09 February 2006

Was I Robbed?

Fenster: Don't know anything about no f----'n? truck.
Cop: Oh, yeah? Well, your friend McManus told us a different story altogether.
Fenster: Oh, is that the one about the hooker with the dysentery?

Free Junior's Cheesecake (delivery included). Junior's in Brooklyn is one of the best cheesecakes in all of America. I know there's no free lunch, but maybe a free dessert (or a free gift for your significant other...). To be elibigle, just leave a comment on any post. We'll run this from 8-13 February, and I'll use my trusty random number generator to select from all those who leave a post. 9 entries so far, so about the same odds as playing Js5s (you can now say, "Heck, I won a cheesecake with tougher odds than I had when I called your $30 pre-flop and cracked those aces...).

So I think I was suckered by NoblePoker. I responded to an email about some special bonus, but I'll listen to your thoughts if I am just stupid or if I've been had. Here's the initial marketing email:
Flop your First deposit bonus + $50 extra

All you need to do is make a first deposit of any amount (min $20), and
you will instantly see your first deposit bonus in your bonus balance.

Then send an email to Bonus@noblepoker.com with the bonus code: DB+50
and we will credit you with an extra $50 no questions asked.

This offer is too good to leave open ended, so you have 48 hours to
make the deposit, and receive an extra $50 in your bonus balance.
And here's the final response (after several emails to them):
Thank you for choosing Noble Poker.

This is Neil from the support team and I am glad to assist you today.

We would like to confirm that we have received your email regarding
your comment regarding the extra $50 promotion. I would like to apologize
if you feel misled on the promotional email that was sent to you but
please note that it was clearly stated on the promotional email that your
extra $50 bonus will be credited on your “Bonus Balance” together
with your First Deposit Bonus and not in your Current Balance. In this
case you need to earn Crowns to redeem the bonus.

We appreciate your cooperation on the matter. Have a pleasant day

So was I jobbed here? Am I simply naive? It really is a two part question: was this misleading/am I just dumb? And what is the result? I searched and searched trying to find out about this prior to signing up, but there was nothing on their website about this promotion. I took "...credit you with an extra $50 no questions asked..." to mean a credit. I'm familiar with a credit, and that means cash to me. It pushed me over the line to go ahead and make a deposit to a site that I knew nothing about. Granted, my deposit was limited, but I wanted to try it especially if I was going to get dollar for dollar. After I saw that I'd been had, any further deposit wouldn't have been eligible for my sign-up bonus.

To me the bigger thing is what is the result? Well, they've lost a potential player in quite a competitive marketplace. January rake (from PokerTracker): $1157, and I don't play what I would consider a bunch. Word of mouth? Significantly higher for negative experiences than positive for most customers. I won't make any rants about this, just the facts as listed above and a simple truth: I won't be back there for sure. I won't move my bankroll from Party to Noble. I won't move any of my cash bankroll to Noble. I will be eager in any of your thoughts.

From a more systemic perspective, I think this is a hint of the challenge confronting the other online sites. Party is such a dominant force. How can new sites compete? I'm a big believer in segmentation, so I think the more focused a site can be on a target audience, the more traction they can get. Whether that is to focus on college kids, high rollers, MTT, SNG, Europeans. Whatever. Party's job is to be all things to all people and to grow the online poker pie. Everyone else's job is to go after specific niches and execute well. But you have to execute well. You most of the time only have one shot with a potential customers, so absolutely don't do stupid things that may help in the short term but sacrifice long-term loyalty.

I tried Chris Ferguson's plan for turning a $1 bankroll to $20k on FullTilt, playing $0.10/0.20 Pot Limit Omaha H/L. That probably is the only logical place to plan Omaha H/L, with only 2-4 limpers pre-flop, half of the hands no one bets or you can bet $0.30 and take down the pot. If anyone does bet, then you are probably beat. It is always fascinating to play, as after all betting has stopped, the chips get pushed to one-three people, you then look at the chat window to figure out if you won the high or the low or both or neither. I used to think you had to think too hard to play that game, but I think it's probably best never to look at your cards in that game, then figure out at the end why you won if any chips come to you. I turned my $4.50 buy-in into $6.00, but I couldn't tell you any more than that.

Best Picture Oscar Nominations: "Brokeback Mountain", "Capote", "Crash", "Good Night, and Good Luck.", and "Munich". I've only seen Brokeback Mountain and Crash, but it did get me thinking about the Oscar (one of my favorite nights of the year). In the spirit of getting robbed, what was the worst criminal act in recent years (since I got out of college) with the Best Picture Oscar? Here are the finalists (winner is listed first). You can either go high-brow/intellectual or just movies that you think are great and lasting. I think it is a tough choice, but I'll give you my thoughts below (my biggest heist is in blue).

1987: The Last Emperor or Fatal Attraction
1989: Driving Miss Daisy (not nominated: Batman; sex, lies and videotape; Say Anything; When Harry Met Sally; Do the Right Thing)
1990: Dancing with Wolves or Good Fellas
1994: Forrest Gump or Pulp Fiction
1995: Braveheart or (not nominated: Se7en, Heat, The Usual Suspects, Casino)
1996: The English Patient or Fargo, Jerry Maguire
1998: Titanic or Good Will Hunting (not nominated: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Rounders)
1999: American Beauty or The Sixth Sense (not nominated: Fight Club, The Matrix)
2001: A Beautiful Mind or Lord of the Rings
2003: LOTR: The Return of the King (not nominated: Kill Bill: Vol. 1)

'87: Fatal Attraction seems a no-brainer after almost two decades. I mean, this scared a generation of men, basically cutting adultery by probably 50%.
'89: Pick your poison on what beats Jessica Tandy. Look at the not nominated, then the other nominees (Born on the Fourth of July, Dead Poets Society, Field of Dreams, My Left Foot). I'll go with Say Anything, but you really can go in any direction.
'90: C'mon, this isn't even a fair fight.
'94: I loved the Winston Groom book, and I thought Forrest Gump was great. Pulp Fiction, though was a home run, so I think it's a toss up.
'95: I think this is the travesty year. Nominees were Il Postino, Babe, Apollo 13, Sense and Sensibilites. You choose here, but two of my top five favorite movies (Heat and The Usual Suspects) are in this year. Se7en is an absolute brilliant flick.
'98: Sacrilege. I love Lock Stock, but we wouldn't be sitting here looking at a poker blog without Mike McDermott, the Knish, and Teddy KGB. The greatest lines in poker until they started televising Hellmuth and Mike the Mouth. I know Leo was the king of the world, but Matt Damon can say he sparked a multi-billion dollar industry.

Chime in. My wife has a friend coming in for the ballet on Saturday, so I'll get some play in this weekend. Will report later.


Blogger cmitch said...

I have never signed up for Noble Poker, but I guess I gave them my email address when I downloaded the software. You are not naive. I read the email 3 times before I figured out that they were cleverly wording the extra $50 as added bonus.

They are clearly trying to misrepresent it in the email. Kind of like the credit card/mortgage spam snail mail we all get.

All it does it turn me off from the site also.

10:49 AM  
Blogger Scott Cunningham said...

This offer is too good to leave open ended, so you have 48 hours to make the deposit, and receive an extra $50 in your bonus balance.

I'll play Randy Cohen's Ethicist to your question. I think they do qualify the bonus, because in the sentence after the "no questions asked," they note that the extra money will go into the bonus balance. While it's kind of jargony (I immediately delete these things because I don't know what a "bonus balance" is practically speaking), I think the email is not technically misleading.

But, at the same time, I think it's fine to dump them. On that point, I would say that since the only reason you were drawn to them in the first place was the promise of free money, to learn that there were strings attached is enough of a reason to not return. One is under no ethical obligation to continue using a product, after all. The customer-firm relationship is always tenuous, and what your retreat ultimately shows is that that email was technically correct, but practically confusing.

On a different point, I'd be interested in someone showing that trying to exploit the "cash on the table" contained in all these various bonuses is really worth the effort. I mean, after you net out the time spent gaming these bonuses, and the transaction costs associated with winning it, and given the probability you won't succeed in getting your bonus, is it still worth your time? I just feel like my time is better spent playing at a single site. Having my money at a single site means I can just focus on my game, and secondly, I don't have to enter into what I suspect is a tournament to get my bonus that probably does not in the longrun work to my advantage.

But that's just me being lazy, maybe. Maybe there is truly free money out there. As an economist, though, I tend to be suspcious. Why would firms offer these things if they didn't have some statistical gain in it? Is it some kind of Nash equilibrium thing which is inefficient in one sense, but rationally necessary given the structure of competition between casinos (sort of like neighborhood bars offering happy hour, even though it's a net drain on all bars)? Either way, it seems to me - based just on my gut - that one is better off filtering these tantalizing offers of bonuses, and simply place your money at sites where you think you stand to make the most money from gambling. The gains from the bonuses are really only appealing if you're super short in your bankroll, it seems. If you're not hurting, then why waste the time and mental energy?

11:06 AM  
Blogger cc said...


I guess it was a blind leap of faith, one of those things where you are doubting that it is true but push forward anyways. The disappointing thing is the free $50 is probably a no-brainer for them if they have the backing/cashflow to handle some limited amount. Their marketing dollars are fairly limited from what I can tell, and they seem to have a fairly shotgun approach to it all, so cashflow could very well be an issue.

scott, some folks seem quite diligent chasing bonuses, often consistently having significant dollars. That doesn't include rakeback, prop players, etc. I also wonder the logic of spreading your play and bankroll around different sites vs. consolidation. More on that next week.

11:35 AM  

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