Sunday, June 27, 2004

How many people actually ENJOY a game of Omaha?

YTD: +$20851.69

This post was sparked off by one of The Hendon Mob forum's most prominent posters. Needless to say he doesn't post about poker a hell of a lot. The general thrust of the thread was that Pot Limit Omaha was a very dull game, mostly revolving around playing the nuts without the flair of big bet holdem. My view was different:


What you are describing is a means to which you can seperate mug players from their money and is the starting point of a strong game. Its also probably all you need versus such players and is also really the complete heart of a game such as plo8b, the ultimate mug murderer :-)

However when you start playing better players, you can take it to a different level, and the psychology, tells, reads and the other intangibles come into play. Maybe some examples would help.

Back in the annals of time, I raised on the button with QJ98 double suited. A short stacked fish and a strong limper called. The flop came AT8, two of my suit. The fish went allin for a trivial amount and the strong player raised the pot to about 200 or so quid. This was an interesting move by him, considering that I am seen as a tight player and may have the Aces. My view was that this move could have been with two pair or lower trips and the foe in question was good enough to pass to a reraise, representing the Aces. I moved in for another 3-400 quid and the foe called...he actually had the trip aces and lost to my flush on the river, but the thinking remains the same. So even though this hand was at the very start of my career, it shows that it is possible to represent and make moves beyond just peddling the nuts.

More recently, and more interestingly, I played a small pot against another strong tight player. I limped in with high cards and the flop came KJT mixed suits. I had AQ and hence the nuts. The tight player bet out utg. Conventional play is to raise here but my thinking was different. I was fairly sure he had the same hand, and I had no improvers. Maybe a sneakier play was available. The turn was a blank, and our foe bet the pot again. Now I know he has the nuts too. I just call. The last card pairs the board and the foe checks. I bet about 3/4 of the pot. The foe passes and I win a nice pot with exactly the same hand where a conventional maths lead play would lead to a simple split pot.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Monkeys regularly write the complete works of Shakespeare

YTD: +$20852.59 (curse you work :-)

The Hendon Mob has mostly deteriorated as a forum, that is assuming you actually want to talk about poker. One of the few interesting threads was from a guy, Vlad, who made a massive jump up to the 10-20 NL game on Laddies for the first time. Basically he calls a raise mid-late position with AcTc, is checked to on a 2c 3c 4s, he bets the pot $400 and is reraised allin for his $1600 stack (he also mentions that this is basically his case money.) His foe had 4d6d and our hero hits his flush. Here’s the feedback we gave him on his play:

Posted by Big Dave D on 15/2/2004, 8:48 pm

Ok. A true story first. The first time I was a pro, £100 comps were comparatively rare in the North. Out of the blue, a complete unknown won the first prize in a Stockport £100 comp, no deals done. By a bizarre coincidence, there was actually another £100 comp somewhere else in the North that month. He won that outright too. So in the space of one month he had won the best part of £30K, all the way back in 1996. I later played with this self-same player and it was abundantly clear that HE KNEW ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ABOUT POKER. Not that he didn't know the odds of AK vs. KK, I mean to the extent that he may have actually struggled to understand the ranking of hands.

What's the point of this story? Well, I have wanted to get it off my chest for a while, but also, more importantly, I like to keep it in mind to remind me of how much damn luck there is in this game.

It seems that a lot of posts on this forum are by people who could do well to remember this story.

To the hand in question. I'm not awfully found of the cold call with ATs. It’s a hand likely to be dominated and I would want a HUUUGE stack vs. the raiser, plus knowing I am a much better player. I actually prefer the QJs UTG as I would then have the raiser on my left, which is greatly preferable, especially in a NL game.

On the flop, the poster raves as if he's got a monster hand. He hasn't. His hand is MUCH better to be putting the final bet in, much worse to be CALLING the final bet. He now cannot bluff his opponent out; he has to make his hand. Of the spectrum of potential hands his foe has, what he shows is just about the absolute weakest. He's far more likely, people and probability wise, to be up against a made hand of some kind. If you run some sims you can see that he is a EV dog to this range of hands. More importantly, this is in a very real sense his case money on Ladbrokes and a large sum of money in the context of his playing life.

If someone had bumped into him in the street and offered to toss a coin for it he would have been astounded, and doubly affronted if he was told he wouldn't be getting even money either. Yet this is what he has voluntarily done here.


Then there are some more responses from Vlad:

(snipped Vlad saying he is a favourite still)

BDD - There are a variety of sims out there, some free, that can do the work on this. Even if you do a simple mathematical likelihood of hands, you are a dog. And of course the real weighting of the hands is going to be greatly different from this and will strongly favour the made hands. Even if you look at the sim as a final bet of 1600 vs. the pot you only make a tiny profit. And this is somewhat an unreal assumption as you have contrived to make this pot this big yourself with your money...if you had bet 800 for example this would make the resulting call back to you, supposing the same action, even more clear cut, but in the end, although I think that's a superior play, you have really gambled 2000 to win 2400.

(snipped Vlad talking about how a mix of foes would play this differently, but against a random foe he would always make this call.)

BDD - The truth is you know absolutely nothing about your opponent. You have contrived a situation where you now have to be mathematically right. CALLING Allins in the end is mostly a maths situation, whether most people realise it or not, especially when you have no read on the foe. So if you agree with the point I made above and you steadfastly play the hand in this precise way then you will clearly go broke. Putting your money in -EV on a regular basis is just roulette.

VLAD Quote - "I agree, the preflop call was negative EV for 5% of my 100xBB stack, the implied odds perhaps were not there, and I would not make that call every single time. I am much happier playing QJs/10Js or even 45 than A10s"

BDD - you already said that you had passed QJs for a raise even though you had already called the minimum. Also your position was much better in that situation than the one you are in now.

VLAD Quote -"Still, in the end I got the kind flop I was looking for...used to playing in games where my postflop play more than compensates for the loss of EV making loose preflop calls."

BDD - You got a kind of flop you were looking for. The fact that according to your own original mail you called this allin immediately has me worried. Like most flops and situations in big bet poker, unless you have the nuts it’s the action that ultimately dictates whether you "like" a flop. Would you have liked it, for example if your UTG had simply moved allin instead? You talk about having superior postflop play, yet you also state that you have been playing only 18 months...what makes you think your play is superior after such a short sample? How do you know? And how do you know you're not in the "7th best player in the world playing the best 6" in this game?

The truth is that you took a shot in a game on short money and gambled on at very very best a coin toss. There's no shame in this. But no great glory either. Remember my tournament example. Monkeys regularly write the complete works of Shakespeare in this game.

Then some more....
Re: First experience of mid-stakes NL
Posted by Big Dave D on 16/2/2004, 3:00 pm

I get the kind of feeling that maybe you weren't looking for feedback after all, but as this is the only decent thread we've had on here in 2004, I will persevere:

: VLAD - I have a sim and I am +ve EV vs. the average hand. I may be a dog, but the pot is offering me better than 50-50 so I can afford to be a dog...The only hand I'm a loser against is a set (vs. a straight I'm more or less even money).

Your sim is broke. You are between a 6 to 4, 7 to 3 dog on ALL made hands (sets/str8s.) So the scenario is this...versus a normal player making the call, even giving you the huge benefit of modelling the scenario of how you played the hand on the dead money you yourself have contributed (vs. a simple 2400/2000), this is a LOSING call. Your EV is negative. It only ends up marginally, very marginally profitable if you throw in 64s and 54s as his potential holdings. But how often will he turn out to be that kind of player. Very very rarely. Your reaction on being set allin shouldn’t be great, I'm in fantastic shape but instead sh*t...I need to do some serious thinking and decide whether I need to flip a crooked coin.

: VLAD - Give me a big draw anyday compared to a hand which is strong but not the nuts. That's why I liked the flop.
I like to play in games where I can influence the action, so, yes if UTG had gone all in it would have taken
the action away from me. Oh, and I said my postflop play is good enough to beat the majority of the muppets
on the internet, which is not saying a lot really.

When its allin, and I’m called I don’t care whether I’m drawing or made, I just want it to be +EV. Despite the timbre of this thread, I’m not a big fan of the EV thinking in big bet poker as a carry on from limit thinking. But when you and your foe(s) are allin, with cards to come, EV is the entirety of the game. Also you talk about wanting to influence the action. CALLING on short money with a -EV hand is not influencing anything. You have to be the bettor in this coup.

Lastly you state that your postflop play is better than the majority, yet you have only been playing less than 9 months on the Net. Not meaning to be rude, but you cannot be sure of this. When you have been around even my comparatively short time you see players come and go, flying high on luck and aggression, Icarus-like, and having the same result. Onlinechamp was a beautiful example.

You may think you are great, and you may actually be so, but in 6-9 months you simply cannot know. As our Scottish legal friends say, the case is Not Proven.

: VLAD - As long as there is a tiny +EV I am happy to gamble, provided my roll can sustain the variance.

This is real limit poker thinking. The reason limit holdem players have to pursue tiny EV is because that is all that is available. The game is made up of the accumulation of tiny edges. Most good big bet players are trying to contrive situations where huge chunks of money are getting into the pot when they are significant favourites. Now to generate these you may have to make many slightly -EV decisions to set up the killing coup, especially in holdem, but strictly speaking the whole metaphor of EV kind of falls over in NL/PL except when there is no more money to be bet. You shouldn't be thinking "Great I’ve got a 1% edge, let’s shove my whole stack in". There's just too much variance in the game, and also too many good opportunities downstream to have that kind of approach.
To Vlads credit he did later start to challenge some of the assumptions he started of with in this thread.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

And Now for Something Completely Different

YTD: +$21461.42

We’ve been getting some great feedback so far, especially on my plo8b hand. But I’m going to park that one for a while and pick up on my thought processes and some general plo8b ideas on my next post. BTW, as some have been interested, I’m currently multi-tabling 15-30 limit holdem on a Party skin, and playing plo8b on Stars when a game 2-4 blinds or bigger is running.

Here is today’s post, which was a debate on rgp whether taking money of the table, sometimes called ratholing, slotting or weeding, should be allowed in big bet games. I came down real strong on this and no-one agreed with me at the time. I still mostly feel I was on track here, although I think my conclusion that stopping the practice, because it hurts good players, would hurt the longevity of the game is way off mark – if anything, reducing the huge advantage that strong players have over the weak in big bet poker could actually be “good for the game”.

“When I said ratholing was bad I was explicitly referring to potlimit and no limit games. If you don't see that I suspect you don't play a lot of big bet poker. You ask if a player takes money off the table he has increased his EV. Although I am not comfortable with the concept of EV in big bet poker (bbp), I would say that if he was a bad player then YES he had increased his winning chances. IMHO, here's why:

As stack sizes increase in live bbp the complexity of the game shoots through the roof. This is why so many tourney players, even bbp ones, struggle in the cash equivalents. Just to take a simple example, in a headsup Omaha pot, calling a £30 bet preflop could result, if you go to the river, calling a £810 bet on the river - and that's with no raising! This creates much more complex situations than the typical limit situation, where gaining and saving bets are the more common dilemma. This means that good players have to be able to play big fact knowing how to manipulate pots in relation to stack sizes is a very key skill in bbp.

Basically you have to play your cards, knowing that every penny in front of you is in potential jeopardy in any one hand. So if you accept this empirical principle then it is clear that it is in the bad player's interest to have less money on the table. Anyone who has played any degree of bbp will recognise that bad players almost unconsciously understand this, as they try and "slot" money off the table to secure their win.

Some other common mistakes that happen when bad players have big stacks you could term "no fear" and "too much fear". In the first case, because they have so much money in front of them the player starts to call bets he should be passing, simply because the size of
the bet has lost meaning. I once saw a guy leak away £500-600 in a £2 blind bbp game simply because he had sat down with a couple of grand, his blackjack winnings, and he kept on calling the bets because they now meant much less to him (this was way out of proportion for how he would normally play as he is a tight passive player.)

The flip side of this, "too much fear" is when the player "realises" that he suddenly has a fair size of money in front of him and it may be in jeopardy, especially if there are other good players who have similarly large stacks. He then starts to pass when he should call, call when he should raise. In fact sometimes it is good to recognise this and simply leave the table, which I have done at the start of my poker playing when I knew that I couldn't play a big stack well and other, perhaps better opponents had me covered.

This all sounds a bit shark vs. fish, but unfortunately this is very much exacerbated in bbp. I suspect that if you allowed players to rathole in bbp, then the games would perhaps die out, because the pros, who unfortunately are necessary to keep these fragile games running, would start to have much worse results. And the skill element would fall through the floor. If you want to protect bad players, then limiting the maximum size of buyins such as online sites do is perhaps a better option. Perhaps comparing it to cheating is a bit harsh, but I did say the nearest thing. And if you view cheating as affecting the result of the game through replacing skill and luck with artificial means, than ratholing is pretty bad in bbp.”

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Plo8b (part 2)… and we’re swamped by commentators!!!

YTD: +$21567.37

OK, not exactly swamped, but we are getting there :-) We’ve had some great, and amusing comments (tx Phat and of course anonymous).

Please keep on commentating and coming back. I promise fresh, interesting (?) poker content every day, or thereabouts. Tell your friends and come back often and cheer me up with good site visit and page stats :-)

Back to the hand…Phat recommends betting small and passing to a reraise. One of the THM posters, and a guy I have occasionally played live, Ariston, advocates check-calling because the danger of being 3/4d is too great to bet out. Here’s a snip of the analysis I did on rgp:

“(One of his most likely hands is) A3 with the flush draw. This was in fact the real holding. When we discussed the hand he said that against anyone else he would have raised on the flop. But there was a lot of knowing me, knowing you in this hand…

He can't bet a dry nut low because he knows I have it too...maybe with more. Also, if I check and he bets the full pot, he can only really be doing it because he has nut-nut and expects me to call and he makes his £30 profit. Even though he respects my play, he probably doesn’t really *expect* me to pass, as so few would do in this spot.

Here's what happened. I checked on the river and he bet the full pot, about £120. I went into the think tank. And then I folded.

It struck me that if I called, it would be the equivalent of just
handing over to him £30. He had a2378 and had called for the nut flush draw on the flop and made nut-nut.

No one I told the story to could believe I passed :)”

Thursday, June 17, 2004

First commentator...and a real, live plo8b hand

YTD: +$20456.37...not much poker...too much work :-(

Thanks to Butch for his first comments...if you're here and you want to say something please do registration required! Butch made an interesting point about short-handed play, in that the turn could be where the better players regain their equity. Certainly from my PokerTracker stats on ring games, the best players are very very aggressive on the turn and I could certainly see that being the way to profit s-h. But the variance is not for me! Here's one of my few thoughtful rgp posts - please comment your thoughts:

I thought I would post what I thought was an interesting pot limit Omaha 8b hand. Interesting because it is no self-aggrandizing massacre of a chump with no outs and interesting because it was live action, not online.

In the game I was playing there were two £2 blinds, one on the button and one under the gun. I was in the OTG blind with a stack of about £500. There were several limpers back to me when I found a2366 suited ace (it was 5 card Omaha 8b). I raised slightly less than the pot and picked up several callers. The flop came 642, with two diamonds, not my suit. This is a very strong flop for my hand, unless I run into a35. Also the bulk of the players were very poor and I could get action from naked a3 in this spot. I came out and bet about the pot £40, and surprisingly everyone passed, except the one player I didn't want to call, who we'll label GS. GS is a very strong cash player, as
good, if not better, than any I've seen and would only tangle with me in this spot with a strong hand. I prayed for a pair up 

Instead the dealer turned over a card of death, an offsuit 3. With my low counterfeited, I checked, prepared to pass to a bet, and to my surprise GS checked also. Clearly his only low was an a3 too. In retrospect I could have deduced that the three was a bad card for him as he wouldn't call with an a5…although there was a small chance that he may have slowplayed a35, hoping to get a big raise on a neutral turn if I led out again.

The last card was interesting…an offsuit 5. No flush had come and I now had a wheel. Most importantly, I also had a 6 straight, which although not the nuts would quarter any pure wheel holders. What do you do? And what do you do if he bet/raises? (assuming you check/bet, respectively)

I'll post what I did later.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Short-handed Verbals

YTD: +$19745.12 (I told you it was moving!!!)

Before we enter "The Vault" I thought I would cover off a question that may be in my prospective readers' minds: "If Dave is the "Internet Poker Pro" (guffaw) why isn't he winning more?" Well as I stated at the start, I do mostly only play part time....but more importantly I had a very VERY VERY bad May, which we may get into in another post.

Two thoughts of the day...the first was a post on the massive popularty of short handed limit poker, prompted by my good online pal Aksu. The other is a mildly, ok very mildly, humourous story about verbal showdowns, which are very common in cash games live but particularily annoyed one poster on The Hendon Mob. (A verbal showdown is where a player declares a hand that beats his, waiting for his opponent to show it rather than exposing his hand first).

BTW...remember to don't need to register and I would like to hear your thoughts!

"Aksu, u tease...

I have a completely contrary view on short handed games. I believe that they may have been "better", for the common reasons that Chaos states, before the internet made them a very popular form. However I honestly believe that with the current short handed player profile, i.e. very aggressive to maniac, that they are actually less skilful. I guess this view could be crystallised into two main areas:

1. Preflop - shorthanded play turns bad players into good. A significant advantage for good players in a ring game is simply the quality of hands they play. This small, but ever-present edge gives rise to a nice part of the overall earn. Of course you have to play through the streets well, and this is where a lot of your EV lies, but it shouldn’t be underestimated how significant the initial hand selection contributes to your profit, not least because you don't have to play trickier scenarios, because you simply never face them, i.e. raising utg with ATo. But a bad player will make these plays all the time, again contributing to your edge. But if you took that same bad player and dumped him in a 5 handed game, suddenly raising UTG with ATo is the right play! You've lost your edge even with the same bad player.

2. Aggression makes everyone play the same - unfortunately the super high aggression levels means that both good and bad players now play very similarly. Often you have to cling onto hands such as poor pairs heads-up in shorthanded play, and perhaps even overplay them. But this is exactly what the bad players do! I don’t have an example to hand, but it isn’t hard to build scenarios where good and bad players play the hand identically. And these come up fairly often.

I also think that to good players, short handed games can be alluring and exciting, especially compared to dull-as-dishwater ring games. It seems like poker as it really should be played. But I believe these feelings are deceiving, at least profit wise."


"I'm not sure why these things annoy you so much. In truth they are just part of the game and exist everywhere, especially the "verbal showdown". If you want to play cash, you just learn to live with it.

My favourite "verbal showdown" story was between the infamous Ali Malu and myself a looong time ago. It was a reasonably chunky pot of 6 card Omaha, maybe £2k or so:

"Full house wins"


"Flush wins"

The only sound is that of cards being desperately shuffled to find winners.

"Straight wins"

Its getting embarrasing now....

"Uhmm trips wins?" i've got it :-)"

You just don’t play well enough

YTD: +$18804.12...and moving...

Of all the crazy things that crazy people talk about online, the conspiracy theories about poker sites are right there on top of the kookaburra tree. There is the "action flop" theory, where the site deliberately generates flops that hit everyone, with the river, of course, being the coup de grace for the best hand. Even more bizarre is the "cashout curse" where winning players suddenly turn into walking bad beat stories simply because they took money out of the site. Here's my view:

"An excellent book, now out of print, was written by a poker playing social anthropologist, focusing on poker players as a group. He estimated, and I've seen no evidence to the contrary, that probably 80%, if not more, of poker players are losing players over their gambling lifetime. EIGHTY PERCENT. I used to find it pleasing, in those halcyon days when I still played live, to look around my table and realise that at best there was probably only one other winning player there.

That's it in a nutshell. Nearly everyone loses. The majority of posters on The Hendon Mob are LOSING players. What makes them losing players? It’s simple...they don’t play well enough, or the rake kills them, or variance wipes them out before they get a chance at the long term.

Incredibly, the Internet is the BEST place for most players, as the rake there is so comparatively small. This is almost certainly true for tourney specialists and NL cash game people. For Brits, the rake of limit vs. NL/PL doesn’t necessarily compare well from online to bricks and mortar, but bad or mediocre players suffer more in big bet cash games so moving to limit may be better anyway.

So why do so many people think they are winners live but tumble to an online conspiracy? More than likely they don't keep good records live and they haven’t been through the long term yet. What do I mean by good records? Every session, every tourney all detailed and analysed. Graphs. Profit and loss, the works. What do I mean by the long term? I've got good records for 8 years, and I am not sure I'm in the long term yet.

Yesterday I sat down in the 15-30 game on Party and played pretty well and had a lot of good hands. In an hour I had lost 60BB. Today I got up and played again and was perfectly happy and made a tidy, but not quite so tidy, profit. It never crossed my mind that the international-industrial-war machine conspiracy had taken my money. Losing happens. Get over it."

Monday, June 14, 2004

In the Beginning…

YTD: +$18791.32

I have been thinking about starting up a Poker blog for quite some time. For those of you that don’t know me I’ve been an off-on poster on most of the Poker forums for quite some time (RGP since 1996!) and a mostly Net-based poker player over the last couple of years. I was a winning live poker player since I started playing in 1996, mostly playing pot limit games of all flavours and permutations, although I have since added limit poker to my play book. I now play several hours a day, across a whole range of games from limit holdem to pot limit omaha hilo...but just to make it clear I am not a full time player. Maybe just a gifted amateur :-)

To start myself off slowly, the first few entries here are going to be my favourites from my posting career in the past. This one is a doozy, although it does need some explanation.

Two years back there was a reasonably famous satellite incident on PokerStars…lets call it the “Miros Deal”. Several seats were paid out to the main event of the WSOP, I believe it was two. Also there was a reasonable chunk of money paid out for the next place. 4th of course got nothing. In the final reckoning, Miros (his screen name) had a monstrous stack, and Donald, another prominent Stars player was the short stack. As the antes were so high for everyone except Miros, the other players quite reasonably wanted to secure some money for 4th place. Miros refused, unless he got additional monies over his entry into the WSOP. To make this clear, he actually wanted more than was being officially paid to him (a seat) to be contributed from the remaining funds. My recollection was that he asked for something like $2000 to agree to the deal. When this was refused, he then used his power of veto to stop any deal happening (even though, in a very real sense, he couldn’t lose out from it) and Donald duly went out on the bubble. This whole affair sparked a host of pro and con posters on a variety of forums, including the subject of this post from The Hendon Mob forum, who was not only pro Miros making a deal, but had actually advised him over the phone whilst doing so. His view was that it's dog-eat-dog out there on the tables, and anything short of cheating goes. My view was different:

The idea that your personality is unchanging and immutable is something that you believe when you are young, but you discover simply isn't true as you get older. How you act and how you think over a period of time will ultimately effect what kind of person you are. Gambling as a whole can have negative effects on the psyche - I think poker is even more potentially destructive as it is one of the few gambling activities where it is a zero sum conflict against people, as opposed to the "house", and that the vast bulk of people are lifetime losers at the game. All of this is compounded by gargantuan egos...even in the losers!

The reason I have always taken a very ethical view about poker is I realised that it is very easy to tumble down the slippery slope - competitive behaviour can denigrate into angle shooting and even worse. And this is much worse online where the pressures of physical society around you somewhat pressure you to conform. I advocate this attitude not to appear to be nice, but as a form of mental self-defence :-)
(Notice that I haven’t included that a friendly, dinner table atmosphere is almost certainly more profitable than the austere environment you describe.)

The problem with the Miros case is that ultimately he gained nothing by his actions. Refusing a deal to "gain value" is one thing, refusing a deal where no extra value can be gained seems to my mind to be simply pointless.

I know you haven’t played live for long, Richard, so maybe some examples may help. In my time I have been threatened and had cards thrown in my face, as well as been towered over and shouted out - and I’m not exactly small I have seen fights both in and out of the casino, some of them extremely brutal. I have seen friendships destroyed and "friends" literally steal from friends. This doesn’t even cover angle shooting, attempted cheating, collusion and defaulted loans.

On the Internet I remember a very prominent Internet poster saying that in a tournament, his opponent showed a str8 flush vs. his nuts flush, and as the dealer and his opponent didn’t notice, he gleefully scooped the pot. Another prominent poster on 2+2, when questioned as to how to combat deliberate disconnectors, advocated doing it yourself.
This isn’t the kind of person I want to "grow up" to be. It’s your choice as to whether it is for you.”