Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Never Say "Mike" When the Full Tilt Railbirds Need Feeding

Sunday nights for me always become Monday mornings, part of my tiny contribution to the poker world. I'm usually sweating the biggest tournaments at the largest online sites, writing up summaries, though the list of sites and tournaments themselves can and does change. Depending on whether my old boat anchor is running, I've got either two or three computers monitoring the action as the final tables at each of these events come into view, which often occurs simultaneously.

It's always nice to see recognizable players at these final tables --- a JohnnyBax here, a Jennicide there --- and there are times when someone is recognizable under his own name, such as Full Tilt pros Carlos Mortenson and Mike Matusow, who final-tabled the same Full Tilt Sunday event a couple of weeks back. Good stuff. Cheap hooks for my writeup, one way or t'other.

I usually have all the poker clients open and running, but don't really take a look at much until the last two tables or so. This past Sunday's event at Full Tilt featured another recognizable name making a deep run, that being Michael Craig, author of The Professor, The Banker and the Suicide King, chronicler of the Andy Beal 'Big Game' and a writer who's really, really improved over the past year or so. He was never bad; now he's much better than that.

Craig's deep run here would end up being his biggest poker-tourney cash ever, and by the way, let me toss in a link to his own write-up of his night's excitement. Well done, Michael. Craig was battling for the lead in this thing as these last two tables wound down, and since I'd just done an e-mail swap with Iggy on an unrelated matter, I clued Iggy in about Craig's deep run, since they are brothers in poker-writing crime over at that other site.

And I returned to my own sweating of the tables, and the subject of this meandering post.

The chat was ugly, friends and neighbors, keyed by the presence of Matusow, who is a good friend of Craig's and showed up at the virtual rail to cheer him on. The chat was as ugly as it gets at a major Full Tilt final table not featuring Matusow himself. When Clonie Gowen plays, her table also draws a selection of online poker's most blatantly pathetic trolls, much the same as Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer reel them in over at PokerStars.

Over in his own writeup, Craig waxed long on his knockout of Keith Sexton a couple of hours earlier, just outside this event's cash bubble. Craig says that some of the chat trollers stalked him for his entire run to the final table, based on Craig perceives as his call when he knew he was likely behind against Sexton's all-in push, but had the pot odds to make the call anyway. Apparently some of these hecklers hung around to badger Craig for the remainder of his tourney run, although I can't say for sure how long or how often Matusow made his presence known, which may also have contributed. Matusow is quite clearly the flame that draws the moths like none other, and Craig's own friendship with Matusow is hardly a secret. (Photo at right: Michael Craig plays in the 2006 WSOP Main Event. Beware quiet lawyerly types taking notes!)

I was not present when Craig knocked out Sexton, calling with Q-T or something when Sexton pushed with A-K, but Craig offers up a wonderful detailing of the hand and its fallout in his own writeup. Craig's call in this spot was very correct in the instance he describes, due to the nature of a bounty itself, and he simply doesn't need to defend his play. Craig's noting that Sexton grumbled about the knockout is also curious, as Craig says this is the fuel that started the chat-troll fire.

Even though I dropped a comment into Craig's journal entry, I'd like to rephrase it a bit differently here. It's possible that Craig underestimated Sexton's holdings just a hair, not that it makes a damn bit of difference about the correctness of Craig's call in this situation --- Craig's call was the proper play, and always will be.

What seems to be missing is an acknowledgement of both sides of the skew that a bounty situation brings. On average, recognizable pros don't do well in bounty situations, because the bounty itself encourages other players to take shots at them, which reduces the pros' edge in table aggression and robs them of bluff equity. The better the bounty, the more a pro's skill edge is blunted.

Since Sexton's all-in push was not a raise, but a re-raise, it then becomes more likely than ever that the push was done with a real hand. And in this light, we can see that if Sexton snapped out a bit at Craig after the mild beat, it was more a frustration at the realities of having a bounty on one's head and paying the price in the form of elimination.

Now back to those railbirds. Lordy, was it ugly. Morons by the dozens attacked Craig for no reason other than the fact of his known friendship with Matusow, and they also attacked Matusow, which is standard fare for these events. Talk about wasted, undirected testosterone. Worse is that it was mixed in with all the usual final-table chat-window crap that makes Full Tilt singularly unenjoyable in this regard, from site pimping to random keyboard spews to pleas for transfers of money, which from one truly pathetic soul occurred by the hundreds. Alt-V (paste the beg), hit 'enter.' Rinse and repeat.

Full Tilt's refusal to clean up its chat windows is one of the very worst things about the site, as this type of chat has long since devolved from the site's idealized hopes for a communications trade between recognized pros and aspiring players. Even Party Poker, long the pinnacle of customer service to which all other online sites aspire, shuts off the observer chat late in their biggest events.

Then again, the frequency of chat comments pimping bonus codes and rakeback deals suggest that Full Tilt charges a fee or accepts a kickback to let users chat-spam at will. Not that it explains or offers justification for the trolls, the haters, but it's a sign that in a very basic way Full Tilt chat is out of control.

I suppose there's one wry comment yet to be made. All this chat-window crap is a very definite measurement of what marketing types call a "Q" score, that measuring of something's overall market visibility.

Congrats, Monsieur Craig. Your Q score is growing.

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