is why people gamble and why governments have tried to get their hands on as much of it as possible.  It’s a dance we’ve been playing in this country ever since we landed (Harvard was build on Lottery money, and the Revolutionary Army was funded pretty much the same way).
Let us play and get out of the way.  Times are changing (except, not).
Which brings us to the third news story that grinded my gears, and I’m not linking to it, since pretty much everyone knows what happened in Indiana.  I won’t comment, but I will pose this query to you:

You own a bakery.  Two guys come into your bakery at different times to order wedding cakes. One asks for a cake with "Good luck Chris and Pat" on it. The other asks for a cake with "Good luck Pat & Chris" on it.

Which is the gay marriage?  Think about it.  Take all the time you need.

Yes, this is how stupid the argument is.  This is what our politicians spend their (already limited time) dicking around with.  Instead of letting us gamble as we please.