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.


Peter B said...

I've been having a general think about what you write, Dave, and I wonder if I could make a general comment.

You wrote in your "quiz" "Assume A and B are not idiots".

In reading your eventual summary of the situation, it struck me that this, in a way, is the key phrase. What does this "assume that they are not idiots" mean?

Your posts would appear to indicate that this means these players will think to a certain level, but not beyond that level. Now, if you have got this assessment right, then you are going to win money off them (but this applies in most poker games). But what if you have got this assessment wrong? What if, in recent months, this has been part of the problem. Your own play has not deteriorated in any way at PLO, but your assessment of what "A and B are not idiots" actually means has gone slightly askew.

Let's take another line on the "A and B are not idiots". We will assume that both have the naked straight.

A sits there and sees that he has the naked straight. Does betting the pot make any sense at all for him here? Suppose he goes through a similar line of thinking to that which you would go through, assessing all the possible situations against him. To be frank, I would have thought that betting out does't make much sense with the naked straight.

But B's situation is even odder. If he has the naked straight, he is definitely alive to the odds of straight vs straight vs your hand, or something like it. It's a bit like the AK vs AK vs QQ situation in Tournament NL.

Does raising A's bet make sense here, given the situation that might arise?

In other words, what I am getting at, is that you are placing the players within a certain competency band, that being, "they are this good, but no more". You then try to outhink that particular competency band.

I do this in Hold'em all the time. Usually where it goes wrong is when I fail to follow my instincts and start playing the "I'm getting very good odds here and my read might be wrong" plan.

But if you are incorrect in your assessment -- if the player is not only "not an idiot", but has suddenly started to think along the same lines as you, then, and I am asking the question here rather than making a categorical statement, would this not put some of your plays on dodgier ground?

The most frequent criticism levelled at me and at my play is that I give opponents' too much credit (rather than the standard US youngster style (and that of many US bloggers) of giving the opposition no credit at all). You seem to give the opposition a very "narrow band of credit", and base some apparently marginal plays on this assessment band being correct. What do you estimate is the chance that your band assessment (of the competency of your opponents) is wrong?

Keep on with the recovery.


Anonymous said...

Well I would assume that for A&B to be playing you better then you are them in this spot they'd have to put you on that hand (high set nut flush draw) to a high degree of probability - which I don't think they can so they would be mostly wrong not to bet/raise their hands up in this spot. So when you have the nut flush or the top set, they, correctly, blast you out. But when you have both, hey, it's payback.

PLO Novice

Big Dave D said...


Thanks for your comments. I guess two things upfront I should say was this was NOT based on a real hand at all. It was sparked off by something I saw on 2+2 and also a similarish hand in Reuben's PLO book. Also, mostly, unless I've got a bee in my bonnet, I tend to be a bit terser on the poker descriptive front than your good self. "Assume that they are not idiots" was a kind of shorthand, which meant I didn't have to spell out the precise nature of the foes. Which meant that they weren't betting out here with an overpair or something daft like that, which still happens at all levels.

In fact I thought, and still think, that the interesting nature of the hand was the EV element combined with the paradoxical side. I don't think, but to be fair I haven't thought a lot about it, that the precise nature of the foes holdings and their style of play was particular important for *this* problem.

As a side note, this is one of the ways PLO is very different from holdem. It can be a very technical game and the maths can be "so right" against a range of foes hands that it doesnt really matter. Pete F showed an example of how this can be very wrong, but this is so rare as to be equivalent to worrying about quads in a trivial situation. If you have 20 outs on the turn, for another example, you don't have to think too hard about calling a bet headsup. And if that bet were to take you allin you really don't have to think that much about your opponents hand *at all*. But these situations almost never occur in holdem.

" But what if you have got this assessment wrong? What if, in recent months, this has been part of the problem"

I hope I have answered this...I don't necessarily think about my foes in this way at all. Rarely at 2-4 and above do you get a complete idiot. It was just shorthand. The reasons I did my dough were more to do with bad game selection, poor tactics against a particular style of foe and playing badly. This is even more apparent now I have finally moved down for good.

In terms of the actual play of the hand if they were "good" players, as I said the specifics are somewhat outweighed by the maths. And it wasn't really the point I was trying to highlight. What I would add is that I have seen almost zero players willing to pass the nuts in any online PLO game. Even less so on the turn. In a 2-4 the other day I saw two guys jam in 400 each in a peewee pot with a made str8 on the flop, and I made a mental note to myself "Wonder what the freerolls are then?" Neither of them had even one improver. This is not uncommon. Even in otherwise excellent players.

"You seem to give the opposition a very "narrow band of credit", and base some apparently marginal plays on this assessment band being correct."

I'm not sure what you mean here. I think the final answer was anything other than marginal, which is somewhat attested to by the fact that so many others said the same thing. In fact Kevin posted a fairly comprehensive answer str8 away. In fact the answer of "just calling" is probably right regardless of how good they are.

I appreciate that the "idiots" phrase may have been misleading...happy to comment on other examples if you feel I have been doing this too much.



Peter B said...

I was trying to get away from this specific hand, and onto a more general theory. Mainly this was because, as you point out, calling is probably right (although I still like my mini-raise, but we'll let that lie for the moment).

The general point is perhaps best illustrated by your own quote,

I have seen almost zero players willing to pass the nuts in any online PLO game. Even less so on the turn. .... Neither of them had even one improver. This is not uncommon. Even in otherwise excellent players.

So, the "competence band" that you are assigning is that your opponents will, in the main, have a handle on the importance of position in PLO. You do not say whether you think that they (as part of your "default" assumption) will understand the importance of stack sizes relative to the blind sizes, and stack sizes relative to each other. But I assume that you do have a default assumption (that which you hold to be true until events cause you to think otherwise).

These are just three of the "bands of competence" to which I refer.

In hold'em, of which I know more, there are other frequent examples. For example, a bet from the SB with a flush or straight draw on the board, but nothing much else, is usually a drawing hand at the levels I play. This is my default assumption. I do not think that many opponents have the wit to bet out with a set of sixes on a board of A62 two spades. With the sixes they would tend to check, call, and go for a check-raise on the flop.

Similarly, if a player from the blind checks to my raise on a flop of 77Q rainbow, then my alarm antennae start to work, because most players at the levels I usually play would only check and call here with a seven. With a Queen they would bet out or (some of the better players) check-raise the flop. With a medium pair a check-call is an option, but a check-raise is more likely.

If the flop then comes a deuce, I bet and then they raise me, my default assumption is that they have either a pair of deuces or (more probably) a seven. This is because few opponents at that level are capable of seeing ahead far enough to set up a check-raise bluff. In other words, I assign a "band of competence" to that opponent as a default. "He is clever enough not to bet his set like a nutter from the off, but not clever enough to try a check-raise bluff with very little".

Once again, these are general points rather than specifics. At 15-30, for example, I would be more likely to assign a "default band of competence" that did include a check-raise bluff (especially if two of a suit are on the board and the guy might have some kind of flush/gutshot draw as an out). The relevant point is not what band of competence you apply, but whether that band of competence is correct.

Now, as you say, one of the things about PLO might well be that this is less relevant than it is in Hold'em. You may well be right in your competency assignments. It was just that the impression I received from earlier writings (particularly the one on the "big decisions") was that you assigned thought processes to your opponents that might not, of necessity, be accurate.


As a PS, I think that Americans *tend* to assign a lower level of competency to opponents than they should (see Roswell's blof, for example, which had a post where nearly all of his listed Party Poker notes contained the word "Donk"). In other words, they feel that "all the opponents are morons and I am going to take their money. If I fail, either I have played like a worse idiot, or I have been unlucky".

By contrast, I tend to assign too high a level of competence, particularly to opponents whom I know to be winners and, in all probability, professionals.

Perhaps your own competence assignments are spot on. It was just my feeling that the range of competence that you assigned was fairly narrow.

Does that make any sense? Probably not....


Big Dave D said...


In a sense you are almost asking TWO questions. One, how do I rate players and two, how do I use this rating to make adjustments to my game.

I rate players almost entirely using PT. Until they get a PT rating, I assume they are fairly poor. It must be said that PT is *far* less effective for PLO than LHE, but it does highlight some tendancies.

It's the "how" at which we are talking at cross purposes. Your example highlights the problems of LHE perfectly. LHE is a game of small edges and big uncertainty. It's constructed to be that way. The way I play PLO is that I am not trying to tweak out the 2nd decimal point of value from small pots. A good example happened as I was typing this comment. A guy raised out of position and I called with QQJ4 ss. The flop came K9x, two clubs and we both checked. The turn came a rainbow ten, making my str8. He checked, I bet roughly the pot and he called with AA and a middle pin draw. Now this is a mistake I simply cannot make. And this is what I meant with regard to that post about "big decisions." When the money goes into a big pot, my decision, *based on the maths* is right a higher % of times than my foes. It has very little to do with putting people on hands at all.


Dave D

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