Will Phelps Pot Smoking Scandal make Him turn to Poker?

Michael Phelps was once America’s sweetheart after breaking the Olympic record for most gold medals won in a single Olympics.  My how times have changed after he was photographed smoking weed out of a bong at a University of South Caronlina party.  Suddenly, the squeaky clean image had been crafting for the past 4 or 5 years was gone and so is one of his major sponsorship deals.

The Kellogg Company has decided to part ways with Phelps after the damaging photograph was plastered all over the news and Internet.  Now, his other sponsorship deals with companies such as Visa, Subway, Omega, Speedo, and Hilton Hotels are all in question too.  And while he certainly won’t lose all of those deals, he is definitely in danger of losing one or more. 

All this has led people to speculate what Phelps will do for extra money if he does lose any more sponsors.  Some believe that he might turn to his friend Doyle Brunson and become the next star for Doyle’s Room since he has such good ties with the poker legend.  Phelps has already met many of the pros through his poker excursions in the fall and he is a pretty solid player on top of all this.

Obviously, Phelps will still be training for swimming too, but he could definitely fit in some tournaments and promotional events for Doyle’s Room on the side.  And he has said that 2012 will probably be his last Olympics so he’s going to need to build for something after swimming.  Most of his sponsors probably won’t carry him after his Olympic days are done with either so being a major figure for Doyle’s Room would be a great way for him to make money after swimming is done with. 

Steve Martin says Ambien helped Him win at Poker

I certainly wouldn’t advise people to use sleeping medications when they don’t need them.  After all, this stuff can make people really groggy the next morning and, even worse, it can be harmful to your health if you use too much sleep medication.  However, it might be worth a try to use a little Ambien some night after the story I heard Steve Martin recently tell.

The former SNL funny man and movie star appeared on David Letterman to talk about The Pink Panther 2 and other stuff he is working on at the moment.  And during the show, Martin also started talking about online poker which brought up a very interesting story involving him and Ambien.  Steve Martin takes Ambien to help him sleep better and Martin happened to play poker one night before he took his Ambien.  Before he went to sleep, Martin had $500 in his account and, when he woke up the next morning, Martin found that he had $1,500 in his account.

Martin wrote the site he was playing at to find out how the money got there and, much to his surprise, found that the money made its way into his account during the hours he thought he was sleeping.  Apparently, Martin was playing online poker while he was kind of sleeping under the influence of Ambien and had added $1,000 to his account during this time. 

Ambien has been reported in other odd cases where people will do stuff while they’re sleeping such as drive, make food, use their phone, etc. while they’re on this medication.  It looks like you can add playing online poker to the list of things you can do on Ambien now, but I still wouldn’t recommend it for this purpose.  It seems like you could just as easily lose money this way too.

Someone is Finally getting a Clue

Coming out of the same state where a judge ruled that poker is a skill game and should not be considered illegal gambling, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell is trying to get video poker machines legalized so that the profits can be used to help pay for students to go to college.  According to Rendell’s plan, video poker machines would be put in various establishments all over the state and the 17,000 machines that currently operate illegally would become scarcer.

If the state approves Rendell’s bill then as much as $7,600 for college money would be generated for each student that comes from a family earning under $100,000 a year.  Right now it is much tougher for students and their families to pay for college since the recession in the US has hit so hard.  An extra $7.6K would certainly go a long way to helping these people pay for school.

Now I now that legal video poker machines isn’t the same thing as poker but, if this bill did go through, then lawmakers might start looking more seriously at legalizing regular poker in the future.  Just like video poker, online and live poker could provide the US government with extra revenue in America instead of having players spend their cash at offshore sites.

This is the first serious attempt I’ve seen at (totally) legalizing anything related to poker in an area where such things are considered illegal.  And I think that this is a great idea since it would give the authorities more time to do meaningful things such as investigating real crimes rather than running around trying to seize video poker machines from bars and other places.  Plus the taxes on these machines would be providing the government with a ton of extra money.

The Introduction of Free Poker Training

Almost every poker player knows about the concept of poker training since there are multiple sites across the Internet offering this service.  Poker training, or coaching, sites have several skilled professional players that teach others winning strategy for the game.  In return for this training, players will pay the site a fee so that they can keep getting more coaching. 

And the whole poker coaching scene has created a mini-industry within poker with lots of people rushing to these sites to learn from the best.  However, things could all change since CardRunners is offering free poker training via the poker room Full Tilt Poker.  Last year, the CardRunners pros signed a deal with Full Tilt where they would represent the room and now Full Tilt has included a deal where people can use their rewards points to get a month of free training at either CardRunners or their newly acquired StoxPoker.

Of course the deal isn’t totally free since players will need to use 2,500 Full Tilt Points to get training from StoxPoker or 4,500 points for training at CardRunners, which is geared towards higher limit players.  But, when you look at how many points everything else costs in the Full Tilt store, this is actually quite a deal.

And with two major poker training websites like CardRunners and StoxPoker offering free poker training via the second largest poker room in the world in Full Tilt, it makes me wonder if other training sites will follow this trend.  I’m sure people will still be paying for poker training services for quite some time, but if the deal that Full Tilt/CardRunners/StoxPoker is offering goes as planned, the other poker coaching sites could set up similar deals with other poker rooms.

2009 World Series of Poker Changes already creating Debates

The poker world was buzzing after the World Series of Poker released its 2009 schedule with some major changes included.  Among the biggest changes was the fact that there will no longer be any rebuy events in the WSOP since people have argued that such tournaments only judge how big a person’s wallet is rather than their skill level.  Another huge change is that there are two more events added to the WSOP bringing the total amount of tournaments to 57; the biggest addition is definitely the $40,000 buy-in tourney to commemorate the 40th year of the WSOP. 

These changes have already sparked plenty of debate among players since some favor the changes and others dislike them.  Daniel Negreanu is definitely one fan of the $40K event since he has lobbied for more high buy-in events in the WSOP.  He believes the high buy-ins increase the chances of a skilled pro winning the event.  Greg Raymer also thinks that the $40K buy-in tourney should be a success and thinks it will return if this is the case as he said, “If the event is a success, why would Harrah’s not repeat it?

However, Raymer is not a fan of the rebuys being taken out of the WSOP since he stated, “I don’t see any real purpose in eliminating the rebuy tournaments.  To be honest, the people that complain about them the most have a very clueless understanding of what poker is about.  The purpose is not to win a tournament; the purpose is to make money.”

I definitely agree with Raymer in that the rebuy events shouldn’t be taken out of the WSOP.  In my opinion, having a few rebuy events out of the 57 tournaments offered is not such a bad thing since it creates a lot more variety.  And as far as the argument goes about rebuys only showing who has the bigger wallet, I think the $40K and $50K H.O.R.S.E. are only doing the same thing.  The only thing these pricey tournaments do is keep all of the good online pros out of them while giving the top pros a clear shot at winning the gold bracelet.  I guess we’ll see in the next few years whether or not the WSOP will decide to move away from rebuys and keep adding high buy-in tournaments.

Legal Poker could End Dangerous Underground Games

The world of underground poker has existed for decades as players from all over the world gather in stores after hours, back alley clubs, and even people’s homes to bet major money each week.  And, while all of this might sound like something out of the fictional movie “Rounders”, underground poker does exist and people are taking risks every time they play in one of these games.

But, unlike Rounders, the biggest risks don’t come from playing against mobsters that might kill you after a big win.  Instead, the main risks come from entirely different threats where people are taking legal and financial risks every day.  With the increased raids on home poker games by authorities, it is as dangerous as ever to hold a poker game in your house where people are playing for big money.  If you’re in attendance at one of these games you might be going to jail (depending on the state), and if you are hosting a game then you could be in even more legal trouble.

People are also at risk of being robbed when they attend these poker games since criminals often target them.  The reason criminals like to rob home poker games is because they know the players won’t tell authorities since they’re already engaging in illegal activities anyways.  And there are thousands of dollars around a home poker game so this just makes it even more attractive for robbers.

Of course, if the government was really concerned about any of this, they could always legalize poker so that people wouldn’t have to deal with these threats.  In legal poker, the government would be getting their tax money and they wouldn’t have to waste time and money raiding illegal poker games.  Plus, the players wouldn’t be at such high risk in terms of being robbed or having to go to jail since they would have a legal place to play. 

Playboy is Out of the Poker World Already

When Playboy Poker opened its doors 3 months ago, it seemed like it would be another successful business venture for company icon Hugh Hefner.  The mixture of Playboy bunnies and poker seemed like a perfect combination since there are so many males who enjoy playing online poker.  Plus I noticed that the site had some very unique offers such as the one where a person could get into exclusive Playboy parties if they had earned enough rewards points (called Bunny Money) from the room. 

I don’t think anyone ever earned enough Bunny Money to get into one of these parties though since no one really had time.  That’s because Playboy Poker has closed up shop already and has decided to end their poker venture far earlier than anyone could have imagined. 

The major reason for the premature closure is that Playboy Poker was primarily focused on the European market since the UGIEA scared them out of allowing US players.  The only problem is that Playboy isn’t really a huge brand name in Europe and so they were bound to struggle by only offering poker to Europeans.  And yes, Playboy is known internationally, but not well enough to open a poker room on another continent. 

Plus, even if a European person was able to earn some of the cool rewards such as entry into a Playboy event they would have to cross an ocean to get there and most wouldn’t be able to communicate with others at the party anyways.

If you ask me, I think Playboy Poker was doomed from the beginning and should have waited a little longer to open.  With Barack Obama in office and more favor being shown towards poker, it seems that legal online poker in America could become a reality.  And I think that Playboy Poker definitely could have succeeded in an American market.

Pennsylvania Court Ruling could make Poker Legal

The game of poker hasn’t had a whole lot of legal victories over the past few years.  The most crushing blow has been the UIGEA which put some severe restrictions on poker in the United States while causing many poker rooms to pull their services from the US.  In addition to the UIGEA, there have also been countless smaller court battles which have sided with the government instead of with poker.

But poker players can finally rejoice now that a case has went the way of the game in Pennsylvania.  That’s because the judge in the case ruled that poker is a game of skill and can’t be classified as gambling under law since it involves the element of skill.  This is a very interesting ruling considering that the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) has been making this same argument since the dawn of time yet they have gotten nowhere with it.

What I’m really wondering is if this ruling will set a precedent where other courts start to make the same determinant about poker since it obviously does involve skill.  After all, how do you explain many of the same players consistently cashing in major events if there isn’t skill involved with poker?  It seems that the judge in this instance asked the same question and answered it with the ruling.

One issue that still has to be answered with regards to poker’s legality is the subject of taxation.  As it stands, poker is a difficult game to keep track of when it comes to taxes since so many rooms are located offshore.  A lot of people who make money with poker can slip under the radar because they’re earning the cash through an avenue which doesn’t send out W-2 forms.  Hopefully, this issue can be solved though so poker can gain some more momentum towards becoming legal.

Small Ball Poker

Most people who play poker stick to rigid starting hand requirements where they make raises and reraises with certain hands pre-flop, make calls with others, and fold everything else.  And this is certainly a good way to condition yourself to avoid playing too many hands, but it’s a poor strategy to carry into every tournament and cash game situation.

Daniel Negreanu is one person who agrees with this and thinks that a poker style called small ball is the way to go when it comes to starting hand requirements.  Negreanu says that small ball poker is a great tournament strategy since it allows a person to stay in control of the table while, at the same time, giving them a steady increase in their stack over the course of the tourney.

Negreanu says anyone who uses small ball poker strategy should certainly play A-A, K-K, Q-Q, J-J just as any advice would suggest.  However, he also says that these hands don’t require automatic raises and reraises – especially if someone in early position has already raised.  With middle pairs like 10-10, 9-9, 8-8, 7-7 a person should make a small (ball) bet in hopes that they will win more money.  The point of playing these hands is to eventually hit a set; once you’ve hit this set then it’s time to bet more money. 

Now Negreanu’s strategy for these hands is no shocking revelation, but what really surprised me is that he advises using the small ball strategy for A-K too.  Negreanu says you want to make small ball raises with this hand because putting in a lot of money pre-flop is a sure way to lose the majority of the time since A-K is susceptible to being beaten by hands like A-6 or A-8 when they turn into two pairs. 

In short, the whole idea of small ball is to make smaller bets with hands that need something else from the board in hopes of winning big money later on. 

Tom Dwan's Challenge

Tom Dwan has been lighting the poker world up over the past year.  He’s been involved in some of the biggest pots in history on Full Tilt Poker and he continues to rake in tens of thousands of dollars every day he plays.  Now “durrrr” is taking things up a notch by issuing a challenge to anyone in the poker world who can beat him in a minimum of 50,000 hands played on four tables simultaneously. 

The specifics of the challenge are that the games will be played in $200/$400 limits and, if Dwan gets beat, he will pay the winner $1,500,000.  The deal comes in the fact that, if someone loses to Dwan, they will only have to pay him $500,000.  And even though durrrr is quite the player, you knew that this deal was too sweet for the world’s top players to pass up.

And it may be THE top player in the world who accepts Dwan’s challenge as Phil Ivey has agreed to take him on.  Ivey said on Barry Greenstein’s radio show, “I’ve never posted a challenge like this.  I’m just assuming that everyone knows I’m going to play them – I’m going to play every game.  I’ll play anybody, at every game there is. Most of the time I start off as the underdog, I feel like. Eventually I’ll figure them out, figure out what they’re doing, make good enough adjustments to where I’m a favorite against them.”  Of course, Patrik Antonius and David Benyamine are also interested in playing him which makes things even more interesting.

I think that durrrr will have his hands full with whomever he chooses to play in this challenge since there are so many great players out there.  But Dwan has also probably been the most successful cash game player over the last year since I’ve heard he made about $10 million in 2008.  It will definitely be interesting to see how he does against his opponent.