My Gambling Story

I started out just like many of us: playing the fake money games online. One afternoon, I logged into my account to discover a real money balance of $5.00. With all the negative stigma society generally attaches to online gambling, I figured I probably would never put in a deposit with my own money, and this was a chance to see if I could make a few bucks and have some fun. I even played fake money limit hold’em for a couple weeks until I was beating it consistently so I could make the most out of my 5 bucks.

In December 2004 I jumped into the smallest game on the site: 10c/20c limit hold’em. With a lot of luck (and some help from the very loose games), I managed to slowly run my ‘bankroll’ into about $50, at which point I started playing $3 sit’n'go’s, which eventually became $7 and $10 sit’n'gos, and then $1/$2 limit. I was spending a lot of time reading strategy websites, most notably reading the limit hold’em articles (referenced at bottom). At this point (July 2005), my bankroll had reached about $600. I began to read a lot more about bonuses and rakeback, which are absolutely ESSENTIAL to any limit player, as I will outline below.

I began to forgo strategy in favour of hunting down the most lucrative bonuses. I was obsessed with the notion of ‘free money’ via bonuses, and my game (and bottom line) suffered as a result. I struggled playing tough $1/$2 and $2/$4 games at various sites, although I did slowly increase my bankroll. Eventually, I got sick of playing breaking even poker to earn bonus bucks, and I realized that I would never move beyond the small stakes games if I was putting ‘bonus whoring’ before improving my game, so I made a drastic change: I put bonus whoring behind me, and I took my $2,000 bankroll to the Party $3/$6 6max games, which were definitely a lot softer than the Absolute $1/$2 grind.

January 2006: I did very well for a couple months, and then broke even for the next couple. I moved up to $5/$10, and remained a slight winner. I made decent money, but the truth is I was a very mediocre player; bonuses and rakeback kept me barely profitable for a few months. At this point, my bankroll had grown to $16,000, but I compared my winrate to the disgusting amount of rake I was paying, and I decided to return to my bonus-whoring ways, albeit at the same stakes. I realized that a good rakeback deal could more than double my hourly rate, provided the tables remained soft. I did a lot of research on rakeback and bonus deals, which paid off immensely. I played at several sites through the summer and fall of 2006, eventually settling on a VERY profitable prop player deal at a major site, playing the $4/$8 and $6/$12 shorthanded limit games. After a few weeks, however, I became bored. I once again needed a change. Despite the fact that I was making significantly more with this prop deal than at any other site / game, I decided it was time to take a serious run at no limit hold’em. I had made some random, unsuccessful attempts at NL throughout my entire poker experience, but the variance of playing short-handed limit can be unbearable, and to quote a poker-playing friend of mine, “You’re the only person I’ve ever met that plays limit, bro”. I had saved a quote from a post that really stuck with me:

Change sites. Play (alot) less tables. Drop down in stakes (slightly). Think about each decesion. Post hands in strat forums. Limit yourself to a fairly small bankroll and move up in limits quickly (or down if you lose).

Do that for about a month (without falling back into old patterns) and you’ll want to shoot yourself for not doing it a year ago.

He wasn’t kidding. Around Christmas of 2006, I set aside $500 for a run at NLHE. I combined the above advice with my $5.00 limit approach: I started at the bottom, $25NL back at Party (before they had the penny tables ) I read everything I could get my hands on about NLHE, and I am very happy with my results thus far: I’m currently playing $200NL, and I haven’t played a single hand of limit since I deposited that $500 into Party. I am still learning new strategy and concepts about no limit (and poker in general, really) every time I sit down for a session, and my goal is to reach $600NL sometime this summer.

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Gambling Funding for New Zealand Charities

In New Zealand, gaming operators are required to donate 7% of their profits to community initiatives across the country. The system is one of the most beneficial in the world, providing more money to community projects than most other gambling markets. The money gathered from gambling operators is used to fund a wide range of projects, including sports, arts, health and education initiatives. Many of the donations from gambling grants go back into the communities in which they were raised.

Gambling operators donate their money to a wide range of Gambling Trusts across the country, such as Pub Charity and The Lion Club. Community groups and organizations then apply to these foundations for funding. Operators do not directly handle donations in order to avoid conflicts of interest.

The proceeds donated by gaming clubs provide the most significant source of community funding for not-for-profit organizations across New Zealand. Gambling grants make a more significant impact on community efforts than any other financial resource in the country.

Over the course of the last year, The Lion Foundation donated more than $53 million to 4175 charities and community efforts across New Zealand. In its 26 years of operation, the foundation has awarded over $590 million in gambling grants. Last year, sports received the most amount of funding with $20.5 million, followed by community efforts which received $16.1 million. Health and education both received over $8 million.

This year, Pub Charity donated $24 million. Sport and community, yet again, received the most funding with sports clubs receiving $7.6 million and community efforts receiving $6.9 million. Education and Health Services received $4 million and $3.3 million, respectively. Emergency services received $1.9 million.

Unfortunately, funds derived from New Zealand online casinos and other online gambling websites are not used to help community efforts in the country. This is because offshore gaming websites are not regulated by the New Zealand government. Politicians are currently reviewing the Interactive Gambling Act, however, and the regulation of international gambling websites is not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

A common worry among organizations requiring funding is the possibility of receiving funds from problem gamblers. However, The Lion Foundation assures that gambling is not a detrimental activity for New Zealand residents. The foundation quotes the Department of International Affairs, which states that “gambling can be a harmless entertainment activity from which people can derive personal enjoyment and which provides other positive social benefits”.

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Online Gambling

Recently, the government has been making noise about banning on line gambling in the United States. While this is not likely to happen, Congress will likely try to tax the industry. This is forcing most companies to close their operations (Seattle Washington has implemented a form of the ban) or to move them offshore. Just because the administration has pushed its moral agenda onto the American Public, is no reason that citizens should give up their right to the “pursuit of happiness”.

A lot of people enjoy the online bingo games. Recently a woman won the “Queen of Bingo”* contest from one of the online sites. She won $10,000 and international recognition for her achievement. She was quoted as saying “I cannot believe it. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I was so excited I nearly fell out of my chair.” When told of her winnings.

Boy I guess she was happy.

Millions of people gamble at casinos and other venues. Why should online gambling be singled out? Even the Catholic church uses bingo to raise money and they are tax exempt.

Bingo is a long time favorite fundraiser, not only for the church, but other organizations that frown on casino style gambling. Should the government go after theses organizations source of funding, and are they going to make up for the loss of funds? I doubt it.

May be we should remind congress that they work for us, not the other way around. Let them know that the “Bill of Rights” has not been repealed.

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The Cheap Car Insurance Gamble

Are you gambling with your car insurance?

There are a lot of popular programs being advertised by major companies that promote the idea of getting cheap car insurance by selecting the coverage that you need and declining other coverage. The ads tell you that you can name your own price for your policy. Of course, you have to guess that you will have to pay some minimum amount to be covered.

For those of us who always thing that buying insurance is a bit like gambling, there is an obvious attraction to being able to pick and choose the sort of risks we want to cover.

What coverage do you need?

For example, your state probably has required minimum liability coverage. You need that. If you still have a loan, your lender probably requires full coverage so they can get their money back if the vehicle is damaged. You need that.

You may not need to cover the cost of a rental car if your own vehicle is being fixed to stay legal and within the terms of your auto loan or lease. But it is comforting to know you can get alternate transportation, and this coverage usually does not cost a lot. However, it does add a few dollars to the total, and if you can get to work or the store without your own car for several days, you could skip this coverage. If you would have a big problem if you lost your vehicle for a few days or a few weeks, you should probably consider keeping this feature on your policy though. Bills for rental cars can add up!

Naming your price has benefits!

Name your price systems can benefit consumers. They make the process of purchasing auto insurance more transparent because customers understand what they are paying for. I am just concerned that it can be very tempting to cut some policy features that may come in very handy when car owners do need to make a claim.

Getting good coverage does not always mean we want to find the very cheapest rates, though low rates are attractive! We really want to concentrate on finding affordable rates that provide us with good value.

In my opinion, it is worth a few dollars more to be sure we have selected a company with great customer service, fast claims processes, and top quality coverage. The day after you have an accident is a terrible time to regret buying a cheap policy.

You could be paying too much because you are not taking advantage of all of the auto insurance discounts that you qualify for. This is common. Unless you have shopped around for a policy recently, you may not know what offers are on the market for a driver like you.

Save money on your auto policy.

One great way to save a lot of money is to compare quotes from a handful of top car insurance companies. This is not that difficult to do. You can find a number of online quote systems that quote prices from more than one company. If you can compare 5 quotes, you have a good chance of finding out which company really will provide you with the best value for your money.

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The New US Gambling Laws: What Does It All Mean?

At the end of September 2006 the U.S. Senate introduced “The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act 2006″. It wasn’t so much introduced as pushed through at the back end of the “Safe Port Act”, to which some commentators have taken exception. This has caused a flurry of anxiety and (some would say) hysteria among players, website owners and online gambling affiliates alike. But what does the new law actually mean? This article has a look at the facts behind the new legislation.

The first clue is in the wording of the Act itself; it is an enforcement Act. In other words it enforces previous and existing law where legality of gaming has already been established as a matter of precedent, and also the legality and illegality of different types of gaming already existing.

I could do much worse than directly quoting the wise words from Cardplayers legal counsel. He writes that the new bill

“attempts to make it more difficult to get money into a site by forbidding US financial Institutions from funding the type of online gambling that the law has previously made illegal. The new bill does not make online gaming illegal where it was not illegal before …The bill merely speaks to the mechanism by which an online account is funded.”

In other words the Act attempts to hinder Internet gambling sites by starving them of funds, by ordering the banks not to allow players to use their credit cards to play at those sites.

There is nothing about the activity itself being illegal (where it was not illegal before). And clearly, if the gambling sites in question are offshore, then by definition they are not subject to US legislation anyway. So the only way to get at these offshore sites is through the banks and the credit card companies.

The article I quote from goes on to cite the significance of the 1961 Wire Act, which was construed to have made sports betting illegal, but not games such as poker, on the grounds that the law was never enforced with regards to poker in the ten years that Internet gambling has existed. Instead, the 33 cases which were brought under the Wire Act were pursued by “deadbeat gamblers” who simply did not want to pay their gambling debts. The judge on that particular occasion, Stanwood R. Duvall Jr, threw out all 33 suits, so ruling that online poker was not within the reach of the Wire Act’s prohibition.

Now while the lawyers are busying themselves on working out the construction of what the new law actually means, it seems that players can make a few simple choices in order to protect themselves from what might be construed:

1. Open an account at an offshore Internet casino website;

2. Ensure the site is registered with a non-US company;

3. Ensure the site is hosted by a non-US company.

The vast majority of offshore Internet gambling sites still operate in US dollars, and they increasingly offer multiple currency choices. You can select which currency you wish to use before you play. Even so, it may be worthwhile remembering that, at the time of writing, there are approximately $1.87 to the Pound Sterling, and $1.26 to the Euro.

If the law goes further it may well be necessary to apply for a credit card issued by a non-US bank. But this is still something that is subject to speculation. We will have to see how the new law pans out in practice. In particular we will have to await the matter of how the law is construed and how precedent impacts upon it.

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Politicians Want to Protect us From the Evils of On-Line Gambling Part 2

This is part 2 of a multipart series of articles regarding proposed anti-gambling legislation. In this article, I begin discussion of the quoted reasons for this legislation, and the actual facts that exist in the real world.

The legislators are trying to protect us from something, or are they? The whole thing seems a little confusing to say the least.

As mentioned in the previous article, the House, and the Senate, are once again considering the issue of “Online Gambling”. Bills have been submitted by Congressmen Goodlatte and Leach, and also by Senator Kyl.

The bill being put forward by Rep. Goodlatte, The Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, has the stated intention of updating the Wire Act to outlaw all forms of online gambling, to make it illegal for a gambling business to accept credit and electronic transfers, and to force ISPs and Common Carriers to block access to gambling related sites at the request of law enforcement.

Just as does Rep. Goodlatte, Sen. Kyl, in his bill, Prohibition on Funding of Unlawful Internet Gambling, makes it illegal for gambling businesses to accept credit cards, electronic transfers, checks and other forms of payment for the purpose on placing illegal bets, but his bill does not address those that place bets.

The bill submitted by Rep. Leach, The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, is basically a copy of the bill submitted by Sen. Kyl. It focuses on preventing gambling businesses from accepting credit cards, electronic transfers, checks, and other payments, and like the Kyl bill makes no changes to what is currently legal, or illegal.

So, regardless of whether online gambling is currently legal or not, just what is it that the politicians are trying to protect us from? Why is it so important to make online gambling illegal?

One answer is contained in this quote from Rep. Goodlatte “will keep children from borrowing the family credit card, logging on to the family computer, and losing thousands of dollars all before their parents get home from work”.

I think a fair translation of that quote would be “American parents are incapable of raising their own children so Congress should step in and do it for them’. Because of course we are all aware that the politicians have a much better idea of what is best for us and our children than we do.

And in another quote “In short, the Internet is a challenge to the sovereignty of civilized communities, States, and nations to decide what is appropriate and decent behavior”.

A reasonable translation of this quote would seem to go something like “Individual Americans are not capable of deciding for themselves what behavior is appropriate and decent in their own homes. Fortunately Congress is here to protect them from themselves and legislate morality for them”.

Not only is Congress supposedly responsible for raising the children of America, but in order to do so, and to prevent us from unknowingly doing something indecent, they are going to legislate what we can do with our own money, on our own time, in our own homes. Does this sound like the very model of a free society, or the beginnings of a misguided totalitarian state?

Let’s delve a little deeper into these protections and see just how interested the politicians really are in making sure that our children are safe from the evils of gambling.

Remember, all of these following forms of gambling are either currently legal, or would be made specifically legal in the bill being put forward by Rep. Goodlatte.

First, we have casinos, and race tracks. These little money makers are proliferating all over the country and generate quite a bit of tax revenue for federal and state governments as well as profits for their operators. The people behind the anti-online gambling bills would have you believe that casinos are not an issue when it comes to underage individuals, since casino staff can see the individuals in person and assess their age.

Quite to the contrary however, we have this quote from The Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery “Casino kids have been left by themselves at the outer rim of casinos while their parents gamble, according to some casino security officers. In some extreme cases, children are left in the family car in the casino parking lot for hours at a time while their parents gamble inside. Less obviously, children may also spend several hours each week with babysitters while their parents gamble in casinos, bingo halls or card rooms.”

While I certainly wouldn’t try to claim that online gambling is good for the American family, clearly, to the extent that children can relax and play in their own homes, and sleep in their own beds, online gambling presents less of a problem than the current state supported alternative.

Another form of online gambling that the proposed legislation would exempt from illegal status is the sale of lottery tickets by the states over the internet. It is difficult to see how these legislators show deep concern for the children of America based on the following quote from Overcoming Life Digest (July/August, 1998 Issue) “Studies show that lotteries are the favorite legal gambling game for teenagers. Statistically, one of seven who play will become addicted.” And from the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey (6 June 2003), “Many regard lotteries as a relatively benign form of gambling. However, 31 percent of callers to the 1-800-GAMBLER national hotline (operated by the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey) indicated problems with lottery gambling.”

In yet another example of government raking in cash without regard for the children of America, we have Video Lottery Machines. Video Lottery Machines, or VLTs are nothing more than state sponsored electronic video poker machines. According to David Plotz in Slate.com on Friday December 17th, 1999 “These are the most addictive of any gambling instrument we have today. It is a cinch for kids to play video lottery machines, since they are often found in businesses that kids frequent.” These devices are being licensed for use in grocery stores, convenience stores, bars and markets around the country, where the children of America have easy access.

Clearly, the legislation proposed does not “keep children from borrowing the family credit card, logging on to the family computer, and losing thousands of dollars all before their parents get home from work”, They will be able to buy lottery tickets, bet on horse races, and head down to the local convenience store to play the VLTs.

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