November 2, 2006

Conversations with Bennie

“I am not Bill”
My friend Bennett “Magic Aces” Greenstein called me from his bathtub at Foxwoods this morning to tell me he made the final table of the Omaha Hi/Lo tournament today. “I play in an hour,” he said. “That’s a little short notice for me to get there from Seattle, Bennie,” I said. Nobody calls him Bennie but I get to because his 12-year-old daughter calls me Richie. The whole Bennie/Richie thing goes along with being degenerate gamblers so I kind of like it.

We talked a little final-table strategy, going over the mathematics of deal-making and exploitive game-theoretical concepts for tournament endgames – the kind of banter most degenerate gamblers engage in with frequency -- and then he told me about a conversation he had online the other day with a railbird at Full Tilt. Since Bennett plays a lot of high-stakes Omaha and is very good at it, people always are asking “Who is Magic Aces?” About six months ago I jokingly said it was Bill Gates. There was the round of digital laughter along with the expected oohs and aahs from the gullible but then I promptly forgot about the incident.

Well, Bennett was playing and this railbird got into an argument with another one over whether Magic Aces was actually Bill Gates. “I know he is,” the guy says, “because Richard Brodie told me.” Finally Bennett said no, he’s definitely not Bill Gates. When he finally convinced the guy the railbird was furious. “I’ve been coming home straight from work to watch you every day for the last six months because I thought you were Bill Gates!” The poor guy had even less of a life than he thought he had.

As he was toweling off, Bennett asked me what I thought of one player we had both played a lot of limit Hold ‘Em with online. He made a lot of unusual plays. Bennett said he couldn’t figure out if the guy was using true Level-3 thinking or had simply stumbled onto an expert-system strategy that emulates Level-3 analysis. I said I just thought the guy was a donk.

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