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My warped views on poker, politics, and life
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3rd-Sep-2015 07:42 pm - Doom: DFS
Messenger of DOOM
Last year I wrote an article for my tax blog on taxes and Daily Fantasy Sports. One of the conclusions I drew was that DFS is almost certainly gambling for tax purposes. One state has more-or-less come to the same conclusion: Michigan. Earlier this week Michigan's gambling commission stated that DFS was illegal in the state. As of this writing, the big two (DraftKings and Fan Duel) have not left Michigan; however, PokerStars' DFS product (they acquired one a couple of weeks ago) has banned new sign ups from the state.

I think this is the beginning of many states that will come to the same conclusion.

From a tax perspective, it's clear that DFS is gambling. There's a prize, consideration, and chance. You take [some player] in today's game. He has hit the opposing pitcher well in his career but tonight he has a cold and doesn't. Or whatever. Unless DFS falls into some other category of income (and it doesn't), that makes DFS gambling.

That does not necessarily mean it's gambling for each state. Some states have rules where if skill is greater than chance it's not gambling. However, most states do not have that rule; instead, most states look at just an element of chance. New York--where Fan Duel is headquartered--has such a rule. I don't think this bodes well for the long-term health of DFS.

Adding to this the Nevada Gaming Control Board is investigating DFS. Why? Well, if it's gambling and you're offering it in Nevada, might not these companies need licenses? And since the only kind of online gambling that's legal in Nevada today is poker, might not these businesses be illegally operating in the state? Jim Murren, Chairman of both MGM Mirage and of the American Gaming Association, agrees that DFS is gambling.

If you're a DFS player and doing well, enjoy the days right now. Doom is coming, sooner rather than later.
4th-Jul-2015 07:53 am - Freedom of Speech and the Left
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There's this thing called the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I bring this up because of two recent cases. The first is an Oregon couple who own a bakery. They refused to bake a cake for a lesbian couple who were getting married. Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian fined the couple $135,000 for violating Oregon law and issued a gag order:

The Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries hereby orders [Aaron and Melissa Klein] to cease and desist from publishing, circulating, issuing or displaying, or causing to be published … any communication to the effect that any of the accommodations … will be refused, withheld from or denied to, or that any discrimination be made against, any person on account of their sexual orientation.

Now, no matter what you think of the Kleins' actions, I hope you agree with me that the Kleins have the right under the First Amendment to say what they want.

The second case is that of George Takei. The former Star Trek actor called Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, "He is a clown in black face sitting on the Supreme Court."

Does Mr. Takei have the right to state his views? Absolutely. We have freedom of speech in this country. Whether you agree with (or don't) with his views, he should be allowed to speak his mind. For those on the right who disagree, do any of them state, "We can't have him speak?" No; instead I see headlines like "George Takei Doubles Down on Stupid".

Contrast that with those on the left. They do not want those they disagree with to be able to speak their minds. The ruling by the Oregon Labor Commissioner (on the gag order) is a prime example of this.
26th-Jun-2015 03:06 pm - Cheater Always Prosper (Again)
Messenger of DOOM
Wow -- I haven't posted here in seven months. But that string ends today as once more we see that cheaters always prosper.

Brian Hastings has won two bracelets this year: the $10,000 seven-card stud and the $1,500 ten-game mix. That's not the cheating. Rather, it seems that prior to the WSOP he wanted to get in some practice against tough competition. So he went on PokerStars. Nothing wrong with that...except for how he did it.

First, he did it using a VPN in the United States. Well, the US law against online gambling is stupid, so I sympathize with Mr. Hastings, but the law is clear (and Stars' T&C's are very clear). That's the minor aspect of the issue. Mr. Hastings didn't use his normal account; instead, he borrowed/bought another account, "NoelHayes".

Adding to the popcorn is how this was discovered. Did Mr. Hastings tell everyone? Did Stars' security announce what happened? No.

Mr. Hastings told some (but not all) of his high stakes buddies that he used the NoelHayes account. David "Bakes" Baker (another high stakes player) found out about this via Twitter and wasn't amused. Mr. Baker outed Mr. Hastings on 2+2. [Link is to cliffs post]

Like many 2+2 threads, it blew up. Mr. Hastings responded twice after being called out and refused to confirm or deny (which pretty much meant he confirmed it). He then pm'ed Mr. Baker and told him that he was guilty as charged. Mr. Baker posted the pm in the thread. Mr. Hastings asked a 2+2 moderator to remove the post which had his pm, and the moderator refused.

Another of the players who got deceived by NoelHayes posted hand histories in the thread. He's not amused.

As for Mr. Hastings' ethics, I think the better comment is "what ethics." His responses don't show any remorse; I get the feeling he thinks it's a normal business activity. Sure, his EV was likely raised while he played those tournaments/cash games as NoelHayes but he sure seems like a piece of work to me.

Meanwhile, there hasn't been a formal response from PokerStars. We shall see on that front.

I was speaking with a client today (another high stakes player); he told me he's far more concerned with people attempting to put Trojans on his computer than actions like Mr. Hastings'. Still, to the general public (if this came out to the public) it bolsters claims from a certain Mr. Adelson regarding online gambling. That's not a good thing.

Coincidentally, there was a hearing in California on Internet gambling yesterday. A couple people think it sped up the timetable; I strongly advise taking the "over" on when California legalizes online gambling. Dan Goldman said 2020 at the GPI conference; I think that's optimistic.
5th-Nov-2014 07:50 pm - It's a Right, Right World
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It has been a while since I wrote, but let's start with the tsunami that happened last night. When Maryland elects a Republican governor:

Yes, the current governor passed a tax on rainwater. If outgoing Maryland Governor O'Malley is really considering a presidential run, that little tax will come back to bite him. (Along with 39 other taxes he increased.)

Closer to home--well, in my home state--veteran political analyst Jon Ralston predicted the Republicans to do well. He predicted Governor Sandoval to get 73% of the vote, the GOP to win all but the Attorney General and Secretary of State race, the Margin Tax to be voted down (64% no), and Congressman Steven Horsford (D) to sruvive his reelection race. He also predicted the Republicans to barely win the State Senate and make gains in the Assembly--perhaps getting to 22-20 in favor of the Democrats.

He was wrong.

The GOP did superbly well. The Democrats lost every race for statewide office. Republican Crescent Hardy defeated Congressman Horsford. The State Assembly will be 25-17 Republicans over Democrats. (It may even be a larger margin: Two of the Democratic candidates were ruled ineligible last week. I don't know if they "won" but they cannot serve!). The GOP did win the State Senate 11-10.

Why did this happen? Lots of reasons:

1. The economy. Forget the stock market; that's not relevant for most Americans. The economy might be in "recovery" but it's a paper recovery that hasn't impacted many. Americans don't perceive themselves being well off.
2. Obama's policies. Obamacare is despised by Americans. That's a fact. And it's just one of several policies that Americans don't like.
3. The Democratic candidates were the "dumb and dumber" party this year. Remember Tood Akin? Well Democratic Senator Mark Udall's campaign was so one-track that he lost. Combine that with good GOP candidates, and you have a nice recipe.
4. Climate Change. All that money spent on something Americans don't care about and many Americans believe is not happening (that is, anthropogenic climate change).

Will Obama start compromising? I doubt it. One thing he'll have to do is take a stand on legislation. Expect the Keystone Pipeline to pass in January, and for other legislation held in Harry Reid's roach motel (legislation comes in, but it never leaves) to come out.
5th-Oct-2014 12:35 pm - A Debate About the Undebatable
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Climate science is settled. Those of us who are skeptics should be skewered at the stake, etc. Via Watts Up With That is a debate on climate science.

I turned a year older this past week. I guess I'm getting old -- What's the date when we turn a year younger?

Cal 60, Wazzu 59.
Wazzu's quarterback, Connor Halliday, set the record for most passing yards in a game (734) in a losing effort. Cal's quarterback, Jared Goff, threw for 527 yards. Trevor Davis ran two kickoffs back for touchdowns. Best of all, shock of shocks, Cal is in first place in the Pac-12 North. Now, I don't expect that to last (after hosting UDub next week, Cal faces UCLA, Oregon, at Oregon State, at USC, Stanford, and BYU), but it's nice for the moment. Indeed, if not for a Hail Mary, Cal would be undefeated....
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What's a streamer?
Workers at a state-of-the-art solar plant in the Mojave Desert have a name for birds that fly through the plant's concentrated sun rays — "streamers," for the smoke plume that comes from birds that ignite in midair.

Yet another case of unintended consequences. And investigators want a stop on a larger plant until the impact of this one is known.

Purdue University (my father's alma mater) is doing something different: Students have the first tuition freeze in 36 years, a 10% drop in food (dining hall) prices, and possible textbook savings.
8th-Jul-2014 07:13 am - On Pokerz
russ barge 2001 looking down
I haven't posted in two months, but it's been very busy for me. The stupid FBAR stuff reared its ugly head back into online poker, and various other things hit my workload hard.

Although I wanted to play the main event, I decided not to -- just way, way, way too much work. Next year is almost certain.

I did brick all the WSOP tourneys I did play. In PLO8, I played for six hours and didn't scoop a pot. That's incredibly hard to do, but I managed that feat!

At least the cash games caused a break-even summer :)

ObamaCare is still, well, beloved by the people:

Just wait until the group plan increases hit in one to two months.
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This should be a very good year for the GOP. The Benghazi scandal is flaring up again, with out-and-out-lying by the White House:

Or as Jonathan Karl put it on Twitter,
@PressSec says @rhodes44 email not released bc "explicitly not about Benghazi." It has section entitled "Benghazi"

As always, it's the cover-up that gets you....

Meanwhile, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (D) compared Black Republicans to Jews who collaborated with the Nazis. Interestingly, a Black Republican is running for Congress in my district (in Nevada).

And here's an ad for Monica Wehby; she's running for Senate in Oregon:

Your tax dollars at work:

What does “Disruption” mean to DC?

When Evan and Will got called in to meet with the Postmaster General they were joined by the USPS’s General Counsel and Chief of Digital Strategy. But instead, Evan recounts that US Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe “looked at us” and said “we have a misunderstanding. ‘You disrupt my service and we will never work with you.’” Further, “‘You mentioned making the service better for our customers; but the American citizens aren’t our customers—about 400 junk mailers are our customers.  Your service hurts our ability to serve those customers.”’

According to Evan, the Chief of Digital Strategy’s comments were even more stark, “[Your market model] will never work anyway. Digital is a fad. It will only work in Europe.”

This is about Outbox and the US Postal Service. Unfortunately, everything in this article--and it should be read from beginning to end--makes perfect sense. It's also nice to know that digital is a "fad."
18th-Mar-2014 07:00 pm - Oh no!
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Something not good for my waistline is coming soon to a location just 3.5 miles from my home: EggWorks (aka the Egg & I) is opening in Summerlin.
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PJ O'Rourke filed an amicus curiea brief with the US Supreme Court on Susan B Anthony List v. Driehaus It makes hilarious reading. Here's page 4 (note that numbers within the text from 6-9 are footnotes):

Everybody knows that the economy is better off under [Republican/Democratic] 6 presidents—who control it directly with big levers in the Oval Office—and that:
President Obama is a Muslim.
President Obama is a Communist.
President Obama was born in Kenya.
Nearly half of Americans pay no taxes.7
One percent of Americans control 99 percent of the world’s wealth.
Obamacare will create death panels.
Republicans oppose immigration reform because they’re racists.
The Supreme Court is a purely political body that is evangelically [liberal/conservative].8

All of the above statements could be considered “truthy,” yet all contribute to our political discourse. Laws like Ohio’s here, which criminalize “false” speech, do not replace truthiness, satire, and snark with high-minded ideas and “just the facts.” Instead, they chill speech such that spin becomes silence. More importantly, Ohio’s ban of lies and damn lies9 is inconsistent with the First Amendment.

6 Circle as appropriate.
7 47 percent to be exact, though it may be higher by now.
8 Again, pick your truth.
9 Amici are unsure how much torture statistics can withstand before they too run afoul of the law.

There's plenty more, and the entire brief is well worth reading. And "Two Pinocchios out of five is OK, but three is illegal?"

More on the civil rights front. Houston has issued a "cease and desist" order to Uber to stop something that has to be blatantly wrong. Yes, the City of Houston wants to stop Houstonians from communicating with the city. I am not making this up.

This is likely my last blog post until April 15th. This tax season is an early season, with tons of work already. I'll be back in mid-April.
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