Man vs. Machine

03 Jul 2010 | 13:16

Friday 6pm:  I'm sitting here today, indoors, air conditioning struggling to keep the room at 85 degrees, waiting for the night to come.

It's 100 something degrees outside, there isn't a cloud in the sky, and I'm ticking off the days on the calendar.  July 2nd.  One and a half days down, 88 and a half days to go.  Once October comes, my mobility substantially increases.  As it is, the current climate makes it too hot to walk, stand at a bus stop, or drive without putting significant strain on an automobile.

Almost a year ago, my radiator exploded at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Fremont Street.  Literally.  It went "crack!" then steam and water began shooting out of the car.  I pushed it off of the road into a nearby parking lot (with the help of a kind-hearted tourist), and the lot attendant promptly tried to charge me for parking.  She informed me that she could get fired if she dare show me any mercy, even given the situation.
 
That's Las Vegas for you.  The town never passes on a greedy, cold-hearted opportunity to fleece someone.

Anyway, given the current conditions, I decided to prepare myself for later battle by playing a Texas Hold'em tournament online.

Sort of.

As the day began winding down, I pulled out my trusty EVO, tapped the Android Marketplace, and purchased the official World Series of Poker application.  After a 30 second download, I was ready to make some virtual dollars.

Now, before I go any further, I should probably note that I was confident going into my first tournament. 

You see, the WSOP application is not confined solely to Android, rather, it is available for the iPhone platform as well.  Given that more iPhone users than Android users still purchase apps, I estimated that the majority of my opponents would be iPeople, and my assumption was that iPeople were not great poker players.

Sure, they have money, but my guess is that they don't manage it particularly well.  Let's face it, if you spend a large amount of time buying name brand crap that serves little purpose other than to be name brand crap, then you probably don't care too much about value propositions such as pot odds either.

Okay, okay, I kid.  In a way.  I don't hate iDouches as much as I let on, I am just an enthusiastic participant in the tech holy wars.  Each camp has to hold their side down, and since I am on team Open Source (Android, Ubuntu, whatever), I would feel lazy if I did not do my part.  This is especially important given the relentless Apple fellatiating by the mainstream media.  When Walt Mossberg spits, wipes his mouth off, and retires from endlessly caressing Steve Job's cock with his tonsils, I may relent.  Until then, well, iPeople are losers who exist solely to be mercilessly ridiculed.

That's my position and I am sticking to it.  At least for now.

In any event, I fired up the WSOP application, waited for a spot at a virtual table, and in my very first online multi-player game, I placed second.

I was pissed.

Why?

Because I should have come in first.  Easily.

"(Yawn) Sure Rex, everybody thinks they should have come in first."

No, you don't understand.  I really should have.

My suspicion about iPhone users was correct.  They really do suck at, well, everything.  Every one of them played like a complete donkey, and by playing tightly, I got paid on every decent hand I had.

The iPeople seemed not to notice that I played through several blinds without betting, and when I came out firing late in the tournament with massive hands, they bet right into me.  Screw "WSOP Poker", they should just rename the app "Virtual Mandalay Bay".

When it got down to two players, I had my opponent out-stacked roughly 4:1 (16,000 to 4,000).

He collected a couple rounds of blinds while I waited for an opportunity, and when I got that opportunity with pocket Kings .... just like I suspected ... he bet right into me.

I pushed all-in, he pushed all-in, and he revealed his 7-3 off-suit against my Kings.

I knew right there and then that I was going to lose the hand, and I did.

Turn 3.

River 7.

How fitting. 

You don't have to take my word for it, though.  Here is a screen shot:

On the following hand, I busted out with A-K while my opponent grabbed a straight on the turn:

Now, my bust-out hand was not a bad beat, but after the previous hand where my Kings were decimated, I knew the writing was on the wall.  I'd seen this movie before, and I knew how it ended.  People insist that luck plays no part in poker, but I maintain that it plays a huge part.  Especially at the most critical times.  As a matter of fact, the whole "chip and a chair" bullshit is predicated 100% on luck since strategy is moot for a short-stacked player.

When all was said and done, I did the same thing online that I typically do in meatspace. 

Lose.

The exact same thing that happened to me in tournaments across the city, also happened in the palm of my hand.  A shitty player sucked out against me when it mattered the most.

I still got some virtual cash (the first three places were paid), but I'm sure the neighbors could hear me yelling pleasantries at my little 4" screen for a solid two minutes.

Now, I know that the other online players might have played poorly because the chips did not represent real money in the strict sense, but the chips in this game are not completely worthless.   They go towards ranking, and are required to progress through the game.  These tournaments are not throw-away games like the free chip games found on Yahoo and other venues.   If you don't place in tournaments, you can't unlock better rooms and go on to become the virtual WSOP Champion.  There is real incentive to do well, and I play virtually with the same determination and strategy that I do in real life.

After finishing this frustrating tournament against crappy human players, I decided to go offline and fire up a tournament against 9 all-cpu opponents to see if I could tell the difference.

I could, but not in the way I expected.

Interestingly, the computer opponents played far better than did my human adversaries.  If I sat on most hands, and came out with bets only on premium cards, the table would fold around.  This forced me to vary up my gameplay significantly.   My CPU opponents would bluff, and were generally quite unpredictable.  I found getting paid off to be quite challenging.

Fortunately, I caught cards, won big on a race hand, and came in 1st place in the virtual tournament.   I launched my "Legend Career" (virtual tournament mode), by winning $90 in virtual chips.

The only gripe I have about the gameplay is that the Big Blind would routinely fold instead of checking when there were no raises.  This is an error in programming that was an odd oversight, but otherwise, I think these types of games are quite viable tools to keep oneself sharp.

Saturday 11am: After playing the virtual game a few more times yesterday evening, I waited until sunset, then headed out to the Excalibur to play in their weekend strip poker tournament against fellow humans in a brick-and-mortar room.

Did I win?

Did I lose?

Stay tuned.

The upcoming finale to this story may not be interesting, but I promise that I won't insult your intelligence by telling you that I was dead the whole time, nor will it end with a completely black screen leaving you wond

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