Monday, August 30, 2004

Bad Company

YTD: +$52914.78

After one of my best months ever, I’m still unhappy with some of the quality of my decision making. In some ways – not many admittedly, but some – I feel better losing when I’ve done the right thing than winning when I’ve done the wrong thing. The first is a short term fluctuation, the second the start of bad habits. However, one of the mitigating factors in the Stars game is that many players, even the good ones, are making worse decisions more often than me. Here’s an example below. Let the mediocre prevail!

PokerStars Omaha Pot Limit ($5.00/$10.00)

Seat 1: Ludster ($467.90 in chips) (sb)
Seat 2: batoelrob ($1176.00 in chips) (bb)
Seat 3: dougthompson ($450.00 in chips)
Seat 4: acekingqq ($1529.65 in chips)
Seat 5: Foe ($713.00 in chips)
Seat 6: joelmick ($3282.75 in chips)
Seat 7: Lowbrow ($548.00 in chips)
Seat 8: Hero ($1124.00 in chips) (button)
Ludster : Post Small Blind ($5.00)
batoelrob : Post Big Blind ($10.00)

*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Hero [ Ah 9d Qs Ks ]
dougthompson : folds
acekingqq : folds
Foe : raises $20.00
joelmick : folds
Lowbrow : folds
Hero : raises $60.00 (button)

This is a loose reraise against a mostly unknown player, although my hand is quite strong. This was early in the session and I wanted to build some image too.

Ludster : folds (sb)
batoelrob : folds (bb)
Foe : calls $40.00

*** FLOP *** [Kc 8c Jh]
Foe : checks
Hero : bets $110.00 (button)

Not a great flop, but one worth betting.

Foe : calls $110.00
*** TURN *** [Kc 8c Jh] [4d]
Foe : checks
Hero : bets $352.00 (button)

Foe has shown no strength at all. If he’s drawing a big bet should move him out. Over the table I felt I was in front at this point.

Foe : raises $543.00 and is all-in

OK, now I know I’ve been trapped. But. He could have two pair. He could just have a big draw and want to put it in for value. And I still have 3 nut outs. On the range of probabilities against a typical Stars player this is an automatic call.

Hero : calls $191.00 (button)
*** RIVER *** [Kc 8c Jh 4d] [Ts]
*** SUMMARY ***
Main pot $1438.00 | Rake $3.00
Board [Kc 8c Jh 4d Ts]

Seat 5: Foe lost $713.00 [8d 8s 9h Kd] with three of a kind
Seat 8: Hero bet $713.00, collected $1438.00, net +$725.00 [Ah 9d Qs Ks] with straight

I did say this post was about bad decision making, not bad beats :-) At least not for me. On one hand I’ve been outplayed and my foe has made me put in a good chunk of money very thin. But that was only because my hand was in essence a semi bluff anyway. But from his perspective he did not know I was drawing so thin and he has contrived a compulsory call out of me. Anytime an opponents calls when he should fold, or folds when he should call, you make theoretical profit. But the converse is equally true. If your foe calls when he should call and folds when he should fold, you make theoretical loss. And over the long term this theory turns into real money. Or real loss. (For those that don’t know this is in essence the core of Sklansky’s Theory of Poker.)

The check on the turn is especially bad, assuming I had the draw hand, as (a) I could just check it back (b) if I’m the aggressive player he assumes I am, he doesn’t have enough to make my call of his check raise wrong. Unless he puts me on naked AA he must either check raise on the flop or bet out on the turn.

Bad decisions all round.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

I Think We're Alone Now, The Beating of our Hearts is the Only Sound

YTD: +$51824.75

I have been posting to various forums for the best part of 8 years now. All about poker. But eventually the poker content dies. RGP withered on the vine a long time ago. THM has become what I always feared it would. Finally, the last bastion of solid poker content, albeit sometimes heavily moderated, has started to slide down the slippery slope.

I really had high hopes for the new PLO forum. Initially there was some good content but it soon became clear that we were either in armchair expert territory – see post below – or we were having to explain why to raise with top trips when they are the current nuts. I recently posted a hand that I felt was really fascinating, even though I lost. I hoped it might spark off some intelligent debate. Instead it sunk like the proverbial lead balloon. Here it is again, this time with my comments:

PokerStars Game: Omaha Pot Limit ($5/$10)

Seat 1: MickTheHoon ($824.50 in chips)
Seat 2: HOT TEA ($215.50 in chips)
Seat 4: c.cris ($442 in chips)
Seat 5: ungar ($628.50 in chips)
Seat 6: luckylefty ($1456.25 in chips)
Seat 7: Foe ($2117.75 in chips)
Seat 8: Hero ($4536.90 in chips)
Seat 9: TheFelt ($947 in chips)
ungar: posts small blind $5
luckylefty: posts big blind $10
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Hero [Jd 9s Ks Th]
Foe: calls $10

Foe is loose aggressive good and a very experienced live cash player

Hero: calls $10

I would raise or even reraise with this hand in position, UTG I call

TheFelt: calls $10
MickTheHoon: calls $10
HOT TEA: calls $10
c.cris: folds
ungar: folds
luckylefty: checks

*** FLOP *** [Qh 2c Ts]
luckylefty: checks
Foe: checks
Hero: bets $50
TheFelt: folds
MickTheHoon: folds
HOT TEA: folds
luckylefty: folds
Foe: raises $150 to $200

This is a very interesting raise. My Foe knows I am loose aggressive too and he may just be trying to move out my semi-bluff. But why hasn’t he raised the pot, which would certainly be the expected play with two pair – perhaps he is looking for a reraise from me?

Hero: calls $150

I’m not a favourite over trips so I don’t want to lump it all in on the flop.

*** TURN *** [Qh 2c Ts] [Td]
Foe: bets $100

This is a beautiful bet. The foe knows that if he checks now, I will simply go dead on the hand, because I will put him on the nuts full. By betting small he could be trying to provoke me into making a raise. And yet he could also be drawing too and be looking for a cheap card!

Hero: calls $100

*** RIVER *** [Qh 2c Ts Td] [8s]
Foe: bets $500
Hero said, "im stuck"
Hero said, "gimme a clue"
Foe said, "lol"

I really was stuck. My str8 could be good. The $500 is an interesting bet because (a) its not the pot again (b) physically it looks smaller online. I would have been much more likely to call a full pot size bet. And yet my foe may know this as well and so is doing a “milk bet bluff”.

Hero: folds

In the end I decided that I could only beat a bluff or a busted draw. And that discretion is the better part of valour. But god, did I want to call!

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Apologia BigDaveDous

YTD: +$ 47924.00

It’s nice to see that my PLO8b hand has sparked some debate. My initial thought was to show that you didn’t have to just play A-B-C poker to win. Unfortunately, my hand was so far out to right field that I had run out of letters and was getting stuck into the numbers!

On reflection, I don’t like that initial preflop call. However the hand does illustrate some valuable principles, such as how to think ahead and plan your moves and bluffs through the streets, as well as constructing a strategy that is game theory balanced, so that you are not leaking away too much information to those hopefully few players who are paying attention.

Tally raised an interesting point in the comments – why bother with these kind of plays when PLO8b players often simply hand you their money with no risk? Well this is certainly true in the initial stages of a PLO8b game evolution; for more on this see:

But there is a kind of temporary stage, certainly when the stakes become meaningful, where players somewhat wise up but still make fatal errors. By adjusting your game you can then take advantage of this better-but-still-bad play. What kinds of errors are they making? They fall into four areas.

1. Love and Marriage – AAxx is routinely taken to the river, regardless of the board or danger.

2. Hi Fear Syndrome
– If there is a high out there, someone has it. This is a common problem of tight PLO players switching game. I can think of a player on Stars who plays the PLO8b all the way up to 5-10 who is at best mediocre, but makes money just because people don’t look him up when high hands come.

3. I’m Low Therefore I Am – All nut lows must be played. All nut low draws must be played also, regardless of action and counterfeit protection.

4. All Draws are Created Equal – Drawing to nut highs on the turn is debatable in PLO; when there is a low present in PLO8b it is financial suicide, unless you are getting 8 to 1 ish on the bet!

If all you are playing is freerolls and 3/4s you will simply be leaving a lot of money on the table that could rightfully be yours if your foes are making these kind of errors. In B&M, this stage can last quite a while, especially if it is dealers choice where the harshness of PLO8b is mitigated by the kindness of more wilder games. Online it doesn’t last long at all and you have to be careful that you don’t take your looser game into one that has finally gone to a terminal rockfest stage. As an example, although it briefly burnt bright, all the high and medium stakes PLO8b has again gone from Stars. Thank god for PLO! For now :-)

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Armchair Expert

YTD: +$44449.15

This post has a dual nature. Mainly, I wanted to show how some of the super rock thinking on plo8b has become quite prevalent on the web, which my hand below was meant to be an antidote to. And yes I will come back to that hand later! I also wanted to make a small comment on how poor posting on poker has become over the last year or so. RGP has long become mostly noise, or as the long timers (mostly all gone) would have said, the SNR is very low. THM is mostly a chat site. And finally 2+2 has become weak in terms of original, thought provoking content, although I am still battling away in the PLO forum. In fact a few months ago, in an act of pathos, some of the high limit holdem posters said "hey, are we the best there are now? We're not THAT good?" They then stopped posting, mostly.

What you have got left with on 2+2 are self-appointed experts who expound in great detail, often incredibly, ridiculously, lengthy detail, popular wisdom as if it were from tablets of stone from on high. And they are never ever wrong. Even when their previous posts completely contradict what they are saying now, even sometimes in the same thread, as I recently, reluctantly, had to point out to another poster on the PLO forum.

Anyway, have a taste of plo8b thought:

(The snipped thread I am quoting started off with the question do you play a naked A2 in plo8b)

If you can pass a naked A2 draw on the flop then sure you can play the A2. Have you seen the donkey bollox that most of your foes are playing? Even at the highest limits online you will see terrible hands played badly, and your A2 gives you a freeroll on the other two cards. If you are in a tight game then get the hell out because you cant out-rock a rocky game.

These were the predictable responses:

yeah, but it gives you a free roll for nothing.

For naked A-2, I am assuming A 2 7 J

If you have a good flush draw, or a pair to go with it, something that can make a strong hi, then yeah I agree.


Fold it Preflop.

You are at best drawing for half the pot and have no counterfeit defense. The naked A2 is GARBAGE!

Back to me:

What makes you think everyone else is playing A2 only? Also even the junk part of A2 has quartering possibilities, simply because you can often catch people with a nut low, no pair. The guys here who are saying pass an A2 either (a) cannot pass a low draw (b) don't play online.

The other day I won a $2200 pot against a guy who raised UTG with Q876 and bet and bet, and even called a $700 raise on the turn with just a high draw. Whilst this is an extreme, bad play in plo8b is part of the game. And if it isnt then you shouldnt be playing it as tight plo8b is the worse game in the world.

Smasheroo, who became the main protagonist then made this frank admission, which he seemed to forget later:


I think it's more along lines of avoiding tough decisions with marginal hands. If you can eek out extra profit with a naked A2, more power to you, you are a better man than I.

I'll keep folding A27J.

I then commented on playing in loose games to another poster:

Interestingly I posted about how plo8b games get looser or tighter in my blog (ok..its a plug :-)

Almost by definition any game of plo8b on the net is loose, although Ive never played microlimits or even below 2-4 in quite some time so there may be some very rare anomolies. If playing A2 isn't profitable....get up! Of course what some people here are not taking into the equation is that you do actually have a say in how to play it. You don't have to go beserk with it and its ok to pass a nut low or nut low draw. Most of the advice for playing plo8b on here seems to have evolved from playing limit Omaha 8b which is a much MUCH tighter game. As in all big bet games the target is your opponents stack, not winning a few blinds.

So for example, I almost never raise with an A2, in fact I almost never raise in any early positions with any hand. Because you are not raising with it, the A2 becomes much more deceptive, and allows you to play hands with a bit of aggression, knowing you have the nut low for backup. So to use the worst case example, A27J, perhaps the flop comes J83. Although this is by no means a monster, you now have a hand that you can put down some pressure with.

When your opponents are playing loose, you can win money by playing tighter than your "core" game; however you will win much more money by playing looser, although no where near as loose as your foes.

Smasheroo is back with...

In my oppinion, the amount of times you'll have even a vauge hi hand is negative EV to the amount of times you'll just be dumping it. The amount of times you stay in with it for the low is negative EV to the amount of times you get quartered.

This doesn't mean I'm right, but explain to me how it ever ends up being a +EV situation? This is PLO8 we're talking about, where it's almost impossible you're getting to a showdown without calling at least one pot sized bet.

I was getting a bit exasperated now


What games are you playing in? Your response seems to be based on a hypothetical game not the ones I play in. Why should I be being quartered often? Why am I calling pot sized bets? As opposed perhaps to making them. In any big bet game its generally OK to see the flop with medium hands for the implied general I see A2 as a medium strength hand. I believe I gave a reasonable example of a kind of hand that is ok with a medium strength high. Another okay example might be a 3-4 way limp pot where you flop the nut low and everyone checks to you and you bet and take it...or perhaps have to push again against a headsup foe on the turn.

Im not saying that A2 has to be played religiously, or aggressively, just that to say it SHOULD ALWAYS be passed is simply leaving too much money on the table in online games, where even at the 5-10 level, people are playing bonkers.

Smash then retorted, but made me more convinced that he was one of the many armchair experts that haunt 2+2. The NL comparison is exceptionally trite, imho.

The fact that you're playing in looser games would mean you're MORE likely to be quartered with A2 and nothing.

Look at this way, it's like playing any two suited cards in NL holdem. Your argument is basically that sometimes you'll have the nut low alone, or be able to bluff a pot down, or occasionally hit the nut high and scoop. Sometimes you'll make a flush that holds up with 84s. I'm still not going to play 84s in NL holdem, and I'm still not going to bother with naked A2 in PLO8.

PLO8 is about freerolling people who play exposed one way hands and scooping. Why would you want to provide the opportunity for someone to quarter you?

Your example of everyone checking to you after you make a nut low and then taking down the pot is fine, but works with any four cards.

I don't want to argue about it, we'll have to agree to disagree, I guess.

There are many, many better opportunities to get your money in with better EV and I just can't see A2 all by itself not being a negative EV play.

If it's profitable for you, fantastic, keep playing it. As a general rule, though, I'd say it's really not worth playing in PL. In limit, sure. Getting quartered in limit is annoying but not ussually a big deal. Getting quartered in PL is much more of a big deal.

I'd rather be the one doing the 3/4ing.

Not sure why I persisted...


U seem to be continually missing my point that you will only get quartered with an A2 if you allow yourself to do so. You don't have to play these hands by rote. There is a very strong belief in playing ultra ultra tight in plo8b on this forum, popularised by crockpot, which is certainly a winning style, and great for beginners. However Im starting to think that the people that advocate it dont actually play the game much, rather they just hypothesize instead. You can play the game very rigidly and make money for sure, but just by expanding that core of hands a little and experimenting, with skill and thought, you can win much more, especially in the very loose games on the net.

Also your NL example is not a good comparison. A2 is not 84s by a long way. And NL is very fundamentally a different game. In fact plo8b stands alone in the big bet world, imho.

Anyway its clear Im in a majority of one here, so if anyone wants to check out my thoughts, there will be more on this on my blog.

Like most of these kind of guys, he has to have the last word. Where he really seems to believe that a naked A2 is as valueless as 4 random cards...

I'm not missing the point. I'm missing the point at which your argument makes more sense with A2xx than with any four cards.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

In the Kingdom of the Blind

YTD: +$ 41299.45

As a change of pace, and also as someone requested it, I'm looking at PLO8b today. PLO8b is a strange game. There is some excellent advice on how to become a competent, very tight player. However most players seem to think that the entire of the game is waiting for freerolls. What they seem to miss is that if the players are bad enough to give you a freeroll, they are bad enough to give you several opportunities where they will be putting money in the pot in prohibitively poor equity situations. These aren't quite as painless as freerolls, but getting someone to call a pot sized bet on the turn when he only has 20% equity is a hugely profitably exercise. And to get these opportunities you simply have to play more hands than the tighties advise.

PokerStars Omaha Hi/Lo Pot Limit ($5.00/$10.00)

Seat 1: Foe ($1173.50 in chips)
Seat 2: Regency ($882.50 in chips)
Seat 3: Hero ($980.00 in chips)
Seat 4: riskynunber ($369.00 in chips) (button)
Seat 5: DeadMansHnd ($115.00 in chips) (sb)
Seat 6: LuvKingAlpha ($751.00 in chips) (bb)
Seat 7: davmcg ($569.40 in chips)
Seat 8: kdhspyder ($894.15 in chips)
DeadMansHnd : Post Small Blind ($5.00)
LuvKingAlpha : Post Big Blind ($10.00)

*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Hero [ 2s 4h 8s Kh ]
davmcg : folds
kdhspyder : calls $10.00
Foe : raises $20.00
Regency : folds
Hero : calls $20.00

This is a hugely loose call and "not to be tried at home". There are some big howevers here though. The foe is monstrously loose aggressive dumb. The foe will auto-bet the flop, almost 95% of the time. I am sure the button, who is very tight will pass. Lastly, we both have quite big stacks so there is money to be played for.

riskynunber : folds (button)
DeadMansHnd : calls $15.00 (sb)
LuvKingAlpha : calls $10.00 (bb)
kdhspyder : calls $10.00

*** FLOP *** [Jd 3h Jh]
DeadMansHnd : checks (sb)
LuvKingAlpha : checks (bb)
kdhspyder : checks
Foe : bets $97.00

No surprise.

This is a good flop for me in the sense that I can bluff with outs. One thing that many players don't seem to get about plo8b is that high hands are out much less often. This means that high flops are good places to bluff, and also play strong for value when in PLO high only you may be more circumspect.

Hero : raises $210.00

I don't raise the pot. I want it to look like I want a call. Also I don't want to make him run out of money and call out of desperation. His probable ace high is winning after all. I need to leave him with money for the turn.

DeadMansHnd : Fold (sb)
LuvKingAlpha : Fold (bb)
kdhspyder : Fold
Foe : calls $113.00

*** TURN *** [Jd 3h Jh] [7s]
Foe : checks
Hero : checks

This is a bad turn. If I bet here and he has the low draw, which his call of the flop indicates, then he will call. If he then makes the low on the river, I may end up in the ridiculous situation of him scooping me with A high, if my flush doesn't hit. I need to keep him with money so I can get him out if it bricks.

*** RIVER *** [Jd 3h Jh 7s] [Ts]
Foe : checks
Hero : bets $320.00

Bingo. It now looks like I’ve played the hand either like a weak trips or a flush draw. So I want him to think I want a call. So I bet less than the pot again, indicating a "milking" bet.

Foe : Fold
Hero : collected $517.00 from pot

A nice thing about betting less than the pot in this case is that I would have played it exactly the same if I did have the trips. So in a game theory sense my two strategies seem identical from the outside, plus I have the advantage that my bluff is cheaper :-)

Saturday, August 14, 2004

The Penny Drops

YTD: +$40751.85

At last the penny drops…and I did think about the hand from the last post before making the bet:

PokerStars Omaha Pot Limit ($5.00/$10.00)

Seat 1: B Buddy ($1059.00 in chips)
Seat 2: the new plan ($1513.50 in chips)
Seat 3: ButchTimothy ($1587.75 in chips)
Seat 4: monster555 ($1675.25 in chips)
Seat 5: Glenmorangie ($379.00 in chips)
Seat 6: Foe ($917.50 in chips) (button)
Seat 7: 936589 ($949.00 in chips) (sb)
Seat 9: Hero ($2221.00 in chips) (bb)
936589 : Post Small Blind ($5.00)
Hero : Post Big Blind ($10.00)
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Hero [ 2h 2c Tc Qd ]
B Buddy : folds
the new plan : folds
ButchTimothy : folds
monster555 : folds
Glenmorangie : folds
Foe : calls $10.00 (button)
936589 : calls $5.00 (sb)
Hero : checks (bb)
*** FLOP *** [6s As 2d]
936589 : checks (sb)
Hero : bets $20.00 (bb)
Foe : calls $20.00 (button)
936589 : Fold (sb)
*** TURN *** [6s As 2d] [8c]
Hero : bets $60.00 (bb)
Foe : calls $60.00 (button)
*** RIVER *** [6s As 2d 8c] [Kh]
Hero : bets $187.00 (bb)


Foe : calls $187.00 (button)

I win and beat his two pair!

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Shallow Draughts Intoxicate the Brain

YTD: +$40285.80

I don’t consider myself to be an expert by any means. I KNOW, from long experience (and detailed spreadsheets) that I am a good player relative to the people I play, and my wife has the money to prove it :-)

One of the reasons I created this blog, beside vanity, was that I hoped to get insight into my own play by the process of writing about it. I know that a lot of Internet posters feel the same. What has also happened, of which I am very grateful, is that some of the top Internet minds occasionally hang here and post some great stuff too. READ THE COMMENTS!

Originally it was the Sklansky-like Aksu, well Sklansky-like in his brevity :-), who pointed out that a fold I had been proud of for years was actually a bad one. Now several people have pointed out that a play I had put up as a good one, was actually a bad one.

They are right.

I didn’t spot the flush draw on the flop on the hand below. I think that I may not have spotted it when I played the hand either, which is worse. Or I discounted it, which is much worse. My foe, if he has Aces, has a 14% chance (correct me if I’m wrong) of having the nut flush draw. This doesn’t seem much, but it greatly diminishes all my best out situations on the flop.

Actually this reinforces my lack of thought theme from the last post. I nearly always auto-raise in these situations so that just putting the brakes on this was some achievement, although so focused on the trees, the forest fell in on me.

I need to do some more thinking.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Do the Right Thing

YTD: +$34795.25

I’ve been back in the PLO game again and it’s made me realize that one of my problems is lack of thinking. And I must say that I think that this is fairly endemic on the net. I don’t mean not thinking in the blindly stupid way, although I do that too. But simply making too many routine actions. This is even more critical in PLO where many situations are NOT routine, and a little thought would greatly maximize the earn on the hand. Here are some examples. One in which I lost, but I liked the play…the other in which I won but thought the play sucked.

PokerStars - Omaha Pot Limit ($5.00/$10.00)

Seat 1: CHUFTY ($1380.05 in chips) (sb)
Seat 2: allaw ($400.00 in chips) (bb)
Seat 3: Rinehart ($1652.25 in chips)
Seat 4: F.U.N. ($175.50 in chips)
Seat 5: wedel ($654.00 in chips)
Seat 6: Tommie ($967.25 in chips)
Seat 7: Hero ($2301.40 in chips)
Seat 8: fabsoul ($705.00 in chips)
Seat 9: BTDT ($1157.00 in chips) (button)
CHUFTY : Post Small Blind ($5.00)
allaw : Post Big Blind ($10.00)
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Hero [ 7c 9c Th Jc ]
Rinehart : folds
F.U.N. : folds
wedel : calls $10.00
Tommie : folds
Hero : raises $30.00

(Yes I’m playing loose here but I was trying too build a more aggressive style)

fabsoul : folds
BTDT : calls $30.00 (button)
CHUFTY : folds (sb)
allaw : folds (bb)
wedel : raises $125.00

(It’s a limp reraise, so almost certainly pocket AA, unless he is especially tricky or loose, which he hasn’t shown himself to be so far. My hand is value against an AA)

Hero : calls $105.00
BTDT : folds (button)
*** FLOP *** [Kd Jd 4c]
wedel : bets $312.00

(A gambling play in PLO when you think someone has AA is to raise them if you have hit the flop in any way whatsoever. I considered it, but rejected it as HE DIDN’T HAVE ENOUGH MONEY TO PASS. If I hit my hand I still get paid, and if the board pairs I will be glad I didn’t put him all in.)

Hero : calls $312.00
*** TURN *** [Kd Jd 4c] [Kh]
wedel : bets $207.00 and is all-in

(Uggh, the board pairs. I’m getting just less than 6 to 1 on the call. If you run through all the permutations here, even including a chance that you are in front, it becomes a clear pass, especially as your being in front % decreases based on the foe.)

Hero : Fold
wedel : collected $936.00 from pot
On the other hand…here’s one I won, BUT didn’t like!

PokerStars Omaha Pot Limit ($5.00/$10.00)

Seat 2: BTDT ($563.00 in chips) (bb)
Seat 3: Camille ($701.00 in chips)
Seat 4: Hero ($1654.25 in chips)
Seat 5: wedel ($2749.25 in chips)
Seat 6: gilgamor ($1056.00 in chips) (button)
Seat 9: Smart Ace ($866.90 in chips) (sb)
Smart Ace : Post Small Blind ($5.00)
BTDT : Post Big Blind ($10.00)
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Hero [ 2d 5c Qc Kd ]

(I’m very loose here, but the game was strangely passive)

Camille : calls $10.00
Hero : calls $10.00
wedel : folds
gilgamor : folds (button)
Smart Ace : calls $5.00 (sb)
BTDT : checks (bb)

(woohoo I won the button)

*** FLOP *** [6c Qs 9c]
Smart Ace : bets $38.00 (sb)
BTDT : Fold (bb)
Camille : Fold

(This is a thin call, but we’re playing implied odds here. I felt this foe was particularly unlikely to be betting out with a draw.)

Hero : calls $38.00
*** TURN *** [6c Qs 9c] [Kh]
Smart Ace : checks (sb)

(Nice card, and foe slows right down...a chance to bluff with outs, or even maybe be in front)

Hero : bets $90.00
Smart Ace : calls $90.00 (sb)
*** RIVER *** [6c Qs 9c Kh] [Ks]
Smart Ace : checks (sb)

(I’ve got a lock. The question is how much to bet. I almost always underbet the pot in every situation so this would look natural. However, and this is a big however, what kind of hand could he call ANY bet with here. The str8 is unlikely and if he missed the flush he’s gone. A small bet may provoke a bluff reraise but this is v v v unlikely. So the situation is, he is either going to pass no matter what I bet, or he will call any bet, because he had trips on the flop and now has an underfull, but probably hopes I have a str8. Betting the pot is clear here.)

Hero : bets $170.00


Smart Ace : calls $170.00 (sb)

(he does have an underfull :-( )

One of the first things you learn as a successful cash player is that it is decisions, not pots that count. As an old poker friend used to say, “putting your money in well”. Its important not to let the high speed and frankly dumb play on the net let this early lesson fade.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

In Vino Veritas

YTD: +$27808.75

Wow, we are having some great threads again in the comments. Check out two poker minds discussing excellent tourney strategy. Most of what needs to be said there has already been said, but FWIW I think that Tommy Angelo, a great antidote to Sklanskyism on the 2+2 forums, gets it right when he says “the decisions that haunt us the most are the ones that matter the least.” I think Chaos’s hand is right on the cusp and could be essentially neutral as to the decision, with a slight tilt to the +EV side. And I would have gone allin too.

However, and this is a big HOWEVER, there is a meta-game situation to be considered. Chaos is normally great on these matters, but doesn’t reveal them here. (I'M EDITING HERE...CHAOS DID MENTION THEM, IN DETAIL...I WAS TOO DUMB TO NOTICE :) Basically do the table conditions, stage of tourney, quality of players etc, override the technical, mostly mathematic decision you have to make? Of course override is an inaccurate term – if you could reduce these intangibles to a mathematical % then of course they could be factored in. It’s just hard over the table :-) Perhaps an example would make things clearer.

I was recently in the US as part of a sales brainwashing for my new job. Smashed out of my face and jet lagged, I stumbled into a one table poker tourney amongst some of my new colleagues! Anyone who has been to the states recently would be amazed at how massive poker has become. The ESPN coverage of the WSOP was on every day, sometimes even pushing log rolling and dog jumping off the schedule (don’t ask.)

Soon my charade of clueless Englishman had fallen, and we were 4 handed with the top 3 spots paying 50-30-20. The sums were fairly small – I was too pissed to remember – but first was something like 240 bucks and the only sum really worth shooting for. A key hand came up as a battle of the blinds. The SB made a small raise and I called with suited nonsense in the BB. The flop came A high with two of my suit. After going through the whole repartee of Mike Caro’s Book of Tells, he did everything but burst into tears, he finally, reluctantly, begrudgingly moved allin. So clearly he had an Ace :-)

Incredibly, considering my very, very debilitated situation I went into deep thought. The maths was, or seemed close. Although I wasn’t getting quite 2 to 1, if I won this hand I would be a monster chip leader and a favourite for 1st. As Chaos would say, my utility value was skewed for 1st. :-) However, if I called and lost I would be very short stacked and have to win the next two or three showdowns to get back into contention. But. But. These guys weren’t Internet players. Although they played poorly, they were not bonkers aggressive and very much disliked calling and making big bets. So far I was the only person to have gone allin in the session. If I passed I would still have a playable stack and more than enough to make people pass their blinds. And these blinds were chunky and more than worth winning. So through a befuddled daze of alcohol, incredibly, I passed.

The meta game factors were very important in this case.

Now clearly you don’t want to go to Phil Hellmuth-like extremes, but sometimes stopping and thinking about bigger issues in the game, especially online, can pay dividends.

(I won the tourney of course.)

Monday, August 02, 2004

No Sleep to Brooklyn

YTD: +$27801.25

12 hours + to complete a WCOOP event. Yikes! I didn't enter my dead money into the 500 event tonight and I am now seriously thinking about selling my seat for the PLO too. I just can't play that long. I don't want to play that long. When I got up bright and early the other day and they were STILL PLAYING I felt ill. I guess I will never hit the big time :-(

For a change, a limit hand I quite like:

I'm in the usual insane 30-60 Omaha hilo game on Stars and raise in late position with 9d 5d 2s As and I pick up three callers. The flop comes 4h Tc 8c and everyone checks to me...I check! The reason for this is that I have no shot for high, and this being Stars, no chance of taking the pot here. Also I may get check raised by a whole range of hands. The turn comes a Jc and the pot is bet and raised coming to me. What would you do?

(pause for thought)

I passed. Even though it was limit.

In analysis later I was more than pleased with this surprising, to me at least, decision. Looking at all the permutations is tricky, so instead I looked at the best case to see whether I had pot odds. Best case is that all my lows are good, there are no more raises on the turn and I will not be quartered. The math for this is straightforward and clearly showed that even for this ideal world, I don't have the right price to see the river. Therefore QED for a more realistic case where I would have been very -EV.

All the money I must have lost glibbly pressing the "call" button. Yuck.