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Writing about basketball and fantasy football has made me reflect on different aspects of my life. I've tended to be obsessive compulsive when I sink my teeth into something. I certainly did that with online poker.

There are no casinos here in mainland China. There are many in Macau and Hong Kong, but they are specially designated economic zones. All gambling other than a state run lottery is illegal. I've thought about trying to put together a poker night with some of the other teachers here. I've got a couple nice decks of cards. I'm sure getting a nice case of poker chips wouldn't be that difficult. I just checked on TaoBao. Tons of sets available. I remember when I had four nice sets in my house. They were all free gifts from playing a ton of online poker. I took one set to a gift exchange one Christmas. It was the most stolen gift I can ever remember.

I was part of the Moneymaker boom. Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of poker in 2003 ($10,000 entry fee) after winning a $40 satellite tournament. The world of online poker exploded after this. The World Series of Poker is contested using the game of no limit Texas Holdem. I deposited $20 that year and started out playing $0.05-$0.10 limit cash games on Yep. I played for nickels and dimes.

My personality is such that I tend to obsess over doing things well. Poker is no different. I won initially and it didn't take me long to read about how to win a lot more. Playing online I was able to multitable. That meant I could sit at many tables at once. Twelve tables at once became my standard when I was at my peak, but I've sat at as many as twenty at the same time. My monitor looked like this quite often.

It may sound a bit extreme, but when you're folding most of your hands preflop it was manageable.

After reading "Small Stakes Holdem" and "How to win big at low limit holdem" I was set. I specialized in limit Holdem, not the no limit game we still see on TV. Limit Holdem is much easier to master because it's largely a game of percentages. If you can quickly calculate pot odds in your head it's free money in the long run. No limit players hate limit Holdem. It's because limit encourages bad play that sometime results in lucky outcomes for bad players. If you can maintain your emotional cool and keep your eye on the long term it's an ATM. Losing when a bad player gets lucky on the river is called taking a bad beat. I remember throwing things across the room more than once. Like I said, it's emotional control that's key in this game.

I earned about two big bets per hour when I was playing well on $0.50-$1.00 tables. That's two dollars an hour. Extrapolate that out to twelve tables and your at $24 per hour. Over the course of a three year stretch I made a lot of extra money. I can't be certain how much. I remember having well over $10,000 at one point in my Netteller account. At my peak I was ranked as the fourteenth best player (based on winnings) in the world at $0.50-$1.00 limit Holdem according to The extra income was nice, but at what cost? I spent three straight summers burning time in front of the computer playing poker when Moira was in the next room. I would take a break for a couple hours each day and we hit a park and got lunch together, but I gave more of my time to poker than I did to her. It's time I can't get back. I've apologized to Moira more than once.

Different websites that offered poker would give initial signup bonus money. After playing a required number of hands I would cash out my bonus and move into the next website. Over the course of a couple summers I bonused more than fifty websites. The largest signup bonus I remember was $600 at All of the hands played in these websites were a public record. There were several companies that compiled this data and shared it with players for a price. I paid for it. While playing online every table that I sat at would have a heads-up-display (HUD). Each players tendencies were displayed in percentages. How often they raised, called, and folded. It made the game transparent. You could quickly determine how each players conducted themselves. Were they good (tight aggressive)? Were they stations (loose passive)? Were they crazy (loose aggressive)? I could sit with strangers and immediately know who to avoid and who to abuse.

It all came crashing down in Washington State when a state congresswoman from Seattle named Margarita Prentice got a law passed making online poker a class C felony in our state. Yeah, FELONY. An equivalent to being a repeat sex offender. The law was written by the Tulalip tribe and handed to her. She got it passed, and the reality is she didn't give two rips about it. She did it for her tribe. They wanted to kill online poker because they saw it as competition. In the end it killed poker entirely in the state. The tribes didn't want to offer poker because it's not a profitable venture for them compared to slots. I ended up testifying in front of our state gaming commission in Olympia and regretted it immediately. I'll never forget Dino Rossi acting surprised when he found out it was a felony to play for pennies online. He was aghast. That's when I nearly lost my cool because the moron voted for the bill. Was he going to do something about now that he realized how much of a joke it was? Of course not. My testimony meant nothing. I shared my data that shows statistically convincing evidence that poker isn't gambling, it's a game of skill. It meant nothing. I'm not donating piles of money to get them re-elected. It was an eye opener. Leason learned.

When the poker websites quit offering the game to players in Washington State I was forced to cash out. I got a bit lucky with one website in particular, Full Tilt. I had about $300 there and got my money back just before they ended up going bankrupt. Many players lost their money.

Okay. What next? I just ordered a case of poker chips from TaoBao. I've sent out feelers to some teachers to see if we can get a game put together. I have eight seats available and already locked in six players for a game on Friday December 2nd. Wish me luck. Actually, scratch that. This is a game of skill, not luck.

Update: I've got seven seats filled for next Friday's game. Feels like I'm going to have a full table.

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