The end of one year and the beginning of another is always a great time for reflection. New Year's Day is a time to aspire to be a better person. For me, some of those aspirations are related to bets I might make, or betting opportunities I haven't taken in the past. Here are my top-10 gambling resolutions for 2013.
10. Win some money online
Like a lot of Americans, I miss the old days. You know, the days when I could deposit $50 on PokerStars or Full Tilt Poker, grind away at the micro-stakes tables for a few months, turn it into a couple hundred and cash out. While there are still sites that accept deposits from U.S. players, I'm personally hesitant to play at those sites, because there's a higher probability that my money will be seized a la Black Friday than I'm willing to risk. However, there are still opportunities to win money online. There are subscription-based online poker sites like ClubWPT and Face Up Gaming, and there's ad revenue supported poker room Cafrino.com. On the sports betting side, freesportsbet.com offers a starting bankroll of $.50 (or more if you're willing to do surveys and complete other marketing tasks) and lets you cash out if you run it up to $200. And Luckity.com runs a free online bingo game with a weekly $250 winner, and they often run chat games where the winner gets $1 in money to play the other games on the site. This year my goal is to win more than $500 online without depositing a dime.
9. Spend a day at the track
I've never really gotten into horse racing. Yeah, I've watched some races on TV. And I even had $1 on this year's Preakness when the guys at a bachelor party I was attending decided to have a random lottery on the race, with everyone drawing cards to get horses. The bachelor drew both I'll Have Another AND Bodemeister (I think the organizer may have set the deck in his favor!), so while the race was pretty anticlimactic for us from a wagering perspective it was still a thrilling race. And watching the replay of the 2009 Kentucky Derby for last week's top-10 column got me thinking how much fun it must have been to have money on that race.
So this year, I'm planning on going to the track with a seasoned veteran. Hopefully Jim Connelly will be willing to let me bend his ear.
8. Play more no-limit Hold'em
Two years ago, I confessed that I'd been a poker snob, eschewing no-limit Hold'em tables to play in limit mixed games when I visited casinos. And I said I'd be playing more NLH in the future. However, I've only sat down at one NLH table at a casino since that time. (I got slaughtered because I played terribly, and I haven't played since). Re-reading that column from two years ago, along with playing in a NLH cash game in a recent home game, has given me the confidence to return to the NLH tables and play my best.
7. Play with new people
For most of the last seven years, almost all of the poker I've played has been at the Casino City Home Game. And that game with friends will continue to be the game I play in the most. But I think it will be good for me to branch out a bit and play with new people. Thanks to the chiptalk.net poker forum, I've met some new folks and it's been a blast to play with them on the few occasions I've managed to get to a local game. I'd love to get some new blood to the Casino City Home Game, and also branch out my play in new places as well. Part of the fun of poker is the social aspect of the game – meeting new people and hearing great stories. The best way to do that is to play in new games.
I also hope to get some celebrities to join our home game so I can write columns about the experience. This year, we got Bernard Lee to join us. Maybe in 2013 I can cross off a few people from this list.
6. Get some poker chips for our WSOP satellite
Last year, we ran our first WSOP satellite and sent a player from our game to Las Vegas to play in a $1,500 event. We played the $50,000 Poker Players Championship structure, because we play a lot of different games, and we didn't want to limit people to just no-limit Hold'em events. People started with a 100,000 chip stack, and with 10 people playing, we had 1 million in chips in play.
I have 500 non-denomination ceramic chips, won on a PokerRoom.com cruise more than six years ago. The chips are still in great condition, but the set cannot support a tournament that needs at least five denominations and 1 million in chips.
I borrowed some Empress Casino chips from a friend, but his chips aren't really meant for a tournament with stacks that large, so we had to monkey with the denominations. The $5 chip became a T-500, the $100s were T-1,000s, the $500s were T-5,000s, the $1,000s were T-10,000s and the $25s were T-25,000s. Plus, I used my non-denominational white chips for T-100s. Confusing? I thought so. I'm going to have a high-roller tournament set of one kind or another by the time we hold our next satellite.
5. Be more politically active
I live in a particularly interesting area, politically, when it comes to legislators who have influence over Internet gambling legislation. Massachusetts recently moved some Congressional districts around, and as a result, I would have been represented by Internet gambling champion Barney Frank (D-Mass.). But he decided to retire rather than try to win over a bunch of new constituents, so I am now represented by House freshman Joe Kennedy. In the Senate, I have one new Senator in Elizabeth Warren, with another new one likely one the way, as Sen. John Kerry will need a replacement if he is confirmed as the new Secretary of State. I have yet to hear anything from Kennedy or Warren on Internet gambling, but at the state level, Treasurer Steve Grossman is a huge opponent of any federal legislation, and it looks like he wants the state lottery to run and reap the profits from any Internet gambling in the commonwealth. As a journalist who covers the industry I've often taken the approach that I should sit back and just report on the facts in the Internet gambling debate. But this year I plan to be in direct contact with these folks' staffers much more often as someone who misses the way it used to be. I realize we're unlikely to get back to the pre-UIGEA days, but I do believe that regulation is coming and I hope that politicians will listen to their constituents on the best way to craft those regulations. I plan to be involved in that conversation.
4. Play open-faced Chinese poker with royalties
I've only played open-faced Chinese poker for money a couple times, but when I have it has been a ton of fun. It's a refreshing change to play a poker game where everyone knows what you're going for, so there's no need to hide the strength of your hand, but you still need to catch cards to get there. The anticipation of every new card, especially at the end of hands, is a lot of fun. That said, I've never played with royalties, which award bonus points when you make very strong hands, like flushes and full houses. Even if it's for a nickel a point, I want to play some open-face Chinese poker with royalties included in the scoring this year.
3. Do some research before the NFL season starts
The first few weeks of the NFL season, when Casino City editor-in-chief Vin Narayanan and I do our picks against the spread, we laugh a lot about how little I really know about the teams. This year, I believe I asked if Kurt Warner was still the starting quarterback in St. Louis. Needless to say, my picks the first few weeks of the season are not well-reasoned, and as a result, not too good. I went 9-22-1 against the spread in the first two weeks of the season and dug a hole too big to get out of for our fictional $10 bet per game. However, in weeks 3-16 (I'm on the road and don't have my pick sheet with me, so I can't grade my week 17 bets) I went 102-88-6 and actually scored a profit of $47.27 for an ROI of 2.4 percent.
In the NFL confidence league I'm in, I had an abysmal start to the season, netting just 58.2 percent of the possible points in the first six weeks of the season. Once again, the hole was too big to climb out of, even though I did much better for the last 11 weeks of the season, getting 72 percent of the total points. (The winner of our league this year netted 73.5 percent of the total possible on the season, and the last in-the-money finisher had 71.4 percent.)
Next year, I'm going to come into the season prepared. I probably won't know who all the second-string offensive linemen are and where they went to college like Vin does, but I'll be making picks based on who should be good in 2013 instead of who was good in the late 1990s.
2. Play in more live poker tournaments
Last year I played in one of the World Series of Poker's $235 daily deepstack tournaments, and it was a blast. There were 1,558 people in the tournament I played, and I thought I played pretty well, getting a sniff of the money but eventually busting about 50-60 people shy of the bubble. I learned a lot about tournament poker in that event, and think I play a game fairly well suited to big events like that. I'd like to give a few more of those types of tournaments a shot. The winner of the tournament I played took home $57,797 – not bad for a $235 entry fee. Hopefully I'll be writing a column about what it's like to win an event like that sometime next year.
1. Take the aggression down a notch
I've played in the same home game for about seven years. For years I was the most conservative player in the game, and that strategy served me well. About two years ago, I started to use that image to my advantage, bluffing more often and brazenly three- and four-betting with garbage. And I got away with it for awhile. But the players in my game aren't dummies. They've caught on to my new playing style and have adjusted their play accordingly. This year, I plan on dialing down the aggression a touch. While I won't be completely predictable, I plan on having a clear path to victory in every hand I play.
Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd has covered the gambling industry since 2006. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi. Follow him on Twitter @CasinoCity_AT.