Saturday, August 27, 2005

Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen

YTD: +$21059.39

We had a great response to the PLO quiz. Lots of thought, debate and comment. Someone from 2+2 came by here the other day and said where was the best place to talk about PLO, with the demise of that forum.

I said here. Thanks guys for proving me right.

I found the problem both interesting and paradoxical. Interesting because the “obvious” play becomes very hard to do; paradoxical because it follows a theme we have seen in this blog, of good plays from experts being indistinguishable from bad plays from the unskilled.

The inexperienced eye, on seeing the problem, thinks “I have nothing; I should call and see what happens on the river.” Those players who have done their homework will recognise this as a fairly familiar case of the drawing hand having a greater EV than the made hands *if* there was no further betting, made slightly more unusual by the fact this is happening on the turn as opposed to the flop. These players go “Great, I should get all and get my foes allin too.”

But this is the root of the problem.

If by raising, you make one of your opponents fold, either because he doesn’t have the straight or, admittedly rarely, he realises that he is in danger from being freerolled or the like, then by now being headsup, you go from being a healthy EV positive to a slightly EV negative.

So as so many of the responders pointed out, the correct answer is to just call. Which was the same answer the neophyte gets too, but with a lot less hand wringing.

FWIW, I thought the miniraise was an interesting spin, but still had all the same dangers, ultimately, of a full blown raise.

The answer doesn’t change with very big stacks involved, except for the case where A slowplays and reopens the betting and B stays in. Then you can surprise the pair of them by suddenly springing into life and raising again.

The betting order problem proved slightly more intractable. Aksu gave a clue, in that ideally you would like to be betting first in this spot. Of course asking for a seat change in the middle of the hand may give things away a little. However there is a long shot scenario that does make you bet first. That is check-check-bet. Hopefully then, A and B are both dirty sand bagging dogs and will suddenly spring into life.

Or they will both pass because we are actually in the wrong problem.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Wholeness and the Implicate Order

YTD: +$19784.89

Imagine you are on the turn of a PLO hand against two other players, A and B, to be original. There has been a some action on the flop, say a bet and some calls, and the turn presents you with the delight of a nut flush draw and top trips, and you are last to speak.

(Clearly this is a fictious example :-)

However, there is also a clear straight visible. The pot contains $100 dollars and you and your foes all have $1300 left.

What is your strategy? Assume A and B are not idiots.

What do you do if A bets out and B raises?

Is this any different from A checking and B betting?

If you could choose a betting order, what would you choose?

And lastly how would having bigger stacks change things?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

They Turn Their Back on the Land

YTD: +$19316.06

I have been playing poker for what seems like an age now. Certainly in Internet terms, it has been almost forever since I first stepped into a casino for my one buyin into a rebuy tournament - I lasted 20 minutes and had to walk home in the dark.

When I do stop to reflect, I realise how very different the pre-Internet, pre-ESPN world of poker in the UK was to this new halcyon age we play in. And very different are the players too.

When I played, Poker was just coming out of its Dark Age. The revelations of Late Night Poker were still ahead of us and the game was still mostly full of degenerates, losers and "characters". At 25 I was one of the youngest players by a very wide margin. The number of "professionals" was so tiny as to be insignificant. Several players had very dubious sources of income and were themselves not perhaps, the kind of people you took home to have Tea and Biscuits with Mother and the Vicar. The cash game I cut my teeth in, as I have mentioned before, did not have cards speak as a rule. It was that severe. If a fellow exposed his “losing” hand, showing the winner, without realising it, only players in that pot could mention it. More bizarrely, I saw people split pots with opponents who claimed to have the same hand, tabled in front of them, but in fact had a loser. I did not say a word.

I witnessed a fight at my table where a young gun, later a very successful pro, got into a drunken brawl, rolled around on the floor with the guy next to him, yet when management resumed calm, they then both of them sat together and carried on playing as if nothing had happened at all. Two maiden Aunts. I had a large combat knife pulled on me once, and was jokingly prodded with it by a celebrity drunken player. Joke, yes. Unnerving, yes too. There were other, more brutal conflicts, where serious harm was inflicted.

I used to play with people who were widely known as cheats, pot shorters, rat holers and all round not very nice types. There were some nice folks too, but they were very much in the minority. In fact, anyone not old enough to be my Dad was a minority.

Trying to make poker players behave ethically was, and I guess still is, a bit like forcing maggots back into the corpse.

Despite all this, we all knew what were were doing. We were gambling, some more successfully than others. We didn't kid ourselves that we were involved in "sport" and some fantastic mental athletics. And although some of the players would not be creating an emotional and societal vacuum by winking out of existence, we all, roughly speaking, behaved reasonably ok around the table. And despite our differences, please god we had them, I did feel something in common with them.

Today there are huge swathes of players I feel almost nothing in common with at all.

The Idiot Savants are a strange breed. These Uber-geeks normally come from some teenage sad-fest of gaming like organised Warcraft or Magic the Gathering. Now I have a little sympathy for Geekness, as I am certainly a closet Geek myself, despite having once played rugby and all that inevitably entails. But these types are beyond the pale. Normally very young, if even legal, and with a capacity to play huge hours over many, many screens they churn through winning at a relentless, religious rate. But in the end, you start to ask yourself, impressive though they are, is that it? I mean, what are they going to do when they grow up? As pointless, valueless lives go, poker player is up there with compulsory masturbator. So much talent, so little point.

Whereas the ID's are rare, the other group I feel little connection with is the swarm of Nearly Men. At first glance, these folk seem to be winning players; some significantly so. But when you start to look a little deeper, perhaps reading blogs or comments or forums the penny drops. They really have no clue what they are doing. I don't mean this to be patronising, certainly with my results I would struggle to do so. But often they can talk the talk but can't walk the walk. Or maybe they can execute but don't understand why or how they are winning, which in the long term can be just as bankroll fatal. As a group they are surviving on low rake, insane WSOP/WPT driven newbies and variance. The tsunami is coming, but these guys are still playing on the beach.

The last group, often overlapping the others, is certainly my least favourite. The ESPN wannabes. These are the kind of people who try and combine Poker with Jackass. The kindest thing I could say is that they are juvenile, but even when I was young, I was never that juvenile. The ESPN types fill forums, blogs, tourneys and cash games. Now I am no saint in cash game comments, to my shame. But hopefully what I say is always funny, and often becomes self-deprecating. In fact I have become quite friendly with several people I started off whining to. But I would never criticise someone that I had just beaten. Or write posts which showed continually how bad everyone else played whilst I was a righteous superstar. Or just be so damn fucking rude. Their demi-god and spiritual leader is Amir "Rocks and Rings" Esfandiari. I just wish I could put him and his mini-Mexican fucking wave into some of the games I used to play in.

Christ, I am starting to sound like an old man.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

New York State of Mind

YTD: +$15612.19

Apologies for another long pause. Work has a habit of getting in the way, and I play so many tables, 4-5, when I do play, that blogging is impossible.

Although the trend is slowly back upwards, it disguises the usual wide range of swings. So far this month I have been nearly two grand up, three grand down, now just a bit above break even. At times I have played gloriously, others very, very poorly. This is one of the intrinsic reasons I enjoy PLO play - the "rightness" of your play is often very transparent; who the hell could tell in that value bet/stop and go/semi-bluff turn raise of limit holdem. I did actually try NLHE for a little while, but I found it intrinsically dull.

A bad play: hilo in an unraised pot. FLop comes J55 and its checked around. Turn comes 9 and the big blind micro bets - $6 in a $20 pot and I raise with a399. He mini raises and I call :( He bets the pot on the river and I call and he shows 55. This kind of mini raise is often a big tell. But the mistake is raising the turn. He is almost certainly not semi bluffing here...he either has me murdered or I have him murdered. In these spots there is no shame in going limp, especially if you can't pass a raise :(

A good play: an unraised pot comes t34 rainbow. Loosey bets and I raise with 4467 and a good player cold calls, loosey passes. Turn comes a K putting out a 2 flush. I bet about 3/4 of the pot and good player raises the full pot. I pass.

Unusual play: I raise with AAQJ suited, bad player calls, loose, sometimes good or bad player reraises, I reraise again, bad player cold calls everything, other foe raises again (yes we all three had plenty of money!) and I pass. Yes pass. As it happens, $ and EV wise the pass was probably wrong, but thinking wise, it was very encouraging.