Tuesday, February 28, 2006

FTP going well

I've been playing more on Full Tilt Poker lately, after Party rolled out their new software and I figured I would stay away for a while until they work the bugs out.

I was worried that there would not be enough players, since my normal playing times here end up being about 3-5am Eastern, and there aren't many players logged in at that time.

This has turned out to be true, but hasn't been as bad as I expected. There's usually one or two tables open at $1/$2, where I am playing now, and often there are weak players and not too many Tight Aggressives, so they're fine to play on. Actually, maybe the lower volume of players is helping me because I probably have notes on the players from my data mining, and they don't have other tables they can switch to if they are running badly.

I am actually up about $80 from my $200 deposit, and am also earning a bit of bonus and rakeback money now, too. All praise the poker gods! (Do not smite me, please!)

The sad part is that I can't really use the Mac client, despite my main desktop being a Mac, since I want to use PokerTracker and PokerAce HUD. But I am scheming - maybe I can come up with something.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Still hoping

I found a reference to this article (on a Chinese news site, oddly enough) about Japan again looking at legalizing casino gambling.

Japan to legalize casino to promote tourism

TOKYO, Feb. 25 (Xinhuanet) -- Japanese ruling Liberal Democratic Party is to formulate a basic policy around June to legalize casinos in the country with the aim of attracting more foreign tourists, local reports said on Saturday.

A member of a subcommittee on casinos launched under the LDP's special committee on tourism said the party should expedite discussions as Japan should lift its ban on gambling parlors after Singapore did so in April last year and as Thailand is studying to follow suit, Kyodo News said.

According to the subcommittee member, facts prove that casinos are big attractions for foreign tourists in many countries that have legalized them and help to boost the economy and international competition.

Sources disclosed that the subcommittee plans to work out an interim report in late April after discussing what gambling houses should be like if they are to be legalized and what measures should be taken about the Penal Code banning casinos.

Opponents, however, worry about public order in communities hosting such facilities and possible negative influence on young people.

I haven't checked Japanese news sites for the original information yet, but I'll see if it can find it.

I hope they work something out, although from the tone of the article I suspect they may not allow casinos in Tokyo but in some controlled location. As long as I can take a train there, fine with me. Hell, come to think of it, outlying regions might fight for the right to open a casino in their area in order to bring in tourist and tax dollars.

If they start opening casinos here, I'll be on one of the first trains out to visit them. And I'll bet they'll have some nice ones - Japanese can have a lot of spending money for such things if they put their minds to it. Harrah's, Wynn, everyone, get in on this quick!

Update: I found this article on the Goo news page, which says largely the same thing. Feel free to Babelfish it, but as usual for Japanese to English machine translations, it won't make a lot of sense unless you already pretty much know what it is saying.

So the LDP has set a target of this summer for their general plan of rescinding the anti-gambling laws. They have a committee that will meet weekly to discuss the issues and concerns associated with the plan, and they will deliver a report of the findings at the end of April. Although some areas of Japan have been outspoken in calling for a removal of the ban (including Tokyo metropolitan area, Osaka, and Miyazaki prefecture), there are concerns about the idea, particularly with its effect on crime.

The governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, was apparently pushing hard for a casino area in the Odaiba area of Tokyo, then being built up into what was hoped to become a new business, leisure, and entertainment center of Tokyo. Ishihara, you may recall, was the one who wrote "The Japan That Can Say No," and is not afraid to speak his mind, so I'm glad he's on our side for this one.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Geek time - Phone U Want

(Damn, now I have a Devo song going through my head...)

Let's talk about something non-poker for once, shall we?

Recently I have begun craving a new mobile phone. This is nothing new - I crave a new mobile phone about every six months, and usually treat myself to one about once a year. This is not as crazy as it sounds. Growing up a homebuilt PC geek, I have had an almost overwhelming desire to toss my PC and build a new one every year for most of my adult life. But by converting this upgrade desire to my mobile phone, I save myself money by only spending about $100 a year for a new phone instead of $500-$1000 a year for upgrading my PC.

It's cheaper this way, trust me. Stop looking at me like that.

I've had my current phone for a long time now... gosh, maybe two years! It's ancient! I want a new one, of course, and recently the Mobile Suica campaign has hooked me.

The Suica card was a cool idea to begin with. JR, the Japanese National Railroad system, runs a lot of the trains throughout the nation, commuter trains in the cities and long distance and bullet trains between cities and regions. Probably half of Tokyo rides on a JR train during some point of their morning commute.

When I was first here in Japan as a student, many many years ago, most train lines ran on tickets. You went to the coin-op machine to buy a ticket based on the distance you'd be travelling to your destination. At the turnstyle, a JR attendent, a live human being, would take your ticket and punch it to show you had entered. During morning rush hours, hundreds, thousands of morning commuters flowed through those ticket gates. Those JR staff had MAD ticket-punching skillz! They could field tickets from commuters on either side of them, punch them instantly, and hand them back to the commuter almost as fast as people could push their way through.

When you reached your destination and left, the attendant at the exit gate would take your ticket, check where you got on the train and how much you paid. If the fare you paid didn't cover your distance, they'd stop you and make you pay the difference. Again, these guys were frigging incredible at checking tickets that hurried commuters would toss down in front of them and instantly calculating if they had been shortchanged and forcing the guy to stop and pay more. I remember seeing a tv show once about them, and how they learned to spot tell-tale signs that someone was trying to cheat and pay too little by their eyes and how they walked, so the attendant could spot a likely cheat even before seeing the ticket. How'd you like someone like that at your poker table?

Anyhow, this was not the most efficient of systems. Eventually they replaced it with automatic ticket gates and tickets with magnetic backings that you ran through the machine and it would do the check automatically. This was eventually augmented by a prepaid card system, so you could buy 10,000yen of credit in a card and your train fares were deducted from that as you used it.

Then, a few years ago, they upgraded again to the Suica card. Instead of a prepaid card you had to remove from your wallet or passcase and run through the ticket gate machine, the new cards had an IC chip and used and RFID reader on the gate, so you just had to tap the card on top of the reader and it would recognize it and let you through, deducting the proper amount from your credit. It even worked through your passcase, so you didn't have to pull your card out of the case. Hell, my girlfriend keeps hers in the side pocket of her purse, and can just wave her purse over the reader to get it to process and let her through.

You could also recharge your credit on the card, which was new. Previous cards were for fixed amounts and when they ran out, you had to buy a new card. Now you could dump another 5,000 or 10,000 yen onto the card and keep using it. Even better, many shops and restaurants in or near the stations set up suica readers so you could charge your purchase to your suica card! So if you stop into the convenience store to buy a magazine or soda or pack of gum, just put your card over the reader, BEEP!, and off you go. This was the most useful electronic money rollout I have seen so far.

Okay, fine and good. What's Mobile Suica?

Mobile Suica (so glad you asked), is integrating your Suica card with your mobile phone. They've put the same RFID chips into new models of mobile phones, so you can now use your phone as your train pass! You can also wave your mobile phone over the readers in the convenience stores and buy your miscellany without even pulling out your wallet.

Even better, I believe you can add credit to your Suica account on the phone itself. You can add another 10,000 yen to your Suica just using the Suica application on your phone, and then that 10,000 yen is added to your phone bill at the end of the month.

This is cool stuff. The first few mobile phones from KDDI, my mobile service provider, weren't all that impressive, but the new models are out and there are some nice-looking ones. I'm leaning towards the Casio W41CA, which is slim, nicely designed, big screen, bilingual (i.e. has English menus as well as Japanese), an included 2 megapixel camera, and various other goodies. The new au phones are big on portable music playing as well, so this one has the USB cable to rip your cds to memory, or download songs for playback. I have my iPod nano so I don't really need it, though.

I think I can upgrade to this phone for about 14,000yen. (Maybe $120?) Upgrade prices here depend on how long you have had your current phone. Brand new subscriptions have the handset price heavily subsidized so the prices are kept low. But if you are upgrading from an older phone, you pay more if you haven't had your current handset for long. I think I'm in the 17-24 months category, so I should get a reasonable discount. Unsubsidized I think this phone will run me 30,000-40,000 yen.

Still cheaper than upgrading a PC. And I've been such a good boy lately!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Speaking of Tinian...

Just saw this post over at the Poker Gazette.

Shinichi is new champion in TDHC's poker tourney

For Yoshimi Shinichi, it was third time's the charm after he bested 52 other players to bring home a solid $7,080 in the Texas Hold 'Em "Island Style" Poker Tournament at the Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino Sunday night.

The youthful-looking Japanese national emerged as the grand champion after a grueling two-day competition that saw players from Japan, Tinian, Saipan and Guam falling by the wayside one by one, eliminated by their counterparts in a ruthless game of poker one-upmanship.

It was no walk in the park either for Shinichi. Second-place winner Chang du Young of Tinian and third-place winner Yuki Tagawa, the only female finalist, made Shinichi earn his win, giving him no inch in the climb toward Texas Hold 'Em glory.


The other players who also made it to the top rankings were Gen Watanabe, who placed fourth, and Terry Fan, who rounded up the final five. Watanabe got $1,770 for his efforts, while Fan recouped and made a tidy profit on his $300 entrance fee (plus $50 commission) by taking home $885.


Kiri Jackson, TDHC's casino marketing and promotions assistant, said that, at 53 entrants, this was the biggest Texas Hold 'Em poker tournament they've hosted since they introduced the game in February 2005. She said it was Casino Pit Manager and Poker Tournament Director Tony Jackson who introduced the game at the Dynasty Casino.

"This was our first tournament in 2006 and we will be holding two more like it in the months to come," she said.

This is pretty cool. I guess I can safely assume they have a poker room in Tinian and they have regular players there if they're holding poker tournaments.

I think I must know some of these winners, too - the problem is that I know most players at JPPA by their handle, not their real names. (And I'm pretty poor just remembering the handles!) But I definitely know Gen-san, from fourth place, who also goes by "Poker Samurai". Yuki Tagawa in third place I suspect might be "Celica", since she is a strong player and has mentioned Tinian before. But the "youthful-looking" Yoshimi Shinichi... man, that could be any of a lot of guys there! Otonn, maybe? I'll have to check the JPPA web page when I get home and see if they've posted updates, and congratulate them the next time I seen them.


My girlfriend and I are planning another quick vacation. She and I both have a lot of vacation days this year, but she often has problems taking more than a day or two off at a time. This is pretty common in Japanese offices - most Japanese will take at most one week of vacation at a time. The American two-week vacation is very rare here outside of foreign companies. Someone who took two weeks off in a row would be looked on with some mixture of awe, envy, suspicion, and distrust.

We were thinking of some of the resort areas in Thailand, which seem to have bounced back nicely from the tsunami. But lacking time and funds, we decided to give Saipan a try instead. It's a nice beach resort island, a couple hours by plane from Tokyo, and probably overrun with Japanese tourists looking for a closer beach than Thailand or Hawaii. The photos look nice, though, and I'll be happy just to lie out in the sun on the sand for 4 days and do a bit of snorkeling.

Oh, and did I mention Tinian?

One of the other nearby islands, Tinian, has a large casino resort hotel. It's the closest spot to Japan for legal casino-style gaming, and the name seems well known among the players at the Ueno room. I think they have a poker room but I am not sure.

Of course I am going to go check it out! I mean, the sun goes down and I can't lie out on the beach anymore, can I?

Apparently there are flights from Saipan to Tinian, and also a ferry that takes about 50 minutes. I'm not sure which is the better way to go - it will depend on the schedules for both. Looking on the web, the ferry schedules were cut back to 1 or 2 per day for a while, but may have been increased again. I'm not keen on getting stuck on a different island if I miss the ferry, so I'll have to work it out.

We won't be going until early April, though, so I have time to work it out. I have no idea if they have a poker room there, and no idea of they have any poker players there even if they have one. But I'll be happy with slots, craps, and blackjack even if there is no poker. I guess I am more of a gambler than I like to admit!

Live play

I haven't been playing live recently. The last time was several weeks ago when I went to Duke on a Friday night since I had not been there in a long time. I wrote a fair bit about that night in the long post that got disappeared.

So, let me explain... no, there is no time. Let me sum up.

I played two tourneys that night, taking first place and second place respectively. Felt pretty damn good, particularly since I busted out J.O., the owner and probably best player in the joint, in both games. I played pretty well and admittedly got lucky many times. J.O. even complimented me on improvements in my game recently, which stroked my ego, too.

Since we can't gamble for money in Japan, I won from both games about 16 tokens, each of which can be redeemed for 500yen of food and drinks at the bar. So about $70 worth of winnings. Not bad at all! I still have 6000yen worth at home, and I have this Friday free, so will be heading back for another shot at the poker game and to spend some of these tokens.

I haven't been to the Ueno poker room recently, but the 2006 Japan Poker Championship is coming up in a few weeks. I found that my previous win of one of the Everest Cup games (the one that netted me my iPod nano) qualifies me to play, so what the hell, I will go and give it a shot. The 10,000yen buyin is pretty steep, especially considering that my chances of winning are pretty damn low. But Linda Johnson and two other writers and players from Card Player are coming out to participate, so it's worth it just for the experience.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Where have I been?

I haven't been doing much worth blogging about recently. And it was disheartening to have my last big entry deleted because of some blogspot weirdness, so I haven't jumped back into the blogging fray.

Online poker blather: progress towards my goal of beating the $1/$2 limit game for 300BB is going... Well, let me make up a word that is the opposite of "swimmingly". That word is "drowningly".

I am rereading Small Stakes Holdem now, hoping I will find new understanding to help me improve my limit game. Some of the points are making more sense to me now and I am trying to use them to improve. It must just be that I have more experience now - SSHE the first time around confused me and may have hurt more than it helped. Now I am seeing more opportunities for improving even when I can tell I am not holding the best hand.

I just signed up for a rakeback program and switched my Full Tilt account to it, hoping to get some bit of money back for my play. The release of the Mac client for FTP won them a lot of points in my book. And when I only recently realized that PokerTracker can datamine observed tables on FTP, whoa...

The problem is that FTP has a smaller number of players, and I think most of those players are in the States. So when I get home from work and log on to play, it's 2-5am in North America and there are maybe 2 full ring tables on FTP at my limit. Ugh. Although among some of the chatter on 2+2 recently about the Party Poker changes, someone pointed out that fewer players on some of the sites he was playing meant he got to know the regular players and could build a good read on them. That's a nice way to look at it.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Oh for the love of...!!

Not sure what caused it, but when I went to create a new post, it wasn't listing my previous two posts, although they were displayed on my blog page. The next time I published my blog index... POOF! Gone! Two posts gone! One was a fairly long update about my online and live play, which I am really not going to be able to type up again.