Gamble, gamble, gamble.


Kat Arnsby

Gamble, gamble, gamble.

Marketing v Opinion: The Future Of Poker Media

I had an interesting discussion with someone I know this week over Dara O’Kearney’s opinion piece on the EPT Barcelona.
The discussion (which admittedly degenerated into a slightly circular argument) was stimulated by the accusation that I was unprincipled and hypocritical if I shared Dara’s blog and still continued playing micro-tourneys on PokerStars.
In short, he suggested that too many players sit around complaining and that they should “vote with their feet” and seek to bring PokerStars to their knees if they aren’t happy with the service.

The person I was having the discussion with works, and has done for some time, in Poker Media. His income, like a pro poker player, is dependent on the continuing success of the major operators; unlike poker players, he does not have the freedom to write exactly what he wants about the major operators, well, not if he wants to keep his current source of income!

Lappin Tweet

I don’t feel qualified to write about the EPT, because I have never played an event, or even attempted to satellite into one. I consider them to be outside my financial scope and skill level, so if someone is looking for an opinion on the EPT, I would not advise getting it from me.
Dara O’Kearney, however, is a European circuit pro, has played events on this tour for years, seen it evolve and change and I would recommend that anyone with an interest in the EPT (or its soon to be rebranded equivalent) considers him a source of information worth listening to.

I have also found Dara’s previous blogs to be honest, forthright and written from the heart; so aside from his experience as a poker player, I respect his integrity as a human and as an independent writer. As far as I’m aware, Dara is not paid to write his blogs, they are his own thoughts, uncensored and uncommissioned.
Integrity CompassThis is why I shared his work, not as part of an overall agenda to destroy PokerStars; I love PokerStars, I play the online games that suit me, and I’d be devastated if they make changes that result in them shutting down.

I also work in Social Media, I understand how the algorithms work; I know that if I want my own work to be noticed and shared, I have to notice and share other people’s work.
I know that if I don’t click on links and read other people’s stuff, they won’t click on links and read mine; my (ad free, independent) website currently gets around 2500 hits per week, and I am not kidding myself that’s due to good writing, it’s due to knowing how to play the social media game.

I like to think my writing is competent and always honest in its core, any opinions you read here are mine, but you’re probably here because I forced the link through with an understanding of social media, not because I’m a literary genius.

This is the way media is going… and I guess the mainstream media people just don’t like it. The chap I was talking to said, “Clicking ‘share’ on a blog is pathetic. It’s not action. It doesn’t create a dialogue.”
The irony of this being uttered during a discussion about the blog aside, it makes me wonder what EPT are thereby hoping to achieve by employing such a monstrous media team, if simply sharing links, remote from the event, is “pathetic”, in terms of its ability to garner interest and discussion.

I used to work in the theatre, and production companies invite reviewers all the time to shows. These professional critics are given the best seat in the house, free drink, access to the stars of the show and generally fawned over like they are Gods; they still go away and crush souls (and careers) with their poison

Can you imagine what would happen to the guy writing the PokerStars blog if on Day 1a he wrote “Stars seem to be trying to weed out the pros and other winning players, while making no effort to make things better for recreational playersorTours like WSOP, MPN, Party, Winamax, GUKPT, GPPT and Unibet who are all making a much bigger effort to make their events fun and profitable rather than merely profitableorAmaya in particular have shown an amazing ability to think they can squeeze an extra buck profit by slaughtering the golden goose to sell the meat”?

I’m pretty sure another guy would have replaced him before the end of level 2, and they’d be powering through writers until they found one that wrote the copy they wanted to see.
That’s what you get when you pay a writer, you don’t pay him for his opinion, you pay him to put yours into words… and if he can’t/won’t… there’s plenty more where he came from.

Will operators ever, in the style of the theatre, pay the buyin/hotel/costs of an independent media person for a festival, and then let them write what they want about it? Or, from a brand development perspective, will it always be better to spend every inch of the available budget on marketing in various forms, and hope that overwhelms any independent blogs that pop up with different views on the “truth” that the operators want us to see?

During the discussion, there was also the suggestion that Dara would not have written this blog if he’d made the final table, or cashed very deep, “Take all poker players’ opinions with a huge teaspoon of salt because when it’s all going well, ain’t no moaning going on”.

I don’t think that’s fair at all, especially as I chatted with @Aseefo, the legendary poker tourist, who also said that EPT Barcelona “wasn’t as good as last year”, and he’s always joking about how he never cashes, nor seriously expects to cash, in any event he satellites into (which is all of them).
TouristIf PokerStars/Amaya are trying to impress recreational players who have EPT on their radar and Aseefo’s falling off the fan-bus, something has gone wrong.

It’s very true that people are more inclined to be vocal when they have a complaint, and less so when they are happy with everything, so perhaps the mainstream poker media is needed to address that balance. If people only write independent blogs when they’re pissed off, then maybe it’s fair that the PokerStars blog makes everything sound golden in the interim.
Equally, perhaps people are just getting a bit sick of reading marketing copy as “news”, which is why opinion editorials are consistently dominating all media streams on all topics. These days there’s an op-ed piece available on a breaking news story before the live report has even finished.

Poker media is traditionally fairly hyperbolic and slightly disingenuous. We all know that “live earnings of £15mil” is a statement that might mean the player being discussed has anywhere from £14.9mil to £1k in actual profit… right?
We all know that a guy who won a European Poker Tour title from a $27 satty probably played a few of them, and it’s almost impossible that his actual outlay was only $27… right?
We all know these statements are designed, reworded and jammed with adjectives specifically with the intentions of getting the recs excited about a brand so they start shovelling their money in at the bottom end… right?

Do the poker media writers think serious, low-stakes recs are fooled, nearly 15 years after poker exploded into mainstream consciousness? How long did they think they’d get away with writing the same stuff over and over and over?
Amaya/PokerStars is never going to pay someone to write the words “our shareholders are very happy with the direction the company is going”, even if it’s the truth, because that is not the image they want to project.promisevsreality

I don’t want to boycott PokerStars on the back of Dara’s blog, and unless I missed something, I’m not sure he’s suggesting anyone should.
I took from his blog that he’s suggesting Amaya listen to the people who pay to play with them, before those people take their business elsewhere. His words may well have been scathing, but I still felt they came from a place of loving the brand, and a sadness that he felt it was on a path to self-destruction.
The EPT is a brand I aspire to, even if they rebrand it, I aspire to the ideal; it’s the Gucci to the Primark of tournaments I currently play.
If, in my poker future, I do win a $7k package to a $5k EPT/PokerStars Tour event, I can’t wait to be treated like the luckbox poker Goddess I am. I took from Dara’s blog a warning that this may not be the future that I can look forward to anymore.

I went to the €550 buyin BoM tournament last year on a $1500 package and stayed in a 5* hotel; it sounds like I had better accommodation than anyone who won an EPT Barcelona package this year.
I cashed for €0 but still had an amazing time, with 100s of players like me, free food whilst I played and side events that were affordable and well-structured.
If the Primark product catches up to Gucci… why would I still aspire to Gucci?

I think trying to attract recreational players to $5k events on the promise of a top prize of $1.1mil is the PPI mis-selling of the poker world. It’s a MoneyMaker Media model that’s a decade out of date; packages like that should be sold to recs on the basis of it being a holiday, a great experience, with the poker as an incidental.
How can mainstream poker media write corporate sponsored marketing about winning €1mil from one $27 satellite bullet and post it next to a strategy article on good bankroll management aimed at beginners/recs?
It’s definitely time to change tact, and sell this aspirational poker ideal to recs as a getaway, not a heist.

If all the money spent on marketing and media brings EPT back on to terrestrial TV, then that has to be good for the poker economy, and players like Dara should perhaps be prepared to take a hit.
However, if a player, whether a rec or a reg is qualifying for a $7k package for a $5k event, and some of that money is being syphoned off to pay for an extensive media team or directly into the pockets of shareholders, then this should be clearly stated everywhere from the tourney lobby to the final media coverage.

Liar NewsAs soon as that fact is stated, the regs will stop playing for packages, they’ll play seat-only and sort their own hotels, possibly being forced into lower buyin events as a result of added costs (whether cash or time costs).
The knock-on effect of that is less packages available for the recs to aim for with their one or two $27 bullets on payday (do these people actually exist? Say hello!).
Rec players want packages, and they’ll start playing for lower buyin events that offer the 5* hotel accommodation; after that, the regs will follow them, because they like the fish in their water, not in a different pond.

I like the EPT video coverage (I can’t be bothered reading hand transcriptions, but the footage is highly entertaining).
I love PokerNews as a site and use it all the time, but I also read and share many blogs, written by pro-players like Dara and no-marks like myself.
I think sharing those is vitally important as a method of creating a source of independent poker media, because in the absence of an eccentric millionaire funding a truly independent poker media channel, there is, as Lappin tweeted, none available.

A poker media professional accused Dara of being bitter because he didn’t win the tournament, I’m throwing it back to him and suggesting that he’s bitter that people are not just reading the bought and paid for work that’s easy for him to churn out, copy and pasting a different operator’s name next to loads of positive adjectives.
Poker fans are reading work that someone like Dara has taken time out of his busy schedule to write for free; Dara may not be 100% correct (no opinion piece ever can be, there is no such thing as truth, only perspective) but at least he’s 100% genuine, and that is more interesting to me than the words of someone who has a corporate sponsored script to conform to.

Pieces Of Micro-Pie

I stumbled across a conversation on Twitter this week about a player selling action in a large comp.
From what I could understand, it was a $5k buyin live tournament, and the player in question was a serious and winning low-stakes online player, but was not a usual high-stakes live tournament player.
The player was good enough that he was staked online, and had won the $5k seat in a satellite. His “stable” was selling 60% of the action (and covering all expenses for the player).

stabled horsesThe debate arising from the offer to sell action (which was quickly snapped up) was why the low-stakes qualifier was bothering to sell action at all.

The argument against him selling pieces was that he had satellited into the comp from a low buyin, so why wouldn’t he just take the shot at the big money?

The argument for him selling some shares in himself was that if he’d won $5k cash from his normal buyin level, he wouldn’t just use it to play a $5k comp, so why wouldn’t he attempt to reduce his potential loss in a tournament where he might be out of his depth?

I can see both sides of the argument, and I suppose his backers want to sell the action because either way they make some money! It did make me wonder if they were advertising a lack of faith in him, but as a player whom no-one would sensibly want to stake, it’s fair to say I’m not sure how all that works.

In the same week as I came across this Twitter debate, I accidentally registered for a $22 WPT Ireland feeder on Party Poker and won a $215 ticket for the package final to a €1100 event. I would not normally aspire to that level of buyin because I would be further out of my depth than a guy swimming the Channel in inflatable armbands.
I’ll be in too deep in the $215 satellite, let alone the main event, but it got me to thinking that if I somehow bink this WPT package, should I be trying to sell action, and would anyone want to buy it?drowning

My gut feeling is that a micro player like me should not try to sell action, and since I’d be going to WPT Ireland for a total of $5, I should see it as a $5 tourney/holiday, have a good time, and if, by virtue of some miraculous Godrun, I end up cashing for anything, be ecstatically happy and spend the money on fast cars and slow women.

I also have to factor in the extra pressure of playing “with someone else’s money” because I am not used to it. One of the reasons I like poker is that I am “Team Me” and no-one else has any right to have any opinions on what I do with my chips when I sit in any tournament I play; I might feel differently if I was riding on someone else’s backing.

In addition, who would actually want to back me? I’m all for supporting low-stakes online players, and actively recommend satelliting into tournaments that are significantly above your normal stake (although I think anything above 100xnormal buyins is slightly ambitious), but I still wouldn’t financially back an online micro-player in a $1000 live tournament, so how could I expect anyone to back me?

I asked the question on Twitter and got a few, contradictory responses.
In general, people seemed to agree that somebody, somewhere would buy my action, not because it was a good bet, but because people make bad bets all the time, and so they’d probably invest in me.
losing diceThat makes sense, people do love a punt, so I have to assume that people will buy a slice of me if I ever choose to sell some, but how do I decide whether I want to sell my ropey action?

There were some comments that suggested I shouldn’t bother, because the point of poker is to win big, and being a micro-qualifier into a decent buyin event is, however long, a shot at some big money.

One Twitter acquaintance took the time to give me a fairly in depth analysis of the question (thanks very much to @sagedonkey). His suggestion was that by selling a maximum of 25% of action I would already be in profit on the endeavour… this did not sit well with me.
On the face of it, it makes perfect sense, why wouldn’t I want to take the opportunity to have a nice holiday and be guaranteed profit, even if I bust out on the first hand?

Somehow, it didn’t seem very moral. Unless I’m missing something, that strategy equates to me having minus risk and my friends/followers/supporters having some risk, however small. That doesn’t seem fair.
I can hear poker players everywhere scoffing at my insistence on “fair”, after all, when is poker ever “fair”?

Moral? Pshaw! It’s up to other people to make their own decisions, and if I directly profit from that, so be it!
I just can’t shake the feeling that it isn’t right, good and moral that I make a guaranteed profit whilst risking other people’s money. Maybe this is an indicator that I am not cut-out for poker, and should spend the time volunteering in a hospice if I’m so concerned with “morals”.angel_and_devil_on_shoulder_by_hamera-d7fe306
I’m a big believer that the game of poker only survives if all players, at all levels, only look to screw each other over with good play, at the tables; anything outside that is a form of cheating, however gentle, so the argument for automatically making profit did not sway me.

The valid point was made that if I was to sell action to the right backer, I might be in line for some free coaching/game development from said backer as they attempt to protect their investment.
That sounded great to me, as guidance from a more experienced player is always valuable, whatever your usual stakes.
The problem is that I wonder how many serious and skilled players would actually invest in someone like me, outside a kind of pity orientated vote of confidence. If a good player is investing money in me to show support, would they really be inclined to also invest time in me? I have to expect not; time is more valuable than money, and $20 on a long shot punt is one thing, but several hours given over to coaching a micro-tard for a $1000 buyin event is quite another.

While I’d love some free coaching from a poker genius, I really don’t want a load of players at my level, or even below my level, chirping up with advice and helpful hints because they feel entitled to do so cos they chucked a pony my way. I’m not trying to be a bitch, but I can make standard micro-player mistakes myself, I don’t need to adopt anyone else’s! I think I’d find it distracting or confusing at best, and actively detrimental at worst.

discount-saleI was also told a story of a micro-player who sattied into a big comp, panic-sold 70% of his action and then cashed for multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars! Of course, he regretted selling such a large chunk of himself in that particular case, and I think I would feel exactly the same in his situation.

I don’t know what the “correct” approach is, I don’t know what the mathematically savvy approach is, and I don’t know whether I should be thinking about larger buyin live tournaments in a very different way; I should probably have done more research before I even played my first satellite.

Thing is, I just don’t care!
If I bink a WPT Ireland package, I’m not even going to try to sell any bit of it. I’m going to waddle over there, drink tap Guinness, possibly offend some locals with my dodgy Irish accent and have a bloody good time.
I’ll play the comp for which I’m not at all qualified and, no doubt, love it, even when I bust before the money.
If I cash in any big, live tournament I micro-sneak into, then all profits will be mine, and all losses will be minimal and affordable, which is the way I like to play poker.

Sometimes I think it’s important to focus less on optimum life strategy, and just live; and as I like to say at least five times a day: “Gamble. Gamble. Gamble.”.

GOLIATH2016: Giant Success or Oversized Fail?

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I made time in my busy schedule of online micro-stakes poker, writing a novel no-one will ever read and scratching myself to go to the GOLIATH festival at Grosvenor Casino at The Ricoh Arena in Coventry UK.

The GOLIATH Main Event is £120 ($150) to buy into, and in terms of runners, is the largest tournament in the world outside of Las Vegas.
It breaks its own records year on year since it started and this year more than 5000 players rocked up to play, doubling the gtd prizepool to over £500k.

A while back, I wrote a blog on “My Fantasy Low Stakes Poker Festival”, and this week I decided to write a few words on whether or not The GOLIATH lived up to the dream.

In the interest of clarity, I am an ex-employee of Grosvenor, but this in no way influences what I’ll say about their product.
I do think they consistently prove themselves to be the best live poker operator in the UK, and I know for a fact that they have an absolute box of glistening gems in the ground level team of Cardroom Supervisors.

That said, I have no loyalty to them, they’re not paying me now, and if I thought their product was a bag of shite, I’d happily say it.
Even when I worked with them, I was a gobby bitch, but I felt I was encouraged to be so. boss-yellingMy boss, Head of Grosvenor Poker, Russell Tamplin, believed I had the customers’ best interests at heart, and he was VERY tolerant of me ranting, shouting, throwing my toys out of the pram and telling him he was a bell-end when I thought he’d got something wrong.


Nope. Still a bit of a fail here- given that Grosvenor, like any major casino chain anywhere in the world now, has been largely infiltrated at the top by people who have no clue what goes on in casinos or any idea how the mind of a punter works, but are ostensibly experts in the world of marketing and business over all, this surprises me.

I’m a member of many online groups and forums that are populated by micro/ low-stakes players and I didn’t see much about the festival until just a few weeks before. I knew it was happening, but I’m already a massive fan! What about some posts/promotions I could share on FB/Twitter with borderline poker lovers or noobs?

Are the dates for 2017 sorted Grosvenor? As soon as they are TELL US.
We need to book holidays, we need to convince our non-poker loved ones that buggering off with our poker mates for a few days is a great idea, we need to get cheap deals on hotels to make it worthwhile.
Everyone’s got stuff to do, and I know there is a year’s worth of running a business between now and then, but if you want us to prioritise your festival, make us think it’s a priority for you!
I should be seeing GOLIATH teasers creeping in by Xmas at the ABSOLUTE latest.

Are Grosvenor gonna pop their bollocks on the block and guarantee GOLIATH 2017 at £500k? I hope so, and I can’t wait to hear about it. Literally, can’t wait… TELL ME NOW!

The GOLIATH is now big enough to have a “celebrity” who becomes the face of the event. There is the inimitable Phil Heald (The Tower), but he’s a bit of a brand whore and also works for Genting, the Northern Tart. I noticed Joe Beevers and Jeff Kimber knocking about playing events and getting involved, loved that!

BoM has Maria Ho, and perhaps it’s time for Grosvenor to try to get a really big poker name to get on board, specifically with the festival, rather than the whole Grosvenor brand. Surely there must be one very well-known player who is passionate about grassroots poker and bottom-end growth?
Joe and Jeff have 5k Twitter followers between them, Maria Ho has 61k on her own… you see my point?

This is the perfect event to push to people who love games, beer and getting away from it all for a few days without breaking the bank, and I think Grosvenor could break even bigger records if they pushed harder, earlier and to a wider market.


Side Events

The GOLIATH nailed it with side events. A good few events at £30-£60 and a higher buyin 25/50 at the start of the week; a full range, and some hilarious formats.FunZone.21965131_std

I player the “Joker Poker” event on the Thursday and having Geordie Mike repeatedly say “Joookeer Poookeer” into the microphone was a stroke of comedy genius.
It’s the details that matter to the micro players, and the added value bounties and prizes was brilliant.
There were a couple of hooded regs moaning that “it wasn’t proper poker”… well spotted, dipshit, THAT’S THE POINT!
The event was maximum lols, entirely ridiculous, totally worth £35 and was a cleverly sly online registration acquisition tool as well, hopefully building low-stakes traffic for future satellites to live events.

The side events structure was really good, and exactly in line with the level of buyin of the main event. I couldn’t afford the 25/50, with a £220 buyin, but I didn’t care, because there was plenty that I could afford, and it offered something “serious” for the big-boys in the middle of the micro-stakes playground.

The only thing I might have liked to see was some £12, 10-handed flips for GOLIATH main event seats in the breaks of the side events. They’re always raucous good fun, can be easily recorded manually, and the dealers are sitting there anyway; this allows players who’ve busted their bullet and have friends who’ve made day two another shot at the main event without forking out another £120.


The Grosvenor team nailed the staffing in terms of dealers, or it appeared they did. I have absolutely no doubt that somewhere in the building there was a dealer controller ripping her hair out and sobbing, but as a customer, I didn’t see evidence of it.
On the final day1, there were over 100 tournament tables and at least 15 cash tables, and we weren’t stuck with the same dealer for hours because the dealer controller knows her shit.

Stressed-out-womanIt was also amazing that we got some world class dealers, the same guys on the EPT, WPT and WSOP circuits at a £120 event. That makes low-stakes players feel like they’re important, which is key if the operator wants them to return.

The valet service was not high class, soft drinks were on trolleys and valets were walking about with a tray of a type of drink and asking if anyone wanted one. It got the job done, I was never thirsty, and I didn’t have to pay for water/lemonade etc.

I was getting charged £1 for coffee, although with a bit of investigation, I discovered a free coffee machine. I heard the valets were “charging” £1 on top of the price of a pint to go and get beer, but the bar was never so busy that it wasn’t easy to jump up and get one, and as long as those valets were getting to keep that money, then I don’t see that is unfair.
Grosvenor definitely went down the efficiency route as opposed to the aspirational route in terms of drinks table service, and I think that is the right choice in a low-stakes festival.

In addition, I think Grosvenor nailed the food. There were street market type stalls all over the place with a variety of foodstuffs from reasonably healthy to super-lardy and a range of prices from just £2 for a giant sausage roll, £5 for a burger and chips meal and £10 for a full buffet ticket.
I opted for the cheapest, the sausage roll, and smelled of Gregs for four days, but it works for me; even at the busiest break times, it only took a maximum of 15mins to queue for any food.

Sausage roll
Cock shaped food= WIN

I’m not saying you’d take a date there for dinner, but it suited the market, fed the masses, and that’s what needed to be done.

Extra-Curricular Activities

There was plenty going on, from draws, competitions and the wandering magician, Sean Heydon, who is a fixture at GOLIATH and I always look forward to seeing him, with his mix of sleight of hand and mentalism.

The casino at Coventry is well laid out to accommodate anyone who likes a bit of punt, although with UK gaming law restricting casinos to 20 slot machines on the gaming floor, it was coming under pressure. I’m not sure what an operator can do about that until the UK Gambling Commission stop being so uptight.

I would say the smoking area was a bit rough and ready, and I feel very sorry for the dealers who have to have their rare breaks surrounded by punters, but smokers are such social pariahs these days that no operator in the UK seems to be trying very hard to impress them; and due to the position of the Ricoh, at least they weren’t all piling out into a street.
I would suggest that next year they have someone to whip round every couple of hours and pick up the cigarette butts, cos it is a bit gross when you just want to get 5 mins fresh air!

Qualifying Routes

Until the week of the event, I wasn’t a customer in Grosvenor, because I had to wait a year after leaving the staff before I could get membership. I know from experience they run in club satellites and I’m sure this happened again in 2016.
There were online satellites with feeders starting at 25p, but many of these did not run. On the face of it, I should be happy, because when they did run, there was normally a bit of value, but I know “short-term value” is another way of saying “long-term unsustainability”, so I can’t be too overjoyed about it.
I would recommend Grosvenor guarantee LESS seats per satellite and run MORE satellites next year, ensuring that the satellite starts and it doesn’t get cancelled because 10 players are needed for it to run and only 8 register with 20 seats gtd!

I guess this is symptomatic of the extremely low main event buyin of £120. I satellited in for £5, but if I hadn’t luckboxed a seat (in a satty with 4 seats of added value!) even I can afford to squeeze out £120 for a one off buyin in such a fun event.

PackageI noticed the total lack of package satellites… what is the deal with UK operators not offering package satties for low-stakes events?
I know we’re a small island, but I came up from London, and I wasn’t doing a seven hour round trip!
My Goliath expedition cost me £500 including hotel, petrol, main event buyin and extra expenses. I would have definitely starting working on the satty route earlier if I could have won a package, and I think I’d have had more fun in my hotel if it had been booked by Grosvenor and I was surrounded by other poker players.
As it was, I had quite a laugh doing karaoke with a random 86 year old man in the hotel I did end up in, but that’s another story.

Packages are attractive, and they take away the low-stakes players’ bother of organising everything themselves. I really hope to see some for GOLIATH2017 available by Jan/Feb next year, and you can bet I’ll be playing them and starting at 25p like the fishy little microtard I am!

Promo Staff

There were no hot chicks walking around in feathered costumes. Part of me was a bit sad, but actually I’d swap them all day long for the volume of suited, easily identifiable team members who knew what was happening and when.
In addition, Grosvenor seemed to have spent a few beans on proper signs with all the info on them, I only had to open my eyes and look; at no time during the festival was I confused as to what my poker options were.

Sexy, but unnecessary in a £120 buyin event. 

It wasn’t just that the information was useful, the branded posters and POS everywhere made me feel like I was at a proper, important festival, and that my £120 presence was as valuable to Grosvenor as if it was a £5k buyin. I can’t play £5k buyins, so to be made to feel important at the level I can afford was brilliant.

There were massage girls knocking about, and I know many players took advantage of this service, although I wasn’t in my seat long enough to do so!

Everyone who entered the Main Event got a little booklet with a few extra promotional offers, and I think it’s the right choice to spend the budget this way. I’d rather have a free rake or an online deposit offer than a tight, feathered arse; my hotel had wifi, I can go back there and watch porn after I bust.
I think it’s vital that low-stakes festival operators don’t waste money on costs that low-stakes players don’t want, need or appreciate, and it’s fair to say that Grosvenor didn’t do this at GOLIATH.


Despite running badly, playing even worse and winning absolutely nothing, I had a brilliant few days in Coventry, and I will 100% be back next year. The very second they release the dates, I’ll be booking my hotel and starting to get excited for it.
If you are a low stakes player, you absolutely must be there! It is the ultimate festival for an online microtard to play live, and because it successfully attracts people who are not “serious poker players”, you will not be out of your depth, as you might be in any live main event £1000+.

Nothing is ever perfect in my eyes, there’s always room for improvement, but GOLIATH2016 was as near perfect as any low stakes festival I’ve been to. It’s not the only one in Europe, but it’s the best in the UK.
I cannot wait for next year, and I hope everyone playing at my level will get involved; the festival is already a success, let’s make it a permanent UK poker institution!

Feel The Fear And Ship It Anyway

“The only way you’re going to get a return, or value, is by engaging with this thing called ‘risk’.”

-Casper Berry (motivational and keynote business speaker specialising in the subjects of risk, decision making, innovation and leadership).


This week’s blog will most likely read like the diary entry of a hormonal teenager, so if you’re looking for some real insight into poker as opposed to an episode of Dawson’s Creek, then you’d best hit that tiny little “x” and get the fuck outta here.

I’ve been moaning for weeks about how I’m running pretty hard, and that’s definitely true at the moment. I’ve also stated on multiple occasions that I’m not playing well, and that’s true nearly all the time, principally because I’m not a very good player.

Something I have noticed recently is that I’m suddenly very scared of poker. I mean, it’s probably not sudden, it’s probably crept up on me over the previous couple of months after losing a disproportionate amount of races, getting slapped by the 5% crew too often, and coldly running into massive hands every time I think I’ve found a spot.

Zombie PokerHowever I got here, whatever the reasons, (whether perceived or real) I am full of fear.
Every time I sit down at the table, every hand I get dealt, on every street of every pot I play, I have got the raging fear, and it’s in no way beneficial to my poker game.

I’m generally a fairly fearless individual. The things that seem to scare other people, ranging from spiders, to small spaces, to public speaking have never affected me at all.
I’m not scared of death, I don’t believe ghosts exist and my ego is so huge that fear of failure just isn’t a concern.
I am afraid of large, out of control fires- but I used that fear to make me a better person, and am now a serious expert on fire safety and (perhaps surprisingly, given my excitable personality type) an absolute rock of sense in intense and dangerous situations.

I’m also terrified of a Zombie apocalypse, no doubt as a result of watching “28 Days Later” whilst high as fuck about 15 years ago. This foolish irrationality is so far-fetched that I can box it up 99% of the time, and only sense the fear when I have realistic dreams about Zombies or am in an underground carpark (I can’t explain that, other than they usually smell apocalyptic).Zombies

So why am I suddenly so scared of poker?

Fear is a necessary human process, and we have two principal forms of it: Species Specific Defence Reactions and conditioned fear.

Species Specific Defence Reactions (SSDRs) are fears that we have genetically inherited from our successful ancestors. The ones who were instinctively scared of heights, fires and snakes were more likely to survive than those who weren’t, which is how certain fear instincts have survived the generations as part of natural selection.
There is evidence to suggest that some of these innate fears can be attributed to specific periods of history, for example that all mammals have an instinctual adverse reaction to snakes as a result of the Cenozoic Era, commonly defined as the time when mammals became the rulers of the earth and the reptiles, the previously dominant Terrans, began to slink back into their lizardy holes.

I’d be pushing it to say that my fear of poker could be referred to as a SSDR, I very much doubt that Neolithic man got his loin cloth in a knot about that Ace spiking the river; so I have to understand my fear as conditioned.
A conditioned fear is a fear you learn because something negative happened, and your brain tries to protect you from it hurting you again, so your feel the fear to stop you putting yourself in that situation.
Conditioned fear is necessary to generate the most appropriate behavioural response to ensure you carry on being a live creature.

Zombie2Fear is not just a “mental state”, there are physical traits of fear, most commonly: hyperventilation (breathing more quickly so more oxygen gets into your brain and muscles), increased muscle tension, hyperglycaemia (blood sugar shoots up for energy) dyspepsia (when your tummy feels fluttery, it’s your body shutting down your digestive system).
This is not a biological design to make you feel shit, all these things prep you to fight or flight, and if you don’t respond to them, you freeze up and whatever you’re afraid of will finish you right there.

Except Poker can’t kill, can it? Not directly anyway, so fear of it is clearly very stupid.
I am clearly very stupid.

But what am I supposed to do? If conditioned fear is an unconscious biological response to stress paradigms, and poker definitely causes stress, what the hell can I do about it?

There is a whole class of people who appear to remain emotionally unaffected by the cruelties of poker. Fair play to them, they’re better suited to the game than me, but they’re a genetic anomaly, and they’re not the dominant psychological profile for the pure fact that their calm and controlled ancestors didn’t survive as frequently as mine did.
When the Zombie apocalypse does start, they’ll be food for the undead within days because they’ll try to study one of them instead of running like a whippet with a firework up its rectum.Zombies2

I can’t just learn to live with this fear, like I have with the Zombie terror, because it actually affects my life: I’m playing poker scared, and that is no way to play poker.
Due to a cold run, I’ve been conditioned to think that I’m never hitting my draw and they always are. I’ve started to believe I can’t ever win with the best hand unless it’s the nuts on the river and I even feel dread when I get dealt AA because I’m pretty sure I’m going to be out of my tournament by the end of the hand… and recently, I’ve been right!

I’ve been holding back because I’m terrified it’s not going to go my way, and short term empirical experience has validated that, compounding the fear and letting me justify worse and worse decisions at the table.

Of course, my quiet, logical voice tells me that this is variance, that I need to think of the long game and that if I’m making the right choices, I will be profitable in the end.
Problem is, fear is stopping me from making the right choices because short term conditioning has taught me that whatever I do, I’m fucked, and there’s no stopping it.

Multiple psychologists have asserted that there are only a very few innate emotions, fear is one of them but logic is not, so guess which one wins a battle in my very average brain stem?
Logic is sensible, fear is powerful… and the briefest study of our modern Western society and politics will show beyond anecdotally that power beats sense every single time.

Am I totally screwed? Should I just give up poker and concentrate on chess and baking?

No, I don’t think so, and here’s why: I can be re-conditioned.
I can unlearn that the cards never go my way, not just through study and logic (although these things are important to cling onto), but through empirical experience.

Zombie SnapAll it takes is a few games where I win the flips, hold the 65%+ equity and even outdraw a couple myself, and my fear can be “untaught”.
Poker cannot physically hurt me, and when I cry because I get AA cracked by an underpair five times in a row, I will not be so physically broken I can’t click “register” on some new tourneys and try again.

After a cold few months, maths is giving me some reprieve and I’m not getting battered so hard by the three outers. Noticing this is what caused me to realise how scared I’ve been playing recently, and how I let fear take control of me without even realising.
I make a promise to myself today that I won’t let that happen again: I will feel the fear and ship it anyway.


Short video from Casper Berry about risk in poker, business and life:

Drunk Poker: Money Tree Or Moral Vacuum?

I create social media content for a couple of online gaming companies. I started off just doing bits of writing and reporting on tournaments etc, but after studying social media (because I’m a nerd and love to study) it became painfully clear that writing stuff is not very 21stC.

People want to see videos, great if it comes with a bit of witty blurb, but basically, videos are the “key to engagement”.
I’m starting to hate the word “engagement”; it’s everywhere, a modern word virus, but if I want to keep my job with these companies, I need to care about it.

custengagementPeople like funny stuff most, it’s always nice to laugh, right?
In trying to find YouTube videos to share on a site exclusively for poker players, I came across a vein of videos about drunk poker players, and I initially started laughing hysterically and considered that I’d hit the jackpot.

After watching a few, I became a little bit uncomfortable.
After watching a few more, I started to feel a bit ill, and it started me thinking about how moral it is that drunk people are allowed to play poker and potentially lose their money. I also started thinking about how sensible it is to play poker when drunk, or under the influence of any drug.

I can’t handle my booze, I’ve never been able to. Three glasses of wine and I’m asleep. If I do manage, in some mad fit of self-hate, to consume enough alcohol to get me wasted, I will spend at least 12 hours vomiting and crying and wishing I was dead; I’m sensible enough to avoid booze, and I have never played poker drunk.

I now consider myself to be a serious player. I may only play low-stakes poker, but I have stated on numerous occasions that I don’t believe the stakes you play make you a serious player, your attitude to the game does. So I may be a micro-stakes shittard, but I’m a serious micro-stakes shittard.
I think it’s pretty easy to assume that if you are playing poker drunk, you are not a serious player.

My ex-partner was a high-functioning alcoholic, no judgement intended, it’s just a fact and we’re still very good friends. He could consume a volume of alcohol that would floor most large humans and still walk in a straight(ish) line. He would only play poker as a social game, expecting to lose his buyin, and he sat at the table for the fun; he was a drinker who played poker, not a poker player who had a drink.
I reveal these personal details because I don’t want anyone to think I’m being judgy-pants; I’m not questioning people’s right to enjoy themselves, I just want to look at how being inebriated affects people who do call themselves poker players.

Drunk Poker Player3
Wow. And he’s still hanging on to his cards!

Alcohol does many things to our bodies, especially our brains. In terms of relevance to poker, I think there are two primarily important factors:

  • It affects both “excitatory” and “inhibitory” neurotransmitters. I know very little about this field, and there are a fuckton of neurotransmitters in our brilliant bodies. In short, an “excitatory” neurotransmitter is one that makes us think quickly when we face important decisions and “inhibitory” neurotransmitters are ones that calm us down.
    If we drink alcohol it reduces the “excitatory” neurotransmitters and increases the “inhibitory” ones, resulting in massively decreased movement along our neural networks. When alcohol is described as “a depressant”, it’s because we are literally slowing down our brains. After excessive consumption, this is why we slur our speech and trip over things, and why drunk poker players knock drinks, chips and tables over.
  • Alcohol increases dopamine levels which we’ve probably all heard of as our own natural “happy drug”. As dopamine trickles into the reward centre of our brain, we might feel a range of positive feelings; we’re happy, or confident, or invincible, or always right. Fine, if the increased dopamine is the result of an achievement, or falling in love, but possibly not so helpful if it’s “fake” and stimulated only by alcohol.

So given that alcohol slows down our thoughts at the same time as making us feel great about potentially bad decisions, it is obviously not a compatible addition to a serious player’s game, let’s not even think about the potential long-term health consequences of drinking every time you play poker if that’s five or six times a week!
I haven’t done a proper scientific study, so my assertion is conjecture, but I stand by it: If you want to call yourself a serious poker player, then you cannot have a pint in your hand at the table, or at your desk behind your laptop.


Drunk Guy Urinal
This guy…

If all the serious players at all buyin levels can accept alcohol is –EV, and let’s be honest, most serious players do accept that already, where should we stand on the openly recreational players getting pissed and allowing us to take their money?
I have often felt a little bit of glee when I arrive at a table and see beers at players’ sides. I love it when I know that they’re getting a bit sloshed and still order another short and mixer from the valet. I obviously don’t love it when they dribble, spanner equipment, drunkenly try to grope me under the table or tell me their boring life story in barely comprehensible and burpy words.
I have accepted the downside of playing with drunk recreational players as part of the overall good deal of them having no idea what they’re doing in the first place, compounded by the fact their brain is not performing to capacity.

Does this make me a bad person? If I take money off that guy, am I just a thief? Is it real poker if they are drunk?

When I ran a cardroom, I was quite vigilant about drunks, and I would kick them off the cash table; tournaments are a little bit harder, because they might lose when pissed but are guaranteed to lose if I stop them playing. Unless they were totally out of control, I could really only stop them buying in to the tournament again after one drunken bust out, and obviously stop them drinking more!
If I’m absolutely truthful, there was a strong element of just not wanting to deal with drunks, the vomit, the shouting, the potential rows and the inevitable damage to my cards.
I guess what I’m saying is that I was thinking more about me having an easy shift at work as opposed to a genuine concern for the moral implications of letting a drunk dood play sober sharks.
Does that make me a bad person?

UK Gambling law is very strict, and in terms of pit games, all operators have a responsibility to “protect the vulnerable”. I have, on many occasions seen pit players stopped from gaming because they were too drunk, irrespective of whether they were winning or
How the rules exactly relate to the card-room games, which are defined as “games of even chance” (opposition to “banker’s games”, which have a house edge) is a slightly greyer area.

I did once allow a group of drunks to continue playing. They weren’t slaughtered, they were reasonably together, but they were definitely drunk; they were some sort of sports team (footballers?) from somewhere, and they were all massive blokes who seemed more than capable of handling their booze.
They were all well-off, and the 50p/50p cash table was very obviously nothing to them, they were throwing £50 notes about and apparently didn’t care!

The table was 50% drunk, rich footballers, and 50% my penny regulars; I think I would have faced a riot if I’d tried to stop that game, because my regulars were cleaning up.
When I worry about the moral implications of letting this game continue I justify it to myself by saying that at least I was protecting the drunks by not allowing the regs to do anything dodgy. If I’d stopped the game in the casino and the regs had convinced the drunks to move the game to an unregulated home game, it would have been even less fair. There would have been soft-play at best, and open cheating at worst. the fact that the footballers were rich and the amount of money was nothing to them make any difference to the moral implications? Probably not.
Does the fact that they were terrible poker players (they probably would have lost if they had been sober) and were there to drink as much, if not more, than to play poker make a difference? I honestly don’t know.

In the last couple of years, I’ve started to care more about people. I can’t explain that. Maybe some latent mothering genes have surfaced and have nowhere to go because I haven’t had any children. Maybe that just happens as you get older, maybe I am, after all, just a soft cunt.
Either way, somehow, I don’t feel good about taking anyone’s money when they are bladdered anymore. I don’t feel like I really beat them, but more like I picked their pocket.

It is their own fault, they are adults and they make the choice to be pissed at the table, but these days, I don’t like the way it makes me feel.
When I outplay someone because I force them to make a mistake, especially if they are a good player, I get a real buzz from it, and love to scoop that money in. Even if I win a big pot from someone who is drunk, I don’t get a buzz, the money feels a bit dirty to me somehow.

I’m not going to play poker drunk ever again (or in fact stoned, as I prefer a smoke to a drink), it’s definitely a losing play.Drunk Poker Player2
Also, I’m going to actively avoid playing a drunk guy, because although it might be good for my bankroll, I don’t think it’s good for my perception of myself and my soul.

I’m also concerned about the overall image of the world of poker if serious players encourage recreational players to keep playing when they are really pissed.
I think all cardroom managers should take action to stop it, irrespective of the inevitable backlash from regs who see the potential financial profit.

What do you think? Am I right to worry about other people, should serious players look after recreational players? Or is poker an adult jungle, and it’s not up to me to tell someone else he’s too drunk to play?
Most pressingly, is low-stakes live poker only profitable if we include the money of the mashed?

Table Cops: Absolute Doughnuts

I’m playing The GOLIATH at Grosvenor Coventry (UK) next weekend and I’m very excited about it.
It will be my 5th GOLIATH since the great and glorious event started, but my 1st as a player instead of floor staff and general microphone muppet.
pink-fade-micI was once told I was “a bit risqué” whilst speaking into the microphone, so if you’ve thought that whilst you were playing, brace yourself for me being at your table!

I’ve had a shitty poker time since March this year, playing badly, running badly and pretty much hating my poker life. I’m principally an online player, so I’m looking forward to changing it up with a live environment game, and hope whatever I did to maths to make it punish me so hard can stay online and not follow me to Coventry.

I’ve hardly played live this year, just twice in fact, so I definitely feel a bit out of practice. I did satellite into the GOLIATH, but it cost me about £35 to win the £120 seat, so I’m still technically playing above my average online buyin of $5-$10.
When I play live I’m really there for the experience as much as with a view to win any money. I try to imagine my online play and live play as two entirely separate spheres; I’m not bankrolled for the cost of live games, so by my own definition, I can’t be playing “serious” poker if I’m not properly bankrolled.

There’s a few things I don’t like about live poker, mainly drunk people, how slow it is, inexplicable smells coming from unknown sources and the “Table Cops”.

I define a Table Cop as someone who sees it as their duty to police the action, and quickly bring it to everyone’s attention when they think something isn’t right.
I don’t mean people who call shenanigans when they are holding cards and they think there’s been a fuck-up, I mean people who fold their cards and then start watching for fuck-ups.cop-pew-pew

Table Cops come in all shapes, sizes and genders, but I’ve never met one that I truly believed was genuinely concerned with the integrity of the game. I have only encountered Table Cops that I felt wanted everyone at the table to know that they have a Godlike grasp of all the rules and are a poker intellect to be reckoned with… even if they don’t and aren’t.

There should be one policeman at the table, they should be wearing a uniform, a name badge and work for the house. Of course, I mean the dealer, I don’t think poker rooms should start hiring policemen, although in some rooms, it might be a good idea.

Here’s my top three Table Cop gripes, (in no particular order) so if you’re at my table this week, reign it in, or we might come to fisticuffs, and I’m surprisingly strong!

Arguing With The Dealer Cop

Just fucking NO.
If you have a point to make, make it once and then call the floor. Great dealers will do that anyway, the second you start arguing; most experienced dealers can spot a Table Cop from fifty paces and they can’t be bothered to get into it.

If you have live cards, and you think the dealer has got something wrong, you should definitely call the floor, and never be afraid to do so. Dealers do make mistakes, and this is your money we’re talking about. You’re not a Table Cop if you think an error has occurred in a pot you’re playing and you want it sorted, if the outcome of the pot affects your stack either way, then you have a right to question anything you don’t agree with or don’t understand. Although once a rule is made by the floor, the rule is made and any further complaints should be taken to management.

How-to-win-ArgumentsIf you don’t have live cards and you’re just enjoying having a row with a dealer, or telling everyone a very lengthy story about a similar rule/problem/cock-up in another place and slowing down a pot that you’re not even involved in, you should shut-the-fuck-up.

Ever noticed how dealers and floor staff are really nice to people who argue with them and loudly try to show the whole room how they are shit at their job? That’s because they are at work, and they are paid to be nice to those people; if words spoken in casino staff-rooms had power in the physical world there would be Table Cop types dropping dead all over the place.

It’s bad enough arguing with a dealer when you are in the pot, it really serves no purpose, but when you don’t have cards, it’s just terrible.
Speak to the floor manager quietly, tell him/her the problem and let them argue with the staff; keep your own blood pressure down, calm down, sit down, and shurrup.

You Tried Something Cheeky And I Saw It Cop

I know stuff happens sometimes and it’s not right, but that doesn’t mean it’s your problem, or your responsibility. There’s a famous poker hand between Fleyshman and Levi where a Table Cop moment may have affected the outcome of the pot.

If you can’t be bothered to watch the video, the Cliffs are that Levi showed blatant forward motion in an attempt to garner a read on the river (which Fleyshman was bluffing) in a heads-up pot and another player piped up.
Levi was forced to call, where he may not have. He claimed he was going to anyway, but he would, wouldn’t he? It was a correct ruling, but the wrong person called for it.
Steinberg apologises profusely for his involvement after the hand, presumably because he realises he may have cost his friend the pot.

Yes, the dealer should have announced call and let Levi argue the toss.
Yes, it’s a form of cheating and is not allowed.
No, I don’t think a guy who had folded his cards should have said anything until the pot was over.

As it goes, Fleyshman wasn’t even looking, so fat fail on that front, and I do think it was a really slack moment from the dealer, maybe he was on a 16hr shift, maybe he was an idiot, I don’t know, but I still don’t think the other player should have said anything whilst the pot was live.

As soon as the hand’s over, rip the guy a new one. Make sure he knows that if he tries that sort of trick in a pot with you that he won’t get away with it.
After the pot, tell the dealer he’s an idiot, call the floor and explain what happened; but if a hand is in play and you don’t have cards, then keep it zipped unless you’re ordering a steak butty.

The Let Me Teach You Cop

The Cop who has to help everyone learn how to be better, policing people’s playing style and explaining “how it’s done” is a Table Cop type that I just cannot understand.
I mean there are the obvious reasons you don’t want to be educating your opponents in terms of your own profit margin, but aside from that, it can ruin the environment and potentially put all of our profit margins at risk by scaring off noobs.

Nobody likes to be shown up, and if someone is making daft calls and raises, then let them get on with it and put your energy into making adjustments to your play so you can get some of the chips that they don’t know what to do with.

Unless you look like this, don’t try to teach me anything, and even then, not about poker.

Explaining some detailed 3-bet bluff strategy to someone who says “twist” when they mean “bet” is a ridiculous waste of time, and only serves to make them feel confused and small. Tell them “well played” when they win, and “unlucky” when they lose, irrespective of how the pot goes down.

It’s not just strategy lessons that these Cops feel the need to dish out, they love to point out when some minor technical infraction has occurred, like the big chips are at the back, or a noob says “oh no, I folded an Ace” when someone is all-in on an A-high board.
Let the dealer explain, and then make the player feel better by saying “yeah, we all do that sometimes, don’t worry”; screaming “STRING-BET” at some noob who’s playing some other noob in a heads-up pot just isn’t cool, and it will scare them off.


There will be a good few players who disagree with all of this, probably Table Cops, but I really think it’s time for a little bit of chill.
It mainly only applies to low-stakes games, because there are very few total noobs in the higher stakes games.
Low-stakes poker doesn’t have to be about ego and aggro, it can be about fun and creating a welcoming environment for people who haven’t got a clue and are still willing to put their money on the table.

I also understand the logic that in tournament play every chip belongs to everybody until the tournament is finished and that means that any infraction, on any table, at any point IS therefore EVERYBODY’S problem.
That said, however hard one tries to Police all the action, mistakes will happen, and in low-stakes poker, they are nearly always mistakes, not angle-shoots; I believe that a thinking, hard-working, low-stakes player can absorb these mistakes without it being detrimental to their win rate.

Let the tournament staff do their jobs, escalate the issue through the proper channels if they don’t and relax your backs, Table Cops, because the truth is, nobody likes you.

I Need Some Space, I Want To See Other Activities

I hate poker at the moment, she’s abusing me, crushing my self-esteem, breaking my heart and then laughing at me.
I’m on a painfully sick downswing and I’m playing like a wanker. These two states of being have become so intertwined I don’t know which is more prevalent, or even which came first.

miseryI’m starting to doubt I have any ability at the game at all, even at the micros. I have every logical argument in my opinion arsenal to remind me of the truth of variance, but I’m too emotional to listen to them.

I’m miserable before I even open the poker client, I’m resigned to losing before I’ve even played a hand, I’m angry at everyone and everything before I’ve even been dealt a card.

Given this state of affairs, I know I shouldn’t be playing, I need a break.
Thankfully I still have the brains to recognise that much at least, so today’s blog will have nothing to do with poker, the evil witch, it’s about how I fill those hours when I don’t want to play a hand.
I’m seeing other activities behind poker’s back, and I doubt she’ll even care.



Not poker. When I’m in this mood, I can’t even face reading about poker, because I fight against everything anyone says anyway. The “poor me” mentality is all pervading, and even studying poker is making me sick, so I’ll study something else.
Learning new things is fantastic for the human brain and thinking about alien concepts improves the mental hardware in a way that will be invaluable when I finally calm down and am ready to play and learn poker again.
I’ve read about history, nature, politics, economics and conspiracy theories more in the last two months than in the last ten years and it’s been brilliant.


I’ve never been much for TV, mainly because I hate adverts.
Thanks to Netflix (I don’t pirate stuff because it’s morally bankrupt, nothing to do with not being technical enough to manage it) I can now watch whole series, marathon style with no adverts.
When I have watched TV in the past, I’ve mainly concentrated on comedy series, but in the last couple of months, with my newly available leisure time, I have branched out a bit.
I’ve been watching all sorts of programming, particularly stuff that I looked at and said “that’s not my sort of thing”.

sb10062979w-001With limited time, it’s easy to pigeon-hole ourselves and say “that’s who I am, and that’s what I like”. It turns out that I like a lot of different things, and my tastes may not be as fixed as I thought.
This has to help my poker game, because I will hopefully become more comfortable with making plays outside my comfort zone. All my recent losses cannot just be due to maths, I’d be losing less if I was better, so I need to stop clinging on to the type of player I think I am and focus on the type of player I need to be.


I’m a game addict, and before I discovered poker, a lot of my leisure time was taken up with playing games.
I’ve revisited some of these in recent weeks; chess, Connect4, solitaire games, strategy games, Minecraft, MarioKart, Monopoly.
I’m competitive in all games, but I don’t care about winning these games as much as I care about winning at poker, and it’s useful to remind myself that losing doesn’t always have to feel personal. I don’t always have to feel crushed and cry like a wet-arsed baby; sometimes I can just feel happy that I am privileged enough to have time to play games at all.
I really need to reconnect with the feeling of enjoying the game of poker, whatever the result.


I love to read fiction, especially long, rambling novels and have always made time for reading. I recently cashed out all the money I had on PokerStars, and I spent a chunk of it on new books.
booksI love the smell and feel of books, and haven’t been able to make the jump to an e-reader just yet.

I didn’t cash money off Stars because I thought it was rigged, I cashed it out because just looking at the lobby was tilting me, every sound effect (especially the gunshot noise in the PKOs) was sending me into a rage.
I will admit the cash out was a knee-jerk action, and in the long-term, maybe I’ll live to regret spunking some of my roll on paper and ink, but the money I’ve set aside as a poker bankroll has done nothing but cause me pain in the last 10 weeks or so. In the short term, spending some of that money on something tangible felt really good, and I’m bloody glad I did it.


I hate exercising. Some people say that they are able to achieve a higher state of mind when they exercise, personally, I find it really boring.
What I have noticed is that spending an hour or so doing the boring exercise makes me really desperate to focus my mind on something, and I’ve resolved that when I do return to playing my daily poker schedule, I will exercise first, because then I will be grateful for the mental stimulation.

Swimming is my favourite option, because I hate being sweaty, and I’m lucky enough to have a swimming pool within walking distance from my house.fat-girl-exercising
More of my bankroll has gone towards paying a (frankly extortionate) monthly membership, but if I don’t get a grip on my mental state, my whole bankroll will dribble away into someone else’s pocket anyway, so I might as well spend it on improving my physical health.

I spent most of my 20s in a haze of drink and drugs and I’m too old for that shit now. I’m never going to enjoy exercise in the way some people do, but it’s time to admit that the machine housing my beloved brain needs regular maintenance if I’m going to live past 40.


Poker is a great excuse not to write.
I write my weekly blog, and earn some money for writing for other people, but writing for enjoyment has taken a major backseat to poker in the last couple of years.
Truth is, even at its hardest, I still find poker easier than sitting down and writing something that comes from deep within me; poker still makes me cry less.

In the last few weeks, I’ve written more words than in the last five years. Most of it will never see the light of day because it’s truly awful drivel, but that’s not the point.
I’ve revisited painful memories, created characters and forced out ideas I didn’t know I had in me. I may not be proud of all of it, but at least I had full control over it.

However well you play poker, there are always elements that are outside your control, but that’s not the case when you create the world yourself with your own words; anything can happen and you’re completely in charge.
It’s a great feeling.


Baking is an exact science, with immediate success resulting from correct procedure. In theory, poker is a science, but the results come from the long-term, the short term can be desperately frustrating.
Chocolate cakeI say baking rather than cooking, because I have a super-sweet tooth and really only want to make cakes, biscuits and puddings, but I imagine all forms of cooking will have the same therapeutic outcome: do what you’re supposed to do and you will get an instant positive result, a feeling poker can never promise.

Of course, eating a whole batch of delicious, melt-in-the-middle chocolate cookies is not going to help my weight, heart or overall health, but as mentioned above, I’ve finally started exercising, so I’m calling it a draw on that one.

I love poker, and I’ll never completely fall out with it, but like any major relationship in one’s life, when it starts to hurt more than is bearable, it’s time to take a step back and reassess.
Poker and I will definitely get back together, but at the moment, we’re on a break, and I will have passionate affairs with all these other distractions before I take her back.
I do miss poker, but until I can properly forgive her for being such a cruel bitch, I can’t return to her. Unlike other relationships, she’ll be waiting for me, whenever I’m ready and welcome me back with open, cold, unrelenting arms.
Your indifference won’t destroy me, Poker; you may be my one true love, but I don’t have to take your shit all the time, life is short and I have other options.

What do you do when you’re angry at poker, and why? I’m in the kind of mood where I’ll try anything, so share your ideas please!


Bots: Skynet Becoming Self-Aware?

I stumbled across this link this week on 2+2 about a “poker-bot ring”.
I’ve heard of poker bots before, but I don’t really know what they are.
I was once told by an experienced online player that as I almost exclusively play full-ring, NLHE, massive field, micro-stakes MTTs I don’t need to worry too much about the bots.
Bots are most prevalent in mid-stakes cash games, especially HU and six-max. It would seem that if I’m encountering bots in large MTTs it’s only in the early stages; they do the grunt work and then a human player takes over in the mid/late stages.

On the list of names that are alleged to be bots  by the team of Russian players that claim to have identified them, I noticed a name I think I played with in a $109 tourney on Party (obvs I sattied in!).
This made the bots feel very close to home, and although I’m not exactly scared of the singularity anytime in the next five minutes, I thought I’d do a bit of research on the bots and share that with anyone else who has no clue what a bot is or what it means to online poker.
Before the youth contingent start taking the piss, please remember some of us are too old to have been born with a fibre glass cable umbilical cord, and therefore really struggle with the speed of modern tech; sometimes I feel like I’m dealing with aliens when I try to understand how computers work.

What is a bot?
Whilst I love the image of the Terminator multi-tabling and drinking endless cans of energy drink, there are no physical robots; bots are a piece of software that plug into poker sites and plays the game instead of a human player clicking buttons.
Terminator-energy-drink23They have to be programmed to make the decisions, so if they are programmed by someone who is terrible at poker, they will make bad decisions.

In the early days of bots, each user had to program their own bot, whereas now, one can be purchased with a decision making set already programmed; this potentially makes them more dangerous, but also makes them easier to spot, because 50 human players with exactly the same playing statistics is not a likely scenario.

What are a bot’s strengths and weaknesses?
Bots don’t get tired, they don’t get emotional and nothing can tilt them.
We all know that these factors can seriously affect our puny-human win-rate because we start to make poor decisions.
A bot will always play its best game, whatever the weather, and this potentially gives them an advantage against the best players in the world, who are susceptible to all forms of tilt… maybe not as susceptible as me, but even world class players are not immune.

Something that the top human players are good at is adjusting their play in response to an opponent’s action and style.
Bots are not good at this, if capable at all. Because they work on large samples of hands, even an average human opponent will spot adjustment opportunities before a bot.
Of course, as AI and bot programming techniques improve, this bot weakness will diminish, but at the moment, if you’re playing a bot, you can be sure it won’t adjust quickly, so if you find a leak, hammer it.

Who’s making these bots?
The idea behind “solving” games is not one that has come up since online poker went batshit, nor is “game theory” solely applicable to what we might recognise as “games”.
The mathematical/computational processes involved are relevant to developing optimal solutions for real life security systems, such as airport security, among other applications; real world Game Theory applications date back as far as The Cold War.

Programs designed to beat the game of chess, chequers and even Connect4 far predate poker bots. Poker bots excite the geeks trying to solve these games because poker, being a game of incomplete information, is much more of a challenge.

I challenge the bots. I’m a Connect4 GOD!!

In 2015 Michael Bowling and his team of nerds at the University of Alberta claimed to have “weakly solved” the game of poker (only heads-up limit hold em).
A game is considered “strongly solved” if a programme has been designed that cannot lose against any strategy the opponent (human or computer) uses- chess, chequers and Connect4 (games of complete information) have all been “strongly solved”.
Of course, combine the work of these clever bods with ideas about solving the “game” of World Peace with the work of other clever bods who are purely focused on cracking the game of poker for profit, and there is some dangerous potential right there.

There is an annual “live” poker competition for bots, but this is more of a scientific festival than a poker festival in the sense we’re used to; at least the bots don’t complain about the air-con or the valet service, eh?

Who’s using these bots?
The most common appearance of bots is as part of a collective or “ring”, presumably to spread variance, used by people who want to make a profit at online poker, either by beating opponents, or just playing a huge amount of tables to make profit from rakeback schemes.
They can be used effectively as method for just clearing the site’s bonus requirements, looking to break-even in the games they play.
There is a group, usually referred to as “botters” who are genuinely just programming geeks and enjoy tinkering with and optimising software.

Why don’t the operators just stop it?
One of the ways a site can identify and so close a bot account is by programming the client to detect bots, but this is controversial in itself because it is tantamount to embedding spyware in the client software. If PStars is tracking potential bot accounts movements with Spyware, then they are doing it to all accounts, including mine and yours.

As far as I know there is no online site that actively allows bots to play, they are against the T+Cs of membership, but it is expected that all sites have bots in circulation. Realistically, bot stats are fairly easy to identify, so it has to be assumed that the sites could be doing more to close them down if they really wanted to.
Without wanting to be too cynical, the bots make money for the site in the same way we do, by paying rake, so if no-one’s complaining to the site about an account (or group of accounts) being a bot, then why would they bother?
When Full Tilt banned a huge amount of accs using bots in one instant and unexpected swoop, it was reported that they lost $70k pcm in revenue as a result of the move.

Are they categorically impossible to beat?
It would seem not… at the moment.
Poker is a game of incomplete information, and because of this it’s impossible for any player, even a bot player, to consistently predict the outcome of every hand.
This means that the systems used to build the artificial intelligence of the bot are developing and imperfect. Human minds make better decisions than computer minds when faced with grey areas or value judgements.

Bot makers are not trying to program the bot to play exactly like a human, because that’s (currently) an impossible task; the bot needs to “learn” by playing a massive amount of hands, and this can result in bet sizing and plays that seem to make no sense, and are not the sort of thing a human player would do, which helps human players to identify the bots.
Or course, just like a human, poker bots can get better with exposure, and they do it a lot faster than most of us! As an example, in 2007 the poker computer Polaris played a HU tournament against human players and lost, in 2008 it played again and won… and that was eight years ago!

In 2015, Carnegie Mellon University Sadholm’s latest bot, Claudico, played 4 of the top 10 ranked players (including Doug Polk) and lost, but, by a margin so small ($700k over $170mil of bets), that the bot’s owners claimed the loss to be mathematically insignificant.
This claim has been criticised, with critics stating that even the small win, over such a large sample, still put the human players at a 10/1 favourite.

Poker bots available to the average Joe are traditionally, and continue to be, pretty bad, but as the research, AI and, perhaps most critically, the larger memory space available on home computers grows, they are not staying still; the bots work on their game a lot, and are improving as a consequence.

They are getting smarter, but once you identify you are playing a bot, if you have the stones to get a bit crazy with them, you can probably beat them.

How do I spot a bot?
It’s not always easy, especially if you are multi-tabling yourself.
Some bots will be better than others, and as time goes on they are getting cleverer and therefore better at adjusting, which makes them harder to spot, and some of the bot habits are possible from a human player too!

Some key indicators are:

  • Playing for long periods without any break.
  • Total lack of response in chat box.
  • Perfect multi-tabling capabilities ie: they never time out
  • Taking similar, weird-ass lines again and again in similar spots.
  • No apparent sensitivity to bet size (min 3bet as effective as a stupid over-bet).
  • Relentless aggression against your weak spots (you’ll need a HUD yourself to identify this)
  • Identical decision timing, humans usually take longer over bigger decsions.
  • They are very slow to adjust playing style, if at all.

Are bots immoral?
This can only ever be an opinion. It would seem fair to say that if a site states in T+Cs that it is illegal to use a bot on the site, then to use one is immoral, because we all agreed to the rules on the day we signed up.
Also, if bots are operating in a “ring”, then that is clear collusion, and that is also against the rules.

That said, we also trusted the sites with our money when we signed up, and if they could be identifying bot accounts with greater frequency than they are, who is really the most immoral? The bot users or the site operator? You decide.

If a site openly allows bots, then I’m not sure I see a problem; the world changes, perhaps this is a change that is inevitable in online poker, only the future will show us.

Should I be worried about bots?
If, like  me, you are a micro/low stakes MTT player, then I think not.
As far as I know there has never been a bot-ring highlighted for micro-stakes games, I can only assume the cost of the bot and the time to program and maintain it cannot be supported by even a healthy micro-win rate.

If you’re playing mid/high stakes cash games, then I think you should keep your eyes peeled. I predict bots will become more prevalent, cleverer and harder to identify and beat- make sure you stay abreast of the developments in the field!

What do you think? If you got beaten by a bot, was that a fair and square beat, or were you cheated?




Article by M. Bowling; bit annoying as you will have to register, but you can see the full article for free once you do and it’s very interesting, if a little heavy going!

About Phil Laak’s game against Polaris:

Play against NeoPokerBot. This was great fun, and it’s free! I played 5 matches with the bot and won them all, although twice I was lucky with flips preflop. In addition I knew I was playing a bot and hyper-aggression was the key… I’d struggle to play like this with my own money or if I thought I was playing a human!

Interesting response from Shanky technologies, one of the main retailers of poker bots:

Moskow Moment: The Broken Ways We Think

The poker media has been set alight this week by some allegations made by a female player, Dr Jaclynn Moskow, and the way the poker world has responded has made me feel like the way we think about these kind of allegations is a long way from ideal.

Dr Moskow made a few allegations, but I’m only going to look at the sexual assault allegation; most principally because I stand strong in my opinion that people should be allowed to say what they want, be that sexist, racist or homophobic.
That gives me the freedom to say what I want back to them, and trust me, spout that bigoted shit near me, and you’ll know what ugly language sounds like (read here about my encounter with a racist).

I also want to clarify that I consider the alleged assault on Dr Moskow to be a “minor sexual assault”.
That is how it would most likely be defined under British law (a definition decided on a case by case basis, most probably by male Police and Crown Prosecution Lawyers- but that’s another issue). I barely know anything about UK law on the subject, let alone American Law.
SexAssault5Unpleasant as it is to have some sweaty guy you hardly know slap your arse, grab your tits or “motorboat” you (bleurgh shudder disgust) it is not comparable to the serious sexual assaults that happen to women all over the world in all industries and walks of life.

I prefer to use the term “quotidian sexual assault”, because this shit happens every single day.

Am I overstating it? No. In fact, that’s probably an understatement, it happens to most women more than once a day, especially those working in a male dominated environment like poker.
If you’re a man, and you think that’s unfair, deal with it. I promise you, your wives, daughters and sisters are getting physically slimed on all the time.

Remember, I said I’m not counting words here, just physicality. From standing uncomfortably close, to an unrequested snake of an arm creeping round our shoulders, to grabbing of hands, to fingers stroking our knees, to a slap on the arse, to a squeeze of a tit, to a deliberate brush of a penis on our bum as we’re standing idly- this is the world of women.
Sorry men, even if you’re not doing it, a lot of your kind are, and most of you don’t publically say a word. You watch it and laugh, or say it’s unacceptable to us in private, but then go for a pint with the guy later.SexAssault2

For the most part, I don’t even really mind it. I grew up in the theatre, around gay men, and they are always grabbing something; it’s less icky when the sexual intent is clearly absent, but I guess I just normalised it from a young age.
I’d be lying if I said this level of minor sexual assault traumatises me, I don’t think it’s worth reporting to the police, I can’t be bothered crying about it, cos nobody’s listening.

Is this how women should be thinking? Probably not. But we all have to play the hand we’re dealt and this is how I get on with it. Some of my favourite responses are:
“You’re a bit in my dance space there, buddy.”
“Don’t touch what you can’t afford.”
“Just cos your wife won’t let you touch her, doesn’t mean you can touch me.”
“Fucking fuck off, you skanky cunt.”

This is to the men I know/work with. I give them a chance to not do it a second time, and I’m pleased to say in most cases, they don’t.
The transgression is laughed off, and we all go back to our lives. He dodged a career ruining bullet and I saved myself the massive hassle and embarrassment of making an issue out of something that happens all the time.

I have been unlucky enough to be assaulted by a strange man twice in my life, both times an out and out aggressive grab of my breasts. The first one got a right hook to his ugly chin that floored him and the second a punch to the nuts that was so satisfying I almost felt it was a fair trade. As my fist hit his balls, in a crowded night club, I felt and heard the crunch; the noise he made as he dropped to the floor was actual music. Haha, fuck you, BUDDY.

Is this what women should be doing- handing out instant physical retribution? Again, probably not, but it’s my way of dealing with it. If you don’t like it, keep your hands to yourself.
Not all women are like me, thank fuck, and would not respond like this… so how should they respond?

Everyone’s got an opinion on how Dr Moskow should be responding to what she claims happened to her.
According to men and women, she should have come forward sooner, she should have gone to the police instead of social media, she should have got her boyfriend to kick the shit out of him. On and on with opinions on what she should do when she is sexually assaulted.
I say to women: In the face of an incident like this, do exactly what you want, do what you feel comfortable with, handle it how you like and don’t let any other human, of either gender, make you feel bad about it.
Laughing PoliceMenI feel very angry at people who are implicit or direct in the accusation that not instantly phoning the police means she’s a liar.

Let’s just take a moment to imagine that conversation:
“Hello. 999. What’s your emergency?”
“I’ve just been motorboated by a gross middle-aged guy.”
“What’s “motorboarding”? Have they stolen your vehicle?”
“No. He put his head between my breasts and shook it.”
“Oh. Are you physically injured?”
“No. It’s just made me feel worthless, powerless and cheap.”
“Oh. Well, leave your number and we’ll get back to you when we’ve solved all the murders. Thanks for calling.” *muffled laughter as they hang up*

I’m not going to discuss the validity of her claims, and I, sadly, don’t believe “the truth will out” like some people. The truth is a holy grail, and with any claim and counter-claim situation a giant void is created that swallows up the exact truth.
There’s no camera footage, there’s no proof, it’s word on word and the truth is a pipe-dream. That sounds very sad and cynical, doesn’t it? But it may explain why many women, physically uninjured by their assaults, just don’t bother.

I will say I personally believe Dr Moskow, not because she’s a woman and I have some deep need to side with anyone who has genitals shaped like mine, I really don’t.
I believe Dr Moskow because I’m a poker player and I exist on probabilities. Whilst there is definitely a non-zero percentage chance that Moskow is making this whole thing up, given the quotidian nature of minor sexual assaults on women perpetrated by men they know and work with, the odds are in her favour for it being true.

How harsh is that? Nolan Dalla, a Jesus like figure in the American Poker World may actually fall into the tiny category of men FALSELY accused of sexual assault.
Does that make me cry for him? No, and I’m not sorry for that.
Let’s get the world to a place where women aren’t the victims of minor sexual assaults ALL THE TIME, and then I might find some tears for the small number of men who are falsely accused.
If I had to, with a gun to my head, make a bet, I’d bet he did it.
I don’t know him, but the numbers are against him- sometimes men fall foul of the world we have created where women deal with this shit so often it has become the norm.
If you’re only starting to care about the issue of quotidian sexual assault because suddenly one of your idols has potentially been falsely accused, I promise you, whatever your gender, you are part of the problem.

Not that knowing him personally would make a difference. I’m gobsmacked by the amount of people of both genders who think “being a nice guy” or “doing a lot for poker” means he’s not going to commit minor sexual assault.
I can understand why one would inarguably stand by their husband, brother or son in a case like this, that’s what family means, but working with him, or as one 2+2 response stated “I met him in an elevator once and he didn’t seem like the kind of guy to do it” (seriously) is not a reason to call Moskow a liar.

A man can be brilliant at their work, a good friend, a good father and a nice guy 99.9% of the time and still commit sexual assault.

Jimmy Saville
Jim’ll Fix It (Or Fuck It)

Over the last few years in the UK it’s transpired that every beloved media personality from the 1970s has been wrist-deep in children or drug raping women, despite having contributed a massive amount to charities and culture over a long period.
Shocking? Not really, because they are not related topics. Jimmy Saville never fingered a Boy Scout on the air any more than he took a dump, this in no way means he never did either.

To snap-call a side in an argument like this, unless one party is your family and unconditional support is order of the day, is short sighted.
If you’re reasonable, you’ll be supporting Moskow’s right to make the allegations and supporting Dalla’s right to refute them, and not getting too aggressive on either side’s defence unless you have some concrete evidence from the specific incident to contribute.

There is also a massive level of vitriol against Moskow along the lines of “even if he did it, she’s just using it now to make money”.
There is a very loud inner voice in me that says… so what? I’ve already said I think that women should deal with assault how they want to, why shouldn’t she try to get fame and notoriety from a situation she didn’t create?
I’ve stated how satisfying my response to being assaulted was for me. I wasn’t assaulted by a powerful man in my industry, just some unwashed scally in a nightclub. I had no chance to use the incident to catapult myself into any kind of limelight, but if I had, would I have taken it? Maybe, I really couldn’t say until it happens; just like none of us can say what we’d do in any specific situation until it happens.

ball punch
Just gimme a reason, I dare you.

Would it have been morally wrong to attempt to garner a positive outcome for myself following a sexual assault?
Punching that guy in the balls was a positive outcome for me, I cannot stress how fucking good it felt. I am primed for the next time, which I have no doubt will arrive at some point, so resigned am I to the reality of quotidian sexual assault.
If it happens, I will actually be left feeling pretty good about myself as I watch the cunt writhe about on the floor.
Moskow is obviously not such a violent bitch as me, because women are not all the same, OMG NEWS FLASH, but she deserves to feel better about her alleged assault, any which way she can and however she chooses.

If a powerful man creates that situation, perhaps he should go into it with the fear that the possible retribution is the loss of everything he’s worked for, damage to his personal and professional reputation and the woman involved becoming famous, or infamous, as a result.
Oh, he didn’t think about that at the time? Wah.
Oh, he hoped that he picked a victim who would just brush it off, cry privately to her friends about it and quietly die a little bit inside? Double fucking wah.

If you lasciviously touch another person’s body without their consent, you’re opening a can of sexual assault worms, one of which you might slip up on later.
Think on, fledgling motorboaters- you want to steal the pleasure of those tittays, you gamble with the outcome entirely at your victim’s discretion. Suck on that truth or keep your hands/face to yourself.

I’m also a bit disturbed by the constant repetition of the idea that there not being evidence of a man never having committed assault before means that he cannot have committed it this time.
It encourages a “one-bite-at-the-cherry” approach; everybody does something for the first time, usually the first time they do it!
I will admit that no other women coming forward with complaints about Dalla make him, if the allegations are true, seem like the unluckiest sexual assaulter in history. Not only is his victim making a noise about it, but he got busted on his first and only go, and that is an against the odds story right there! Somebody contact Disney to make the movie.

It has genuinely surprised me to see women saying that Moskow’s claims cannot be true because “a woman does not put aside incidents like this to protect her career”.
I expect that from men, and I think that’s because women minimise this issue with the men they are close to.
We don’t tell our dads, brothers or male partners about it because we’re nervous they will boot-off and take the power out of our hands. SexAssault4They’ll go to the Police “on our behalf”, or find the guy and smash his head in, or worst of all, somehow blame us: it happened because we looked a certain way, dressed a certain way, flirted with the man in question, somehow gave out “the wrong signals”.

Somewhere between absolute resignation to the truth of this sort of incident happening all the time, and an immediate practical need to support their families, women very often keep quiet about minor sexual assault because we don’t want to be “that girl”.
The girl that’s impossible to employ because she’s a man-hating, litigious maniac who can’t have her arse slapped and see the “funny” side of it.
Making allegations like Moskow has are most often as damaging to the career of the accuser as the accused… I thought all women knew this, and was sad to discover it’s not the case. Pained by my own naivety again.

Of course, there’s the insults to contend with too. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve seen Dr Moskow be called some highly derogatory names by Dalla supporters, and yet I can’t find one Moskow supporter who has said anything explicitly rude to Dalla.
For anyone who thinks that Moskow has found an “easy route” to fame and wealth, you need to think again: true or false, these allegations will cost her, in terms of her career and in terms of emotional stress. Accusing a powerful, much loved man is not an easy route to anything.

Many Dalla supporters are saying that because it seems Moskow has not been truthful about pitching a $100k figure as compensation, the rest of her story must be a lie: one part a lie, the whole a lie.
If that’s the case then what to make of Dalla saying he’s not sexist? He definitely is sexist, and I defend his right to be so (read this blog he wrote), but if he’s lying about that…
Can you see the danger of this flawed logic?

If you witness a quotidian sexual assault, address the perpetrator right then and there, not in defence of the victim, but in defence of your own offence that it happens.
If you think women are overreacting about what constitutes sexual assault, then imagine being touched gently and intimately, without your permission or desire, by a man you hardly know who is larger than you… liking that idea? Thought not.

Let’s make the poker world a place we want the women we love to be comfortable in, let’s make the poker world the exception- let’s use our energy in a more productive way than online trolling a woman who makes an allegation.

Noone will ever stand up and say “sexual assault is okay”, but the way we think about it when an allegation is made is fundamentally broken, and that ensures minor sexual assault will quietly remain the norm.
Quotidian sexual assault was no less of an issue the day before Dr Moskow made these allegations, and that’s the only truth we can all be 100% sure of.

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