Saturday, September 04, 2004

Words are Like Leaves

YTD: +$61390.88

I don’t read a lot about poker any more, nor post on many forums. I’ve already commented on the dire state of posting on the popular forums. I recently did a trawl of poker writing to see how that was getting on. Ughh. I was right to stay away. I was astounded by how much of it was simply bad. Bad as in wrong. Or dumb. Or both. Here are some examples, and not just the soft targets like “The UK’s answer to Mike Caro”.

Anything by Phil Hellmuth

OK..I lied…one soft target then. The man is self-delusional to the point of insanity. As a case in point, read his view of the WPT event with Hoyt Corkins. Then watch it. Then marvel at how on earth Phil got from one to the other, except as justification for being comprehensively outplayed.

Harry Demetriou at Poker in Europe

Poker Europa has long been the Cardplayer of Europe. And that is not a compliment. Although Harry generated mixed views after his appearance on THM, with his knowing everyone style, I always quite liked him, as much as you can from glowing letters on a screen. Then this article :-( Here are some quotes:

“A good player in a cash game should also be a good player in tournament play as the basics for play itself in both are the same”

This made me grimace, but it may have just been an over-simplification. As a practical matter, the intersection of sets between good cash and good tourney players is tiny. And from a theoretical POV there are even more differences. But I guess the rules are the same.

“…more than fair proportion has little or no experience of tournament play…termed dead money… 40-50%... have next to no chance of …tremendous overlay in terms of positive expectation .”

This is a corollary to the small fields with better players are harder than massive fields with mostly chimps argument. Quality outweighs quantity. Paul Phillips has already shown how simply preposterous this is. But it is.

“There is also the question of value for money as most tournaments typically charge around 6-9% as an entry fee for the privilege of playing whilst cash games can vary tremendously and are seldom less than 10% regardless of whether they are raked or time charge games.”

??? WTF

“Another appealing aspect of tournament play is that it is also possible (at least in many of today's bigger buy in no limit tournaments) to make a big score. On the downside however is that because of the increased volatility you will need a relatively much larger bankroll to play tournaments than cash games.”

Sklansky showed that even in moderate several hundred player fields exceptional tourney players could go many, many years without a profit. Based on the big score criterion then the lottery is a good investment too.

Rolf Slotboom

I always though quite highly of Rolf’s game, from what he has described of it in his articles at least. Then reading his latest article I found:

(On losing several pots) “…it was not just the money: The lucky image that I have had been shattered.”

This brought a grimace but maybe it’s a language thing as English isn’t his native tongue.

“I thought it was best to stick to my short stack, move-in-early strategy that has given me so much success in previous years”

This brought a tightening of the lips and a shake of the head. Was he actually describing PLO?

Finally, he described a hand where he takes KK single suited against 4 other players, all big stacks, all-in before the flop. Now there are some exceptional circumstances when this may happen, but in general its poor play, or at best very, very, very marginal. Obviously he wins, but the story is positioned very much as a triumph of his skill and ability, without really stressing how exceptionally lucky he had been.

Another one out of the favourites then.

Dan Negreanu on RGP

I popped into rgp to see if things had improved. Heh. What was apparent though was that DN has not learned the lesson of that fine poker player though he may be, whenever he puts his “thoughts” into writing, he’s far from impressive. Here are some words of wisdom:

“ When a great player is playing his best, he may be capable of unheard of laydowns, oron the other side of the coin monster calls or monster bluffs even. Typically average to good players can only marvel at how a guy like John Hennigan plays a particular hand. Often, it's simple "over their head"

and very closely related to:

“You can use a chess analogy: if good chess players didn't understand why Bobby Fisher made a play they may see it as a mistake. Only Fisher knows that it is the best play available. With poker, good players might not understand the reasoning behind a play that a great player makes. Only a player that has a GREAT understanding of the game can deem whether or not another player is skillful.”

Hellmuth hubris?

“He's just got "feel", that one unquantifiable poker skill that "math guys" so desperately want but simply can't learn.”

I haven’t put up the ripostes that DN deservedly received over these gems, you can Google them yourself. However the last one was answered so elegantly it merits repeating:

“You say that like there weren't (at least) two "math guys" at the final table of this years WSOP final. It's a pity that one had to knock out the other.

It's those kind of statements which make it pretty clear that you don't really have much of an understanding of what "math" is.

The difference between "feel" and "math" is the difference between heads and tails. It's the same coin. It's just that the "math" people know that the coin has two sides, whereas the "feel" people think it has only one.'


Anonymous said...

All good points, Dave, but have you seen this:

I find it excruciating. The Zen nonsense is dreadful.

David Young

Big Dave D said...


I said no soft targets :-) Jesse's biggest problem is that he seems almost clueless on Poker and has an overinflated opinion of short term results, especially around those he cronies around. The only decent thing he wrote was that the hardest thing was managing the luck, not the skill. He also wrote some good stuff on what is the point of the commericalisation of Poker, which appeared on rgp.

Good to see u around, DY


Andy_Ward said...

I liked Jesse's book very much, but find his WSOP reporting variable. Some not so good, but his report on the WPT $25K final (DeKnijff) was excellent.

In general, I think you should apply higher standards to writing that's paid for and posted on websites (such as Pokerpages) than blogs or forum posts. After all, in the website case, someone must have said "yes, that's fine, here's the money". It beggars belief in the case of our hero PS, however he's by no means the only one. A lot of the writing on Pokerpages is very poor indeed.


Anonymous said...

Totally agree with what you say.

Phil Hellmuth is amusing - someone mentioned on another forum
"The man can rationalize absolutely any situation to pretend he played perfectly and whoever beat him screwed up"

Rolf Slotboom's pieces for CardPlayer are embarrasing in the extreme, on a par with Samuels'. Do they pay him for this ???

Oh, and Mark Strahan has a book for sale on Amazon.

What is the world coming to ?

Big Dave D said...

Oh god...just found this one on Poker in Europe:

"Domination of an opponents cards is only part of the equation. Odds will always overcome domination. Thats why the Morton's Theory. The more players the harder it will be to win the hand."

Ye Gods! I think we have a winner :-(


Andy_Ward said...

This field is nothing if not fast-moving. We may have yet another new winner :

Big Dave D said...

I surrender.

He writes as well as he plays.



Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

A while ago, someone mentioned your blog, and told me that you commented on one my my works. So, as it turns out I am about a month or three late, but anyway, here's my response.

First of all, thanks for calling me "one of the favourites" - I don't get compliments that often. :) Now, as to the KKxx hand in question. The only time I have written about this hand, was not in an article, but in the "What's Happening" section on my site. You are 100% correct that in the situation described here (deep money / multiway pot) going all-in with kings single-suited is a very marginal decision. In fact, if you read some of my older PLO articles I have more than once shown the dangers of moving in with KK. And in this case the situation was even more dangerous: not just was I up against three players, my kings were very crappy, so even if my reads on my three opponents were excellent, then I would still be ahead by just a fairly slight margin. In fact, no player that I know would have made the final (massive) raise with a hand this weak, because they would have reasoned "with so much action, someone must have aces"- they would either have called or folded. So, I was proud that I had the courage to trust my read and be correct, being a clear favorite against the person with the second-largest stack, who had QQ22 double-suited, while if I remember correctly one other player had JJ22 and another QQxx - meaning that for a large side pot I was in fact an (unexpected) large favorite, and for the main pot I was in good shape as well, no one even holding a single ace or king (!). More than all this, if you read my piece, you will notice the word "fortunately" on more than one occasion, because I *had* been very fortunate. But I had also made a daring but correct decision to not just flatcall to see a flop, but to come back over the top of not just one, not two, but THREE raises with nothing more than crappy kings, and I was obviously proud of that decision. Wouldn't you be proud if you trust your read so much, that you know that if your read is right, you will probably be ahead by just a slight margin, but if it's wrong you will be a massive dog - now, if you still trust your read in a difficult situation like this and you turn out to be right, wouldn't *you* be proud?

I will discuss this entire night of poker into depth in one of my upcoming CardPlayer articles, including this final hand. I have sent over the article already and I cannot make any changes now, so I'll just hope that indeed I have acknowledged how lucky I had been! :) Anyway, Dave, just thought I'd send you a reply, also to compliment you on your blog: it is well-written and contains some excellent info. Keep up the good work, man.

Rolf Slotboom (soon to be transformed into