Thursday, February 27, 2014

"Reading his book is more fun than playing poker"

Ira Glass, of "This American Life," on poker and poker books:

BOOKS: When’s the last time you had time for your own reading? 
GLASS: Christmas. My wife had to work so I went to Vegas for five days. And Vegas for me means I play poker for an hour or two. Then I go to movies, restaurants, and the gym, and I read books. While I was there I finished Katherine Boo’s “Behind the Beautiful Forevers.” That book takes you inside this world of very poor people in India but has none of that National Geographic quality, like someone doing anthropology. You have the same experience you have with great fiction. I also read “Phil Gordon’s Little Blue Book.” That’s my favorite poker book, and I’ve read a lot of poker books. Reading his book is more fun than playing poker. 
BOOKS: How long have you been reading poker books? 
GLASS: I don’t read them very often now, but when I was first learning poker I read all the standards: “Doyle Brunson’s Super System,” “Harrington on Hold ’em” by Dan Harrington and Bill Robertie, and “The Theory of Poker” by David Sklansky. He’s like the Euclid of poker.

Whole thing here.

Ignorance of politicians

Jon Ralston, a long-time political reporter in Nevada, has a blog post about the remarkable week Senator Dean Heller had recently--remarkable in terms of the public display of his ignorance, untrustworthiness, inconsistency, pandering, and prejudices.

Here's my favorite part, on the subject of Internet gaming:

When he subsequently did an interview with Amy Tarkanian and Jeff Gillan on KSNV, Heller made it crystal clear he has no idea what he is talking about when it comes to the substance of the issue:  
“First of all we have to understand where we are today,” he said. “There’s something called the Wire Act passed a dozen or so years ago. That specifically said you can't gamble online.”  
The only facts he got wrong here are every one he stated.  
First, the Wire Act was passed in 1961, slightly more than a dozen years ago and was an attempt by Robert Kennedy to outlaw interstate gambling. Second, since the Internet did not exist, it did not say, “specifically you can’t gamble online.”  
Folks, this is a United States senator explaining his tortured position on an issue and clearly having no clue. None.

Whole thing here.

This is not just a United States senator; it's a United States senator representing Nevada, a state where gambling is the leading industry. A state that recently legalized in-state online poker and, just a few days ago, expanded that to interstate by entering a compact with Delaware to share player pools. And at least one of its two senators has no idea what the status of the law is on that subject.

It's not just that he doesn't know; it's that he's fully willing to put his ignorance on public display, apparently proud of it. It would be far more respectable if he would have said, "Y'know, that's something that I really should have a better handle on, but I have to admit I don't. Tell you what--let me bone up on the subject and then invite you to do a follow-up interview when I'm better prepared to discuss the details." But he doesn't even have the decency to be ashamed of his ignorance.

I was living in Minnesota when the state passed a law legalizing poker at horse racing tracks. But the legislature did something strange: they capped the betting at $60 per bet. This was explicitly done for the purpose of protecting citizens from losing too much money. (The worst abuses of liberty nearly always come in the guise of protecting people from themselves.)

Here's the perverse effect of that law: The racinos (the stupid word they came up with for the hybrid creatures) can spread $30-60 limit games, but not $1-2 no-limit games, even with a capped buy-in. Now, my readers are pretty well-informed about poker. So tell me: in which game do you think you can lose your life savings more quickly: a $1-2 NLHE game with a capped buy-in of, say, $500, or a FLHE $30-60 game?

Even though I think I'd have an edge on the competition, I wouldn't touch a $30-60 game, because I know how a fairly unremarkable streak of bad luck could wipe me out.

The point is this: the Minnesota legislature collectively knew nothing about poker, so they passed a law that makes no sense, simply because it sort of sounded like it might be a sensible thing.

This is no rarity. The great majority of legislators voting on the great majority of legislation know nothing or next to nothing about the subject of the bill. And they are not even a little bit embarrassed about their ignorance. They don't need to be, because most of their constituents are even less informed, so there's not much danger of being outed as an ignoramus among the people whose opinions matter. Most politicians care much more about image than fact. They care far more about what sound bites might make them look good or bad, as a result of a particular vote, than what the actual effects of the bill will be.

I could multiply examples endlessly, were I to go to another subject that I know pretty well--gun control. The stupidity of most firearms legislation might shock you, if you've never had it explained to you before. As just one fine example, here is an exhaustive, devastating analysis of everything that was wrong with the "assault weapons" ban proposed last year by Senator Dianne Feinstein. If you actually read that analysis, you will know more about the subject than most of the members of Congress who cast a vote on it.

I write all of this just to remind you of an important lesson: Most politicians are self-absorbed, ignorant, lying weasels whose main focus nearly all of the time is getting themselves reelected, not what's sensible or good for their state or nation, nor what's constitutional, nor what best promotes freedom and prosperity. It is vital to keep this in mind, so that you're never tempted to give them any more power, money, or control over your life than they currently have.


Just a few minutes after posting this, I remembered an even better example that I wish I had used instead. A few years ago, Representative Carolyn McCarthy, one of the most persistent gun banners in Congress, proposed her own version of an "assault weapons" ban. Remember--this was her own bill, not just one that she was voting for. Yet Tucker Carlson asked her to explain some of the specific things that her proposed legislation would outlaw--and she didn't know what they were!

The most famous example from this interview is when he asked her to define a "barrel shroud," which her bill would have made illegal. A barrel shroud is simply a heat shield around a rifle barrel, so that you don't burn your hand on the gun when the barrel gets hot. It changes not one blessed thing about how far, how fast, or how accurately you can shoot a gun. It looks like this:

Now watch Rep. McCarthy flounder, then take a wild stab at guessing what it was that she wanted to ban:

Did you catch that? Carlson talks over her, so it's easy to miss it, but she says that a barrel shroud is the "shoulder thing that goes up."

Which led somebody to post this epic lampooning of her ignorance:

Has she been voted out of office by a constituency shocked by the humiliating sight of a member of Congress caught knowing nothing about her own proposed legislation? Nope. She still gets to cast one ignorant vote after another, and propose one stupid law after another.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Casino poker for beginners, #6

New post is up at PokerNews. It's the final of a three-part series on everything you need to know about poker chips.

All of my articles are collected here:

Monday, February 24, 2014

Poker gems, #469

Andrew Brokos, in Card Player magazine column, January 22, 2014 (vol. 27, #2), page 42.

There's nothing fishier than getting upset about how someone else plays. If you think I'm playing badly, then exploit me and take my money. If I'm giving you tough decisions, then by definition I'm doing something right. Either way, shut up and play the game.