Episode 51: Shaniac’s Back

Shane “Shaniac” Schleger was our very first guest, and he’s had quite a year since he last talked with us. From getting married to getting turned away at the Canadian border to final tabling the WCOOP Main Event, he shares the ups and downs with characteristic honesty.

You should follow Shane on Twitter and read his blog, You Can’t Miss What You Can’t Measure, for more great stories and insights. For Schleger-recommended art, check out Broke Mogul, the Musaic app, and @ZofiaArt.


0:30 Hello and Welcome
15:58 Strategy: He Flashed a Jack, reconsidered
24:23 Shane Schleger


25 thoughts on “Episode 51: Shaniac’s Back

  1. Thanks, Andrew and Nate, for your discussion regarding my question about hand types in a multiway pot. No other poker podcast discusses poker theory with such depth and thoughtfulness. I’m also not aware of any other poker podcast that uses the phrase “epistemic dimension” when discussing playable hand ranges 🙂 Awesome stuff – Keep up the great work!

  2. I’m going to play Devil’s advocate here, regarding Shaniac’s trouble at the Canadian border. I’ll leave the debate about whether, or not, cannabis is just a harmless drug that just makes you feel warm, gooey and in tune with your deeper self.

    Shaniac’s a convicted drug user who wants to come into the country to do nothing more than gamble. Looking at this purely from their perspective, how much negative EV is there for Canada not to let him in? If you were to poll all Canadians, what answer do you think they would give you?

    You might argue that a resounding ‘NO’, just shows that most people are idiots who don’t understand that both online poker and cannabis are both positive things that benefit society. The government (and it’s border officials) have a duty to reflect the feelings of the majority, though, and not just those who are more liberal than most.

    I say this as someone who spent most of his twenties hoovering-up drugs that were a lot more potent than cannabis. I was just fortunate enough not to have been caught.

    I’m sure I would also feel angry and self-righteous, if I were turned away at the border of any country. I think that has more to do with the sense of entitlement that, like Americans, we British feel. We believe the world is meant to be one big party-venue for us and we don’t like it when the red carpet isn’t rolled out, when we show up.

    It’s pretty brutal to travel all that way and with plans so firmly in mind, only to be hit with a brick-wall. How much was Shaniac really bringing to the table for Canada, though?

    You could also argue that Canada is allowing people in who do much more to threaten the way of life, in what is a peaceful and prosperous country.

    People from poor and troubled countries, who have no education or skills, no grasp of the English language, who if they don’t take the crap jobs that nobody else wants and accept a more respectable state of poverty than what they have left, will have few options, other than to become part of the conduit that enables young native Canadians to score and get high.

    Should Canada be less relaxed about letting people like that in and more relaxed about allowing in pro-gamblers with a previous drug conviction?

    Maybe Shaniac should come to the UK? The weather is marginally less depressing than in Canada, you can gamble all you like without the taxman bothering you and, unless you come through customs with a suitcase marked ‘ANTHRAX’, you will be almost certain to get in and be free to do whatever you want.

  3. One of the things Dan is that no one in Canada gives a hoot about cannabis use or consumption or even low level distribution (or backyard production!). Not even the police.

    There was a period of substantial decriminalization in the early aughts and pretty much everyone in Canada knows its a vice that can be personally destructive in an intensity that pales in comparison to noncontraband substances like tobacco and alcohol, and moreover its an individual’s choice. Also, if there is one blanket ideology that falls across Canada it is not taking moral cues from American leaders and lawmakers.

    Its pretty clear that Shaniac was right re: low level government workers wielding maximum power/arbitrariness because they are in a position to. Tyranny of the bureaucracy 101.

    As for your “threaten the way of life” paragraph, it is just a powder keg of economic fallacies, particularly as it pertains to Canada, and I would try to pass it off as such because the alternative interpretation is a dubiously-motivated xenophobia.

    • I said that I was playing devil’s advocate here. I was surprised to discover that polling in Canada showed a majority in favour of legalisation, or decriminalisation of cannabis. However, the fact remains that Shaniac showed a willingness to flout the drug laws in another country. It would not take a huge leap of faith, on the part of the authorities, to assume he might do the same in Canada.

      With regards to threatening the Canadian way of life, I merely pointed out that it was something that could be argued, by someone who felt that it was unfair that Shaniac was not being allowed in to the country. The person arguing that might think that Shaniac’s drug misdemeanor was too petty to be given any consideration and that the overall immigration policy was a far bigger concern. I don’t really have a strong opinion on it, either way. I’m an immigrant myself, in a country becoming ever more vehemently opposed to immigration. I didn’t bring any specific skills to the country and come from one with much higher levels of crime and violence.

      I’m glad I was free to come here. Should I have been allowed? I’m not really sure. I’m, obviously glad not to have been turned away at the border, but self-interest probably prevents me from being able to look at my own case objectively.

      The main question I was asking was ‘how much negative EV is there for Canada not to let him in?’. I think, at the very least, there could be persuasive arguments on both sides.

      You threw the race card faster than Chris Ferguson eyeballing a freshly plucked cantaloupe!

      • Neither you or I mentioned race in our first posts. But you did basically regurgitate all the xenophobia of anti-immigration rhetoric, whether heartfelt or not, I think its worth dismissing :).

        As to the idea that they were actually evaluating Shaniac on his merits (which, I thought had been shown, they were not doing) it makes a lot of sense to have a rule of law about the matter, as was scoffed at in this case, which was in turn scoffed at by the hosts of the show in the episode. There should be a rule either way, not guesswork from the menially employed.

        But if I were to go all the way to your premises, I would say they should let him in yes, because he was going to contribute 1700 dollars to the economy (perhaps not a penny more!)

    • It should be possible to get a Visa before you make travel plans. If you have a Visa they shouldn’t be allowed to turn you away for something like a criminal conviction that they should have known about when issuing the Visa.

      Letting someone make plans and then turning them away capriciously at the last minute is not OK (and the USA does the same thing!).

      • Yeah that’s a good point. Especially since the no visa system for tourists between the US and Canada is ostensibly for convenience!

    • As a fellow Canadian I have to agree with the general sentiment of Gareth’s perspective on Shaniac’s trials and tribulations in dealing with the CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency). I wouldn’t describe myself on the far left in terms of views on drugs, but when I heard Shaniac talk about his story, I cringed on two levels.

      First off how frustrating to receive mixed messages from the CBSA, to be let in twice, which CBSA could confirm in their records, and then to be turned down the third time. Second, his conviction was years ago for a very minor offence, who cares. If it was last year, I could see them turning him down (without getting into whether minor possession laws make sense or not, solely on the basis of his inability to “obey the law” within a recent time period). But, instead it was 8-9 years ago (?) and he hasn’t been in trouble since.

      I don’t know if he would be eligible due to his record still, but if I was Shaniac and interested in coming to Canada again, I’d get in touch with Homeland Security re: the US/CDN NEXUS Program. If you get cleared under Nexus it expedites your entry into USA (for Canadians) or Canada (for Americans). But, it involves a interview with boarder personnel and a background check. But, if he could get cleared, as in the big picture they realized his old conviction was a minor mistake, maybe it could work, worth a phone call at the least.

  4. Great job, Andrew and Nate! It was fun hearing Shaniac’s adventures over the past year and to reflect on how much you’ve all accomplished this year. I noticed right away when Nate said episode 52 so I’m glad you corrected that. Looking forward to episode 101 and all the ones in between!

    • Not sure the song, but the band is Palmyra. Our audio engineer is a member of the band, we had him as a guest a few episodes back. Sean Lango is his name.

    • Hey Josh –

      The song is called Whereby the Signatory by the band Palmyra. In the Thinking Poker Podcast Episode 49 blog notes there is a list of all the songs regularly used in episodes by Palmyra. Keep listening soon as some other snippets will be included in future episodes!


  5. I don’t really play tournaments ever, so stuff like this and Andrew’s run in the O8 in the summer really opened my eyes to the difference that moving up a couple of spots late in the day makes to a result.

    I remember NoahSD did some work on the earnings profiles of tournament grinders and variance, but scanning back on it I don’t think he really talked much about the sort of contribution that a really big score makes to a player’s total earnings. Can it make a major difference?

    • Serious question? The effect is tremendous. There are some exceptions to this – most notably extremely prolific players and those who have won a lot of small-field tournaments but never had a big score in a large-field one or at a buyin much higher than their ABI – but I think you could turn a lot of respected tournament players into lifetime losers if you subtracted one of their biggest score for each they’ve been playing.

    • Yes, it’s enormous.

      FWIW, when I was running simulations over the summer to try to get good estimates of winrates in HU tournaments, I was struck by the effects of variance, even in the setting of a small-field HU tournaments. I remember using samples of 250,000 simulated tournaments because it was hard to get enough information about true winrates from “only” 50,000 or 100,000 tournaments.

      For myself, if you consider tournaments I’ve played with 100% of my own action and >= 181 runners, my lifetime net winnings are probably ~5x my biggest tournament score. And that number is higher than most long-time players’, given that I generally preferred smallish-field and smallish-buyin tournaments, and that I focused on live play / cash games / SNGs so often.

      A good question would be: what fraction of tournament players’ biggest score is bigger than their lifetime winnings? Even if you filter for people who have been tournament professionals for at least 1 year, I think the answer would be pretty high. IMO most players would be losers if you subtracted (as I think Andrew suggests above) their N biggest scores, where N is the number of years they’ve been playing.

      Never mind how many players, respected ones even, are lifetime losers if you subtract their zero biggest scores…

    • Yes serious question. I guess I knew that there were the Jamie Gold’s of the world for whom their biggest score was +/-100% of their total earnings, but I wasn’t sure how far it went for more representative examples of tournament grinders.

      I had had a working mental model of the poker world that featured losers, some winners, and then a much smaller group of people who won at huge rates and kept the second tier in bigger tournaments than their bankrolls would dictate through the staking market, but maybe the key difference between regular winners and the people who kill the game (and a bunch of people who break even) is running good in a few key flips when it matters.

      I’m pretty risk averse, and it blows my mind how much variance poker players have to tolerate. I guess that the rest of life probably isn’t that different, though, when you really think about it. *strokes beard*

  6. I still remember Phil Ivey losing to a Full House spiked by Moneymaker (?) to become the bubble boy for final table 2003 at Main Event WSOP.

    Pretty sure I have that right.

    Imagine the possible changes that happened based on that card rivering? no Moneymaker effect, Phil’s monetizing his image in different ways (maybe not Full Tilt pro after all?) etc etc

    I am sure that there are all sorts of suckouts that are lifechanging, just hidden variance style.

    Would Greg Merson be back on a ‘bad path’ in life if he had not come back from 2 1/3 BB?


  7. Shane seems like he matured a lot since his first podcast. It was great to hear and I wish him the best of luck in the future.
    Ive worked in Canada many times. Calgary, Toronto, and Vancouver many times. It was always difficult as the Canadian unions were tough on allowing Americans to come in. Unlike the reverse where Canadians have a much easier time to get exemptions to work in America. I don’t have any scientific data to back that up. Only that my Canadian friends seemed to have a simply time of emigrating when I had to file volumes of documents.
    The thing was I was working on American produced projects so Americans were bringing capitol into Canadia and creating a lot of jobs and income for the locals I don’t recall many Canadian film companies coming to the US to film something.
    A great interview.

    • Keone,

      I can’t speak to the ease of obtaining work permits in either country. But you are bang on about US produced projects heading north. About 15 years ago CDN provinces were battling each other to offer Hollywood bigger and bigger tax incentives to produce movies/TV here. But after a number of years two things happened, they realized it was a race to the bottom, with each trying to do each other, and froze credits in place, stopping the practice of upping them. U.S. also states caught on to the game and started to offer their own tax incentives to Hollywood. I was actually just reading, even Calf. had to start offering incentives a few years ago.


      So in the long run, the only main benefactor is the production companies, with jobs just moving around with the incentives. However, I’m not expert, but I think the incentives to get Hollywood to come to Vancouver did work in the long run as Hollywood seems to have kept coming back even with other areas offering better incentives.

      You are also bang on about the CDN unions, by the nature of their politics, they are typically anti-American on a lot of issues (not the opinion of the majority of CDNs – although looking at your Fed government, I can say I’m happy we don’t that sort of dysfunction here right now…lol). Granted how many people anywhere are keen on “foreigners” coming in and taking Canadian/American/Australian/etc jobs.

      As for CDN film producers not reciprocating and making movies in the U.S., I hear you. But the reality is the CDN film industry is but a drop in the bucket compared to Hollywood. Not to mention the content it produces is……lets just say if you asked the average CDN on the street what was the last CDN movie they watched was, they probably couldn’t tell you. As for TV, CDN TV shows generally have a CDN feel to them (namely they are generally made cheaply and don’t have the big buck U.S. production look to them). With the odd exception (Hockey Night in Canada..lol), the most popular TV shows in Canada are all from Hollywood, and if we look at movies, it isn’t even close. I’ve seen one CDN made movie in the theatre in the past 10 years and I see a lot of movies.

      Really enjoyed your interview with Andrew and Nate.

  8. Once I was in China doing a film. When we were wrapped I tried to come back to the US. It was in 1995 so there wasn’t that much travel as today to the old country. I had stayed behind while the rest of the company went back to do some sightseeing and hanging out with some local people who wanted to show me around. When I was leaving they came to see me off. The agents at the gate were all members of the communist party and pretty stern looking. Looking over my friends and seeing that they were all locals, they held me up and thought I was trying to leave the country illegally. That I was a Chinese national. People had been trying to sneak out of the country to America to make some money and the government was forbidding this.
    They questioned me up and down. Only they were speaking to me in Mandarin which I know about 10 cents worth. I was afraid they were going to take me to a holding cell. I had heard about those prisons in China. Once youre down there you never come up.
    A little college girl from Hong Kong who was with the group, jumped up into the head guys face and started rattling all kinds of stuff. I was this big deal in America. I just worked with the Bureau of Shanghai Film Production.They were going to have to call Comrade so and so to come down and give him hell. Here I was in jeans and tshirt and she started a big argument. The guy started getting red in the face and finally looked at me and said “GO”!!!!!.
    The little college girl looked up at me and smiled and whispered “go”. I took off and jumped in my seat and popped a sleeping pill and never got up till we were in Hawaii.
    So Shane might consider himself lucky as I did!

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