Thursday, September 28, 2006

The biggest site you never heard of

I posted a long while back about Everest Poker, a poker site that took aim directly at poker players globally, providing native-language client software in something like 20 different languages, including most of the Europeans, Japanese, Chinese, and a bunch more I forget. I also liked that they mapped common chat phrases ("Nice hand", "Thank you", "Good game", etc) to function keys that would display in the language of the client software. So a Japanese player will see the comment in Japanese, and his response to the Frenchman who sent it will appear to him in French. Great idea. (Too bad their client software is unpleasant to look at and difficult to follow the action.)

With the World Poker Tour set to start airing in "Asia" (Singapore and Macau), hopefully we'll start to see Chinese players get interested in the game. This could be huge - I hope Everest is ready to go after that market, as I'm sure there will be some Chinese companies that fire up online poker rooms if it takes off.

I get emails from Everest to their players in Japan, letting everyone know about upcoming tournaments, Japan-only games, and freerolls for their Japanese customers. I haven't logged in in ages, so last week I reinstalled the software and fired it up to join the Wednesday night Japan-only tourney.

It was six players. Including me.

Okay, so Japan hasn't exactly bought into the whole poker boom thing.

I was distracted and played like shit, too, so was knocked out in fourth from our little Japanese STT. So I browsed the cash game tables. I was surprised to see quite a lot of games running, mostly filled with European players, with a smattering of asians, South Americans, and Africans. Nice. Everest seems to be doing well enough.

I checked on PokerSiteScout and found Everest listed in 8th place for number of cash game players, right between UltimateBet and Bodog. Not bad at all.

Then I saw the note:
Special Note: Everest Poker does not accept customers from the United States

That's right! I hadn't seen a single US player in my browsing. These guys are based in Canada and seem to be going along with US law as best they can by not accepting US players. And they still have more poker players than Bodog.

Much as I hate the idea, if the US does kill off online poker for their citizens, the game will survive. The rest of the world will still keep playing, even without the yankee masses. We'll miss you guys, but we'll get by.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Poker Break

When I got back from Vegas, I didn't play any poker for about two weeks. At first I was just busy getting my sleep schedule back to normal, catching up at work, and spending time with my girlfriend, who hadn't appreciated my running off to Vegas without her, but was a pretty good sport about it, considering. (Any time I am away she complains she can't get to sleep without my snoring. Then she's tired all day at work and it's my fault. Of course, when we started going out my snoring kept her awake. She kept earplugs by the bed. Then she was tired all day at work and it was my fault.)

I had played a lot of poker on my trip, too, and was ready for a break. The nightly tournament at Caesars that I took fifth in had also shown me players that take the game seriously (still having a good time), who knew the odds, who always considered their position, the players behind them and their stacks, who could read hands, and who had being steadily progressing for (I assume) years.

Impressive. Sobering.

I got back and found I did not have much desire to play. Instead I went back to reading my books and thinking about the game. I jumped back and forth between doubleas' Pressure Pokerand Sklansky's new No Limit Hold'em - Theory and Practice. I paid more attention in podcasts during the hand-of-the-day discussions and pros' analysis of their play and others' . Eventually I began playing again, mostly at the JPPA games in Ueno. It hasn't been a big difference, but it's there.

It's going to be a lot of work, and a long process, but someday I plan to be one of those guys.

Mobile Chocolate

Saw a new candy bar for sale at the convenience store... Crunchy, right?

No... wait a sec... it's not Crunchy, it's Crunky.

"Walking Bar"... so it's autonomously mobile?

It was all right but nothing special. Contains both almonds and macadamia nuts.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Vegas... I remember Vegas...

If I was going to describe my Vegas trip, I really should have done it immediately afterwards - my head is like a sieve. Most poker players probably hold secret fantasies about someday becoming world class players, rich and famous. Or at least rich. I gave up that secret dream almost immediately, probably on hearing the first interview with a pro on a poker podcast. As soon as they asked the player about some critical hand they played the day before. Or the tournament before. Or a tournament six months ago. It hardly matters - the interview always goes like,

Interviewer: So, you took a big pot from Scotty Nguyen at the Borgota tournament last month that propelled you to the final table. Tell us a bit about that hand.

Pro: You must mean the one with the queens.

I: Exactly.

P: RIght. Well, Scotty had been pressuring the three other small stacks at our table, and had built his stack up to about 120,000. He raises second to act to 20,000, with the blinds at 1000-2000, so it's folded around to me with pocket queens. I call and the blinds fold. The flop comes A 5 3 with two spades, and I have the queen of spades and the queen of diamonds. So Scotty bets out 16000, so I raised it to 35000...

You get the idea. The thing is, if I was the pro and someone asked me one of those questions, it would be more like this:

I: So, you took a big pot from Scotty Nguyen at the Borgota tournament last month that propelled you to the final table. Tell us a bit about that hand.

Me: Uh, which hand do you mean?

I: You had pocket queens... and?

Me: Oh, um, yeah, I had pocket queens and I sucked Scotty in. He was trying a move with nothing, and was pretty pissed I called him down.

I: What did he have?

Me: Oh, I don't remember. Six trey? Something like that.

I: Suited?

Me: Um... I don't think so.

I: What were the blinds at?

Me: Oh, I don't know... it was sometime in the afternoon of the second day. 400-800 maybe?

I: How much did he bet out?

Me: I really don't remember. Is it on PokerPages? Check on there.

Daniel Negreanu I am not.

Back from the dead

My blog has laid here empty for a while, like a homeless guy sprawled on the park bench you see every time you walk past, uncertain if he's asleep or maybe dead, so you hurry past. I'll try to update at least once in a while with bits of Japan-related content, mostly poker stuff.

Vegas was wonderful and relaxing. Until now, when I have Vegased for a week, by the end of it I am tired of the gambling, the bright lights, the fictionality of it all, and happy to move on.

This time I enjoyed every day and would happily have stuck around for another week (or more) if I could have. The difference must have been the rental car. I was free to leave the strip, to drive out to WalMart and buy bluejeans for $20, huge tubs of multivitamins, NyQuil, antiperspirant bars, and other toiletries that are hard to get here in Japan. I listened to DJs banter to each other on the car radio as I drove around and found the In-and-Out Burger by the UNLV campus. I pulled in for a Double Double, fries and chocolate shake, eavesdropping on the college kids at the table next to me talking about comic book movies. Then I took surface streets out to the Red Rocks casino instead of the highway, getting caught in early evening traffic and seeing a lot of neighborhood strip malls and corner banks. I wandered the casino for a bit and then paid a mere $8 to see Superman Returns at the cineplex.

It was a dose of daily Americana and easy automotive freedom I hadn't had in ages, and it soothed me. I don't think I even gambled that day, other than 20 minutes of cheap video poker before the movie. With a car, I would probably not get tired of Vegas for a long, long time.