Saturday, February 20, 2016

A Post About My New Book, an Ad, and a Bonus

The Bonus is at the bottom of this post, or just go here:

Yes, I wrote another eBook.  About horse racing.  What?  A book about Horse Racing?  Aren’t there like about 500 of them? 

Yes there are, but only four of those 500 deal with horse racing online.  No, really.  I looked it up.  And frankly, I didn’t think much of any of those four.  Nor did anyone who bought one, apparently.

The fact is, horse racing is going through a bit of a revival – thanks to American Pharoah, the first Triple Crown AND Breeder’s Cup winner ever.  Well, there’s more to it than just that…and in my opinion, we have the Internet to thank for it.  There are several online sites that act as your personal bookie, giving you a box seat on tracks all across the country, and around the world as well.

Setting up an account with these sites, known as ADW sites (Advance Deposit Wagering) is easy.  Learning to use the betting pad is easy, too.  Handicapping the race to bet a winner…yeah, that’s a little tougher.  But it can be done, and I’ll show you how.

Granted, I scratch the surface here.  There are tons of books about handicapping, about speed, pace, class, angles, form and consistency and finding longshots and frankly, everyone has their own theories.  Some work.  Some don’t.  That’s what makes this game so damn much fun (and profitable sometimes).  It’s a little like poker, in that it’s easy to learn and difficult to master.

Unlike poker, doing it online is legal in most of the country.

You might not know, but I cut my teeth in the gambling world at the track.  I’ve been following racing since I was 10 or 11.  My Dad used to take me to the harness tracks in Michigan on the nights when Mom didn’t want to go with him, or we couldn’t get a babysitter for my brother.  Did I know what I was doing back then?  Actually, a little bit – I was always good at math, and so I found it a challenge to look at the past performances and try to figure out which horse was the fastest of the bunch, and I was amazed that if you were right, they’d give you money!  Of course, I couldn’t legally bet, but after I started repeatedly saying, “I had that one…I had THAT one, too,” my Dad took a bit more interest in my handicapping prowess.  For a while, anyway, and then he went back to his old routine and I found girls more exciting than horses and drifted away from racing for years.

I got back into it in the 80s when we moved to Idaho, and there was a track at the fairgrounds, just about a mile from our first house there.  It wasn’t long before I discovered thoroughbreds and quarter horses and the joy of handicapping.  And winning.

In the 90s I created a database program to do some fairly sophisticated analyses of races, based on speed figures and trend lines (trying to calculate who would run better than their last race, and who would falter).  It sold pretty well, even better with the upgrade that allowed you to download information via the Internet rather than enter it by hand.  Alas, it was based on a DOS system and when Windows 2000 was released…well, that was the end of Mike’s Handi-Man.

And when we bought the ice cream parlor, racing (and spare time) went on the back burner.   When I did get a little extra free time, I got involved with the online poker boom.  Then came Black Friday.  Throughout all of this I kept my horse racing account active, but I didn’t do much with it until I got tired of waiting for poker to be “legal and regulated.”  I even started programming a new version of Mike’s Handi-Man in MS Access (still not as good as the old one, sadly…but it does pick ‘em pretty darn good).
Then last year, American Pharoah and the launch of the revolutionary DerbyJackpot made me all excited for horse racing again.  I also realized that, like poker, horse racing was trying to get new fans involved using the Internet.  Like other types of gambling, people WANT to get involved, but they’re afraid to try if they don’t know what’s going on.

Hence, the need for a beginner’s guide to online horse racing. 

And since my ABC’s of _____ series (craps and blackjack) has been “fairly successful” (by my standards), a horse racing book of the same nature was inevitable.  If you’ve considering getting into “horse futures” as I call it, it’s a nice, simple, straightforward introduction to the sport and to handicapping.  My hope is that it gives you a taste, saves you a few lost quid, and and “whets your appetite” for more. 

That’s what all those other books are for.

OK, now here’s the advertisement.  And the bonus!

If you’re like me, you’re tired of waiting for online poker to be legal everywhere again.  But there IS a sport where you can wager legally online, and, it’s a skill-based sport, too.  Horse racing.  Yup, you can watch, wager, and win with the nags online – and I’m here to help you do it.

My new eBook (number five if you’re counting at home), is The ABC’s of Online Horse Racing:  Watch – Wager – Win!

This book is geared to the beginning horseplayer (or someone who wants to be), and is a very easy-reading guide, complete with illustrations and examples.  And it’s cheap, too – just $3.99.  Available in seemingly every eBook format known to man, at iBooks (Apple), Google Play, Kindle (Amazon), Nook (Barnes and Noble), Smashwords, and others.

But wait…for the next few weeks, you can take 30% off!  And, should you be so inclined (and need extra gifts for special someones…or yourself), you can take 20% off any of my other eBooks.

Use the specific coupon code shown below for each book, and thanks!
The ABC’s of Online Horse Racing – was $3.99, now $2.79 – Use code BB22W
The ABC’s of Craps
– was $3.99, now $3.19 – Use code HE85J
The ABC’s of 21– was $2.99, now $2.39 – Use code XF67M
Be The King! (of Small-Stakes Tournaments) – was $6.99, now $5.59 – Use code NQ65Z
Let the Chips Fall: A Collection of Short Stories About Gambling – was $2.99, now $2.39 – Use code CX87K

Hurry, this offer ends March 11 (when I go back to my real job at the ice cream parlor).

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Is Rubio Adelson’s Obi-Won?

Yeah, Rubio is more of a robot, but Wynn's skin color is almost that of C-3PO's, so it works.
A long time ago in a casino far, far away lived a man who more closely resembled Jabba the Hutt than Luke Skywalker in both decorum and deed.  Sheldon Adelson considered himself the Force to be reckoned with when it came to gambling,  It was his contention that gambling was to be done in the flesh, with live dealers and real chips, rather than some pixeled reality where cards and transactions occurred in space.

So to combat the newly-invigorated states’ right to offer poker (and other games of chance) via the Internet, Adelson enlisted a vast crew of former politicians and Presidential wanna-bes, all strident and striding forward to spread the gospel of Sheldon for a chance to be handsomely rewarded from the endless coffers of their lord and master.  He’d spend “whatever it takes,” and many were ready for the taking to being in earnest.

There was George Pataki, and Lindsey Graham, and Mike Huckabee, all three who attempted a run for the highest office in the land, only to crash and burn not for the lack of cash, but rather, public support.  Adelson’s Achilles heel was to be the same, or so it seemed.  Despite the creation of a broad-based Coalition (which only had one broad – Blanche Lincoln), two attempts at a misnamed legislative effort to turn back the clock to outlaw online gaming, and seven lobbying firms, there was little enthusiasm for such a move.

And what enthusiasm there was, was waning.  In Congress, fewer bill co-sponsors in 2015 than in 2014.  Ditto for State Attorneys General “signing on” to a support letter.  Congressional hearings hosted by Jason “Guard Dog” Chaffetz went from bad to worse, so much so that even Jason didn’t stick around to the end to see how it all came out.  The Coalition dutifully made a presence online (again, the irony) every month from its inception in November 2013 until July of last year, and then, only a couple of blurbs since, and nothing at all for the last 90 days.  And in the arena of social media, the Coalition hasn’t posted since January 12.  Even more pathetic:  despite more than 15,000 followers, posts get fewer than a half-dozen likes and the only comments left are from the Counteract group.  Lexi the Samoyed’s Facebook page has a better fan base (and cuter videos, too).

Face it – most of the rest of the world was of an opinion that the Internet was a real thing, catching on, and that most forms of commerce could in fact be conducted safely and efficiently online.  Yes, it was ironic that this same technology embraced by the rest of the thinking world was the very same technology used at Adelson’s own casinos to propagate his sports betting services.  But Adelson’s ignorance of this irony allowed him to set aside the notion that this technology was the exact same thing as that technology just as a water bottle is the same thing as a smart phone.  So there.

Still, his vision was at the same place it had been two years prior.  It’s just that no one else can see it, and put it into place.  But he still has hope.  He’s purchased a Death Star newspaper in his home town of Las Vegas, with the intent of “following the news” rather than making it*.  He’s pal-ing around with NFL folks with the idea of using his untold riches** to build a football stadium to lure the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas.  He still has his billions.

And there’s one more Jedi-Knight that Adelson can call for help.  Marco Rubio is that last hope, a Jedi-knight-like Senator (in that he can make himself disappear, especially in the Senate when there’s an important vote) that can take Adelson’s warning of online doom and make it a legislative reality.  Despite having made comments earlier that he’d be OK with an online poker carve-out, Adelson’s newspaper gave Rubio their endorsement.  More irony – the poker carve-out was in an interview with a reporter from Sheldon’s newspaper, although it wasn’t his newspaper then.  We think.

To no one’s surprise, less than a week after the endorsement Marco was a good little soldier and addressed the concerns of South Carolina citizens’ concerns by parroting Sheldon’s pathos, stating, “…what I don’t want to see is internet casinos…”  Granted, this wouldn’t be the first time a politician spoke from both sides of his mouth.  It’s obvious Rubio has this science perfected, as he later added that “…he wanted responsible regulation of online gambling instead of what he described as the ‘Wild West’ approach of letting states pass their own laws.”  Apparently he has taken the Adelson perspective that prohibition is somehow regulation.  And up is down.

The Nevada caucuses are about a week away (February 23), just after the South Carolina primary (Adelson doesn’t own a newspaper here).  Rubio is a distant third in Nevada polls and third or fourth in SC (again, distant.  Almost far, far away).  If Adelson can’t get his new Force to Awaken, he might have to deal with the “Orange Menace***” a former casino owner in his own right. 

That would certainly be an attack of the clowns.

* Who am I kidding?  He tried to influence editorial content even before people knew he bought the damned paper. 
** Seriously, who am I kidding?  He wants government money to pay for most of the stadium’s construction. 

*** A cross between the personality of Jar Jar Binks and the hair of Chewbacca.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Word Sense, or Why America Needs to Talk about Gambling

You have to understand that the reason humans converse and make language is to…well…understand.  Supposedly, as the “smartest animal” we create language as an evolutionary advantage, do allow us to perform tasks and get along with fellow humans better than others in the animal kingdom.

Granted, we have some issues.  We have a shitload of languages and translations don’t always work out smoothly.  Times change, and while “high on grass” meant a bad lie on the fairway years ago, it means something different now.  Sometimes meaning is lost when we utilize sarcasm, and bad means good and “Clear Skies Initiative” means something entirely different.

And then there’s gambling, which the gaming industry pronounces “gaming.”

I’ve felt this way for a long time.  The confusion that sets in when one mentions the G-word is frightening.  I’ve told my own story several times, but in short – my father’s side was a gambling family (horses, mostly), an activity frowned upon by my Mom’s side, who spent hours playing cards and later, bingo.  Playing cards was not gambling (even if a penny a point) because it was “for fun.”  The money was just a way of keeping score.  “So why not just use corn kernels or poker chips?” I innocently asked.

“Because it wouldn’t be as much fun,” was the reply.  No wonder I was confused.

And so is FanDuel’s CFO Matt King.  As is many who play Daily Fantasy Sports.  At least, according to the most recent Frontline PBS news program, which looked into the whole sordid DFS situation this week in “Fantasy Sports Gamble.”  We’ll get to King in a moment, but for now I want to stay on the G-word, something many of the “players” (never identifies as bettors) had trouble saying when discussing their involvement with DFS.  Are we gambling?  No, heavens no.  Investing, yes.  It’s a challenge, a skill-based game.  Entertainment.  Yeah, definitely, entertainment. 

And King echoed those comments, and then some.  After saying that he doesn’t consider FanDuel as gambling, he reiterated users’ comments that, “…what comes through loud and clear is the fact that we are an entertainment product.”  Pressed again about how others might consider DFS as gambling, he offered that any contest where (as Frontline considered) “…if you are putting at risk something of value, you can win or you can lose. That would seem to me (Frontline host) the definition of gambling,” King claimed that the same thing could be said about a Spelling Bee (really, he said that).

After that, he was then asked, “Well, it could be poker. Poker is a game of skill, right?

And he replied:  “No, poker is not.”

Say what?  He explained.  Sort of:

There is a lot of academic research on this, what’s the skill versus luck kind of spectrum. The reality is within poker, every time you shuffle the deck, it creates an element of luck that trumps it basically to being much more a chance-dominated game than a skill-dominated game. If you look at our data, the players that are good, are frankly consistently good. It is truly a game of skill. … Just like football or basketball. The more you practice, the better that you get. Many of the forms of regulated gambling are actively constructed so they are games of chance, and that is a very, very different experience than a game of skill, which is what fantasy clearly is.

Believe it or not, he followed that word salad by going back to the Spelling Bee argument (a combination of skill and luck).  But the reason King embraces all this mumbo-jumbo came a bit earlier in the skill/luck/gambling discussion, when he said…

No, because I think one of the best things about the country that we live in is the fact that everybody can express their own opinions. And so people are certainly going to have a range of opinions, and what we always encourage is to say, look, we’re new, right. So as opposed to necessarily having a discussion about are you this or are you that, are you fish or are you fowl, let’s have a discussion about what are the concerns that the fact that our business exists raises and let’s have a discussion about those concerns. Let’s figure out whether those are legitimate concerns or not, and then if there are legitimate concerns, let’s take proactive steps to address those.

Shorter King: Like assholes, everyone has an opinion, and let’s not concern ourselves with
Let me try to explain about assholes...
what we could be called, because money something something yargle bargle blargh.

See, that’s the real problem here.  Instead of being forward and calling DFS “skill-based gambling,” King hides behind other bon mots (itself a bon mot) and look where that got him.   You, like King, can play along with me by answering these queries:
  • Can you call slots gambling?
  • Can you call blackjack gambling?
  • Can you call poker gambling?
  • Can you call the stock market gambling?
  • Can you call DFS gambling?
  • Can you call a turd a rose?

Now, if you’re trying to decide whether the correct answer is four, or five, or maybe just three, let me assure you THE ANSWER IS ALL SIX.  You can CALL anything anything.  You can CALL a cat a moose or a mouse, but it does not MAKE the cat larger or smaller.  It’s still a pussy, and so is Matt King.

But I digress.  As long as we play parlor games and pussyfoot around with what this word means or that word means, it allows those who wish to divide us and destroy us the tools necessary to do so.  Your game is gambling, but mine is entertainment.  You wager, but I invest.  I use my skills and talents, and you…well, let me get back to you about that, but I’m sure luck is involved, or fate, or chance, some other word that means something.  Because we all have opinions.  And assholes.

I’ve been sitting for quite a while now, and my Matt King itches like crazy.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Hold’emX: Does This Game Have My Name On It?

The joke is that back in high school & college my nickname was “The Big X” (because of my last name, silly), so naturally something called “HoldemX” would sound like it would “have my name on it.”  Ha ha.

But, no joke: this new radical version of Hold‘em just might be what I’ve been looking for.

As you may know, I’ve been off the virtual felt since Black Friday.  Well, the cash side, anyway.  I’ve never felt comfortable advocating for a return of legal, regulated online poker in the US while at the same time playing at off-shore sites that accept US players like Bodova, ACR, and the like.  That’s not an argument I want to pursue right now, BTW.

I’ve been filling my time online in other pursuits – I have returned to the track (that was my first love, y’know) and I am happy to report that it “satisfies” as much as it ever did (up and down, but boy, do I love LOVE LOVE the “conditional bet” option – something that you just can’t do in live racing unless, y’know, you’re actually there).  I still play Hold’em poker online (for free, of course), and you already know what that can be like (not the same).  I’ve tried Omaha (thanks to Robert Turner) and there’s some mental stimulation potential there, but again, because I can only play for free, Omaha tends to turn into an all-in shoving frenzy, and PLO hi-lo turns into a all-in shoving frenzy-times-nine.  I can’t believe real cash games play out that way. 

Still, it’s a diversion from Texas Hold‘em, which I always seem to play nowadays whilst I am doing something else.  It just doesn’t seem to hold my interest.

But HoldemX?  It’s like playing Uno, Magic, Poker, and one of those weird-ass wild card games your uncle used to pull out in the late hours on Thanksgiving.  The creators call it “Hold‘em, enhanced” and “"a whole new poker game that tries to build a bridge between poker and eSports." 

Sounds about right.  Some of the kids that work for us at the ice cream parlor are avid gamers, so I’ve sent them all a note asking them to try it to see what they think of it.  As for me, I can see the appeal it might have for both poker junkies and those who might never consider poker as anything other than what old guys do when they’re bored (Yeah, that’s how it was put to me once, damn kids nowadays).

To be honest, I might never have tried it had I not been a bored old guy.  One of the initial write-ups left me feeling “meh” until I read another review which used the Uno reference, and then I read this primer on some of the strategies of the game.  I’ve only played a couple of times, and I can assure you that while they may have had millennials in mind, it’s a game that can appeal to just about anyone who likes strategy gaming.  Yes, there are elements of poker (it IS a poker game, first and foremost), but there are other aspects that enter into it that make it extremely challenging.

The basic version (“normal mode” but they are working on others) is heads-up Hold’em, with these added features:  A “Discovery Deck” with “Bonus X Cards” that act in ways that can give you stronger hands, and a shot-clock.  The Bonus X cards are things like making one of your hole cards like the other (instant pair), adding a 6th Street, changing a suit on the flop, redealing the river Card, and so on.  Like DFS, you have a budget, so you can’t pick ‘em all, and if you pick an expensive X card, you might not have enough left for other cards you want.  You can also buy cards to block your opponents X cards.

Play is alternated between X card play and normal card play (you can play an X card after the deal and each street).  Betting is as normal (if that’s a word that can be used here).  Yes, more complex than poker, for sure – the rules are here (to be honest, this part needs a lot of work), and there’s a tutorial video you’ll see at the start up of the game.  It’s fairly self-explanatory, even to this nerd.

Me, kicking Hold'emX ass.
The game is in “alpha test” mode right now, but the creators make no secret that they’ve spent a bundle developing the game.  Despite that, they also claim that they see no real rush to create a “cash” version.  I know I railed against “free poker” earlier, but so far the lack of playing for money hasn’t deterred my enjoyment of the game.  It’s a real challenge.

Oh, also, I am undefeated so far.  There’s that, too.