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March-01-2002,
The Time Has Come, the Walrus said, to Talk of Many Things...By The Philosopher

Samurai has made certain critical points recently about All World. The Major, to some extent Buckeye and some other posters, and certainly All World, contend not just that he was mistaken in some of his points, but that it was inappropriate for him to post them in the first place. I would like to explain why, for the most part, I do not believe that Samurai was out of line. I assume virtually anyone reading this has already read Samurai.s remarks, and the ensuing responses. But for those who have not, among other things he stated:

.Allworld has changed quite a lot recently....and none of it is good for the players.

.1) They cut their online limits to one of the lowest around.

.2) Their 5 cent Fridays used to cover everything, but now only covers sides and totals.

.3) They used to brag that their props were 20 cents juice, but now they are a minimum 30 cents.

.4) Their site never timed out, but now it times out in 10 mins.

.5) No more free payouts thru Neteller, and now a $20 charge for book to book transfers.

.What`s next to go?

.The people there all seem like really nice guys, but something is going on there, and it can`t be good. The first sign that a book could be having trouble is when they cut their limits. Combine that with everything else that has changed and the picture may not be very pretty..

And later, he stated:

.I really hope you guys are not in any trouble, but an awful lot of changes are occuring, and they`re all moves to charge the player more to play at Allworld, which makes Allworld less and less appealing. I wouldn`t think that a book that is earning good money would be interested in making this many player un-friendly moves in such a short period of time. You guys don`t strike me as being particularly greedy, so what else could a logical person conclude?.

One of the things that is most valuable about the forums is the free exchange of information about sportsbooks, both pro and con. And there is probably no issue of greater concern to the participants here than the financial solidity of books and the safety of players. post-up funds.

Those criticizing Samurai mostly do not have a problem with his stating that there have been certain changes at All World, and they mostly do not have a problem with his finding fault with those changes or identifying them as being unfavorable to the player. Where he has come in for criticism is precisely his speculative linking of these changes to this crucial issue of concerns about financial instability.

Indeed, it has even been implied that the only evidence that it could possibly be relevant to bring up in a public forum concerning a book.s being an unsafe risk for your post-up funds would be if they are already slow-paying or no-paying.

This, I believe, is going way too far in being protective of the books. In the forums we do, and should, routinely speculate about certain factors and whether they might be correlated with a book.s being a safe or unsafe place to play. There.s no reason to single out Samurai or his recent exchange with All World.

For example, Ronbets on more than one occasion has noted that he.s wary of Aces Gold because mathematically there is just no way they should be able to make money doing what they do (no vig on many bets, discounted pricing on buying points, fairly generous bonuses, etc.).

Many people have suggested a connection between abnormally high sign-up bonuses and a book in trouble (on the grounds that it may be a panicky effort to raise short term capital from Peter to pay Paul).

Often posters warn others to be careful of new books, on the grounds that the likelihood of their being financially solid is less than that of a more established book.

Other clues that people have pointed to and suggested could be a sign of something financially shaky in a book include having a lot of off-numbers (indicating that they are likely attracting highly unbalanced action, and thus gambling rather than booking), disappearing from recommended lists at Major Wager or other sites, being located in countries with little or no oversight (recall all the jokes about the sportsbook licenses in Costa Rica being just generic business licenses like those required of hot dog vendors), and suddenly raising limits significantly (and thus taking bigger risks in search of bigger rewards).

This is a very partial list. I could cite numerous others. But the point is, we often talk about to what extent certain factors might constitute evidence as to how safe it is for us to post up at a given book. We have to. These places don.t open up their financial books to us. There.s little we can do except add up the indirect evidence and draw whatever tentative conclusions we can from that.

Now, this is not to say that any book falling under any of these categories is an unsafe place to play. Of course not. But to suggest that we never discuss these matters publicly until a book is already failing to pay people is equally ludicrous in the opposite direction.

It is very much relevant to the purpose of this site to talk about all of these factors and how they might or might not correlate with the financial solidity of a given sportsbook. Is it strong, maybe even conclusive, evidence that a shop is in trouble? Is it evidence of moderate, but still overridable, weight? Is it evidence of only quite small weight? Is there, in fact, no correlation at all? All of these things we can, and have, talked about openly when it comes to excessive bonuses, unexplained disappearance from the Major.s List, etc.

I don.t see why this case with Samurai and All World is any different. He has cited several policy changes, and he has raised for discussion the question of whether such policy changes constitute evidence that All World is experiencing some kind of financial difficulty.

There are several logically appropriate responses to the point he is making. These include:

1. To agree that this constitutes significant indirect evidence that All World could be in some kind of trouble, and to be less inclined to play at All World for this reason.

2. To disagree not with the logic but with the premise, i.e., to assert that some or all of these policy changes have not in fact occurred at All World, or have been inaccurately or misleadingly described by Samurai.

3. To maintain that while these considerations do count as significant evidence of trouble, there is more than sufficient other evidence about All World to show that, all things considered, they are doing fine and are a safe place to play.

4. To maintain that the speculative correlation is so minimal that virtually any other evidence quite easily overrides it.

5. To claim that there is either no correlation at all, or even a correlation in the opposite direction (i.e., books that make policy changes like these tend to be more solid on average than books that do not).

How would one go about arguing for or against any of these five positions? Well, perhaps the most obvious way is by citing analogous cases. People have brought up Direcbet, for instance, and the way they suddenly revoked their reduced vig deal, and then were revealed to be in financial trouble. Others have cited books that have raised vig, lowered limits, etc. who turned out to be in no trouble whatsoever.

You can also raise more common sense points about how plausible this alleged connection is or isn.t. For instance, some have contended that raising limits, not lowering limits, is what should raise a red flag, since that is more indicative of a book in desperate enough need for immediate funds that it will take bigger risks. On the other side, Samurai has taken an .if it ain.t broke, don.t fix it. position, that a book that is succeeding with its present policies is unlikely to suddenly change several of them, therefore they could well have been losing prior to the changes.

All of these points, all of these counter-points, all of these arguments, are fine in my book. I want us to talk about precisely these things. What indirect evidence do we have of the financial solidity of these books, and how much weight does the evidence deserve? This should absolutely never be a taboo subject at Major Wager.

So I disagree with The Major when he says criticize the book.s bathrooms and anything else you want, but don.t connect your criticisms to some allegation that they.re in trouble. I definitely want to know if a book.s shoddy bathrooms make it less safe a place for my post-up funds (or more safe, or equally safe). Let.s talk about it, by all means. Both sides.

To their credit, the spokespeople for All World and some of the posters who defended All World did a lot of the things I.ve just described. I think a lot of what they had to say was fair and relevant and quite helpful, and I commend them for it.

What I don.t appreciate is a lot of what they had to say in going beyond that, and I hope it does not have the effect of chilling expression like Samurai.s.

Now, I stated above what I think are responses that would be on point, whether in agreement or in disagreement with Samurai.s original contentions. The following are responses that I think are inappropriate:

1. Samurai has made an irresponsible accusation in jumping to the conclusion that All World is broke.

First off, he never did this. Period. He has bent over backwards to make it clear that he is not alleging that he has some kind of dirt or .inside information. on All World, but quite the contrary that he is making an admittedly speculative point based only on the same evidence that is available to all of us. He isn.t asking us to take his word for something; he.s saying, .Here are the facts that trouble me, and why I wonder if these kinds of things might be correlated with a book experiencing financial difficulties.. Totally straightforward. It.s not alarmist, it.s not deceptive, and there.s no innuendo.

Secondly, I thought we all were supposed to detest .political correctness. around here, where you judge what a person says not on its truth, but on its consequences, or on how it will impact the thin-skinned and vulnerable. I think we.re going too far with this .don.t even speculate about what factors might indicate a book is in trouble until you can prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt. stuff. Like Alec, I am very skeptical that anything Samurai has said is going to do significant damage to All World or to Bobby or anyone there. But in any case, I.m a lot more interested in whether it.s true or false than in whether saying it is somehow damaging.

2. Samurai is only saying these things because he likes to amuse himself with frivolous games, or because he has a vendetta against All World or against all books in general, or because he.s a bitter steam chaser or syndicate mover, etc.

Pure and simple, these are .ad hominem. attacks and are a fallacious argument form. Judge the alleged correlation on its merits (and if it comes up lacking in merit and you say so, fine), not on what you like or dislike about the person putting it forth.

Now, to leave it at that would be a little too simplistic. There are some occasions where a person.s motives are indirectly relevant to how we should react to what he.s saying. For example, what if this evidence about All World were slight, and there existed similarly minimal evidence against virtually any book, but Samurai chose to bring it up only in the case of the handful of books that he had had some kind of run-in with when they wouldn.t bend the rules for him? Well, then I could see how it would not be out of line for someone to make that point about his motives. It might enable us to see things in a different light if we were given reason to believe that a person was being selective in his remarks for illegitimate reasons.

But still, that would have to be a secondary consideration at most. I.m all for exposing people.s agendas and making sure that readers understand that the forums do not consist exclusively of morally pure truth-seekers, but you still should focus primarily on the merits of what he.s saying.

I.ll conclude with two final points. Though I contend that for the most part Samurai has not crossed any logical or ethical lines in his remarks, I understand that there are also the kind of pragmatic considerations that Pokerjoe and others have at times reminded us of.

Whether they.re right or wrong to do so (and I.d say wrong, for the most part), sportsbooks are very, very thin-skinned about what goes on in the forums. They won.t talk to us if we.re not nice to them. And there are advantages to having them willing to talk to us. If things go too far, they won.t advertise here at all. And there are advantages to having them advertise here (like, for instance, the very existence of the site).

I know I pull my punches all the time. I don.t do it in the reviews, but I do it in deciding whether or not to post. Much of what sportsbooks post here is either insultingly manipulative press release propaganda, evasive non-answers to direct questions, pathetic whining about how mistreated they are by people who have the audacity to bet with a positive expectation, etc. In short, a great deal of it is pure bullshit.

I call them on 5%-10% of it. Almost all of it I ignore. That.s because no matter how meticulous I am about asking only fair and logical questions and not just abusing people for the sake of abusing them, they.re going to interpret almost anything we say as combative and accusatory, and they.re going to run away.

So even though a book isn.t justified in insulting a Samurai-type and then fleeing from his questions, we know they.re likely to do so anyway, and that fact itself is something we need to take into account. For purely strategic reasons, we might have to pick our shots and only challenge a book infrequently, that is, if we want to have books continue to participate in the forums and continue to provide the revenue for Major Wager to even continue.

(For example, in a recent thread where The Major announced some innocuous promotion from Bet365USA, Samurai responded with a snide remark related to their not being particularly receptive to wise guy and steam bettors. I thought that was gratuitous and ill-advised. It caused a positive thread about Bet365USA to degenerate into The Major and Samurai taking pot shots at each other. I don.t see how that did anyone much good.)

Finally, I think it is worth reiterating a point that The Devil and others have made in the past. In addition to coming to the forums with negative information about a book (which, in my opinion, is allowed to include speculative evidence as to its financial fitness), please don.t forget to talk about the praiseworthy aspects of books. Major Wager is not just about .Here.s what I dislike about this place,. or .Here.s why you shouldn.t play at that place;. it.s also about steering readers to the solid books that will best fit their needs.

So, if you disagree with anything Samurai has said about All World on its merits, go right ahead and say so and explain why. Or if you think that for the sake of balance, readers should also bear in mind certain positive things about All World that he is neglecting to mention, then by all means add those to the conversation. (Shouldn.t be hard, by the way. All World is one of my favorite books, and there are many things to praise about it.)

But please no more of this charge that he.s out of line to speculate about All World.s financial condition. We should all be speculating about that, about all the books. And if that type of expression is frozen out of Major Wager, I.ll certainly want to know where else Samurai and his ilk have gathered, so that we may continue to share such speculations.



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