Saturday, December 16, 2006

An Interrupted Cry

I thought I would do my year end early, not because like MBK I won't be playing much poker, but just to get it out of the fucking way. As I have a lot to say, my usual artful prose will be replaced with semi-random bullet points:

Ennui. For me poker and ennui have always been familiar bedfellows, but fuck me. I could seriously give it up. Maybe.

It's been a good year. Not in the scale of MBK or Wint, but considering my all-round amateurishness I'm moderately pleased. I won just about twice what I won last year. Thank you 6 max NL.

I could and perhaps should have won more. But I spent all my winnings and never really moved up. Goddamn you high on the hog uber-extravagant lifestyle you!

Rolf S's book is by far the best book on PLO. This isn't saying much but is true. Most of the short stackers who have appeared on places like Stars have seemed to have completely misunderstood what Rolf was writing about.

On the subject of Stars, I tried their NL 6 max games and they were much tougher than their old days Crypto equivalents. There were lots of VIP 20, PFR 20 types and the squeeze or thin 3 bet was very common. Bye, bye again Stars.

Betfair – what a fuck up. I mean what a serious fuck up.

If you're not following my blog by a feed reader, you need to. I suspect this will be about as active as GROAN's blog. This could very well be the last post. Then again it might not either. But don't hold your breath.

High Stakes Poker. By far the best poker tv show. Mostly because Gabe Kaplan's commentary is so good. Funny, and occasionally even perceptive.

Danny Boy on said High Stakes show. Man, he was bad. Some bad beats of epic proportions but many, many times he would say “I can't believe you've just so obviously hit a monster and now betting. So unreal. So obvious. But I call anyway.” In comparison Phil Laak looked v v good. And I liked his T-shirts.

One final point, which at first seems obvious, but I've not seen it explicitly said. At the very highest stakes the skill differential is so small you are competiting on bankrolls and the ability to weather variance and emotional control. If all your Foes have 5 times the tank you have, ceteris paribus, you are going to need to be lucky to survive.

Merry Christmas, and Ho, Fucking, Ho.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

It's Great When You're Straight

This post was going to be a review of Rolf's new book, but I couldn't be bothered. Over the last month or so, since the bubble burst, the NL since has taken a battering. The crypto network went pop, and Betfair have made the inexplicable decision to borrow PokerChamps software, which not only doesn't have hand histories, but shuts the door on all that PT shenanigans. Maybe it was deliberate.

I have been putting in the hours playing a fair chunk of limit hilo, having my usual rush followed by my usual crunch, although this time I have managed to stop playing before I have started losing money in the game. Anyway, envious of MBK - in a good way I might add - I thought I would give PLO a spin again. (Short interlude, I think its telling of all the poker bloggers etc that Ben has bounced back from a crushing setback. Ok, Gryko too but that was awhile ago. Cue Neitzche quotes.)

Here are some hands I'm proud of:

Poker Stars
Pot Limit Omaha Ring game
Blinds: $5/$10
8 players

Stack sizes:
UTG: $744.80
UTG+1: $1000
MP1: $1022
MP2: $1104
CO: $1669
Hero: $957
SB: $580.50
BB: $1865.30

Pre-flop: (8 players) Hero is Button with :as :8d :ah :5c
UTG calls, UTG+1 folds, MP1 raises to $45, MP2 calls, CO calls, Hero raises to $80, 3 folds, MP1 calls, MP2 calls, CO calls.

Flop: :kd :2h :jh ($345, 4 players)
MP1 bets $342, 2 folds, Hero folds.
Uncalled bets: $342 returned to MP1.

Final pot: $345


Poker Stars
Pot Limit Omaha Ring game
Blinds: $5/$10
3 players

Stack sizes:
Button: $714.20
Hero: $1509.80
BB: $1689
(Important note..this Foe is very, very aggro)

Pre-flop: (3 players) Hero is SB with :4c :5s :8c :9h
Button raises to $35, Hero calls, BB folds.

Flop: :8d :as :5c ($80, 2 players)
Hero checks, Button bets $79, Hero calls.

Turn: :7c ($238, 2 players)
Hero checks, Button checks.

River: :2c ($238, 2 players)
Hero bets $100, Button raises to $310, Hero calls.

Final pot: $858

I just noticed Pete had an interesting post on the ennui descending on the current spate of internet players. My fists got tired thumping the air with joy and my feet sore dancing with glee at the demise of these D&D playing mother-fuckers.

(Please refer to the last post and its comments if this outburst seems a little odd.)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

You're a Bleedin' Motherfucker Now Aren't You

I've just spent a fascinating hour or so reading a great blog. Okay, it was mine. Ego aside, click on some of the old post links on the right, then click on more of them on the new posts you selected. Be sure to read the comments. There is some good shit in there.

Well, the US finally went ahead and did it. They seem to becoming more of a theocracy day by day. It's gonna be hard to tell them from Iran soon. End of off-topic point. The real point is all the fun gnashing and grinding of teeth by all those young bucks on the HSNL forum. I suspect we won't be getting any “How Should I Invest My Millions into Being a Global CEO” posts soon. It's always tears at bedtime when you confiscate the mechanical pencils and d20 dice off the D&D society.

I had a battle through some of the WCOOP. Man, the standard was poor. I was no superstar, but there was a lot of dead wood in the events I played. The Razz event basically became the Bet Every Street event. I got a tiny draw in the plo8b, which I have written up for my paying job, so you will see it at CPE in a few months. Yes, tournament plo8b in a poker magazine. Fair credit to Rolf S; having spent most of my Net time arguing with and insulting him, he now pays me to write obscure stuff with obscurer titles. Back to the WCOOP, the main problem is still one of concentration. For awhile I was in a really good spot in the $320 NLHE, but I'm sure the fact I was playing 4+ other cash games at the same time didn't help my performance. Knowing that I'm unlikely to win, I tend to see them as a waste of time that needs to be filled by playing proper, profitable poker. Thankfully man-flu prevented me from spunking off any more money past the plo8b event.

I have been playing PLO and PLO8b as a change of pace on Party recently. The standard, at least at the 5-10 levels, is still surprisingly low. Unfortunately, I have not been playing great either, and PLO variance has been cruel. Certainly it seems that PLO brings out the gambler in me. I have been more than a little ring rusty. Having said that, I have lost *ALL* my big pots. That is, $17k or so of pots where I've put my money in well, or thereabouts. Also, it's easy how soon you forget how many hands end up being crooked coin tosses. I must be running at 20-30% on them too so results have matched performance. I may persevere though – the games look that good. Thank god for NLHE and its robust crushing edges for bailing me out.

As a general note, if you did know my screen names but now wonder why I'm so damned ignorant, it's simply that I've turned off chat. So no offence.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Not Donne

Now seems as good a time as any to comment on the WSOP (I originally wrote this before the end of the last Series, fwiw.) Now any Constant Reader will no doubt already know my view on poker-as-sport. If not, check out my old post 'Sport of Kings'. However, there was a very dim, but surprisingly significant chance that poker *could* have ended up as some kind of sport. But I think this WSOP was the death knell.

I am not the first to comment that a successful sport needs successful characters and the clashes and dramas therein. Skill, determination, domination and revival all wrapped up in the competitive arena. Crucially, these participants are aspirational. Everyday Joe Schmoe wants to be his stars, but appreciates and respects that there is an enormous divide between top pro and amateur. But that desire to approach, if not cross, the divide drives behaviour and ultimately unleashes the capitalistic process. Incredibly, against the odds, WPT season 1 almost had this. The continued success of a handful of players gave a sport-like feel to proceedings. How things have changed. Now there is an Everyman feel to tournament poker. It seems like 'anyone' can win a big event. This generates a certain appeal and plenty of drama. But this phenomenon is more in line with reality TV or a quiz show than a sport, and a pretty skill-less one at that. These kinds of things may generate a burst of interest, but that eventually wanes and the ratings die. And there go the sponsors.

For the last few years random donks have been winning dontaskically. Here are some of my favourites. At a WSOP circuit final table, 4 or so handed, Joe Hachem reraises - crucially putting in half his stack. Fellow chip leader reraises allin cold, i.e. he had no contribution to the pot so far, leaving Joe a handful of chips on his obvious, almost regardless of holding, compulsory call. The reraiser had QJs. This play is so bad I’m struggling for words. A better known one is the hand that crippled Greg Raymer in the 2005 Big Dance. Greg raises and continuation bets the ragged flop. He then goes allin on the turn with his KK. His foe has QJs and calls to hit his flush draw. The foe's play is hugely problematic. Firstly, why float no pair, no draw with no implied odds on the flop? Secondly, he called instantly on the turn - no calculation to even see if he was getting the right price. These plays and the success that ensues are akin to a golfing novice wining the US Open with a broomstick. But it gets worse. The WPT is deliberately deskilling the game. The blind increases actually accelerate once you get to the televised final table and it is not uncommon for headsup to be a battle of 10-15 big blind stacks. Lastly, look at the recent WSOP. Would the participants in any real sporting event be treated as shabbily as the poker mugs this year? Would Wimbledon field tatty old balls and saggy nets a la the big HORSE event? For me the coup de grace was the payouts of the Main Event. Once again the organiser arbitrally creates a final table structure to benefit headlines and not players. Nice gradual increases from 9th to 2nd then kachunk, a double the money increase to $12 million for first. I just wish they had done an overt, ugly deal to fuck up those marketing monkeys.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A Change of Pace

For a change I thought I might talk about actual poker playing, as opposed to the usual GOM rants and ravings. August has been an interesting month. I started late, owing to my hols and got off to a reasonable start. Then, just a week or so ago, I was kicking around Stars looking at the WCOOP schedule, when I saw a new tab. “Other Games”. One click later I was looking at HORSE cash games. I guess the ESPN WSOP stuff was good for something after all. We all want to be Chip Reese now. Pretty soon I was on a 100BB rush in the 10-20 game and I started seeing a new, brighter future as a HORSE specialist. Now this fantasy didn’t quite run into busting down the Big Game in a couple of years, but I hate to admit that I actually was enjoying poker again. Not just enjoying the winning, but the actual game itself. And I could play it seemingly for hours at an end. In one day I did 10 hours, 7.5 in one session. And this was playing multiple tables as well. To put this into perspective, I probably haven’t done a big bet session over 4 hours in two years. It almost felt therapeutic.

Perhaps too much so, as I quickly hit a 170BB downswing and I had to stop visualising the delivery of the Porsche from the Stars VIP scheme. It struck me that I probably wasn’t that good after all. On a closer look, the problem seemed to be, paradoxically, in the HO’ element of HORSE (this is putting aside a pretty bad run of luck in Razz, which is truly a game to create the manically depressed.) The HORSE games are 8 handed but then often ran short. More than this, the H and the O were nearly *always* short, as people sat out to avoid paying the blinds. Now Faithful Readers will know of my issues with short handed Omaha. But I also kinda feel the same about short handed limit holdem too. Whereas I have a vague clue how to play 4 or 5 handed limit holdem – as opposed to the Omaha equivalent – I just don’t like it. Too much play “feels” like being a fish. In fact the levels of aggression are so pumped up and calling to the river very thin is so common it was hard to tell chump from champ. Time and again I would button raise, continuation bet against the BB caller and he would take a card off with just one overcard and no other draw. Whether this is right or not, I don’t really know. It may very well be the right play. I just don’t like playing poker like that.

In the end I think it comes down to the blinds. When the game becomes a fundamental scramble for that blind money, I’m just not as effective. It turns me into an alternating tight passive – insane aggro fish. Back to NL.

FWIW, my second article is up on the Cardplayer site here – probably a bit more similar in tone to the stuff here. And with a pretty picture too.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Time-saving Device

I´m on my hols again and thankfully Cardplayer has come to my rescue on the posting front. My first article can be found at:

BDD Cardplayer Debut

Feel free to kick me around here.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Take them Dives for the Short-end Money

The WSOP is shit again. Now not shit in the Harrahs are running it like they are prime contenders in the half-wit Olympics sense. Although, if other reports are even partly true, then they are a shoo in for that particular Championship. Nor do I mean the death of any kind of impartial, non-tourney sycophantic reporting. That died probably a couple of years back. What has really struck me is how bad it has been for those folks who want Poker to be a sport.

Obviously, Harrahs and the Media Circus clearly view poker as just another reality TV show. Because they wouldn’t treat genuine sports stars in such a shoddy way. But unfortunately the results of some of the play seem to be confirming their suspicions. The big names are not dominating. This is bad for poker-as-a-sport. What brings the money into a sport, especially in the USA, is either dominance of, or conflict between, sporting characters. And by characters I mean Tiger Woods not Mike the Mouth. This was always going to be hard for Poker, but crap shoot structures are always going to hurt this. In the WPT, for example, the antes accelerate as you get closer to the big money.

If some of the play is to be believed of the Cardplayer hand by hand, some of the winners have chumped their way to victory. Some of the recent John Gale victory hands were especially dubious. And saddo I am, I tracked Jules Gardner’s 3rd place quite closely and the ultimate winner seems to have played quite poorly. Certainly his move of calling off all his chips with KQs before the flop was very suspect – yes I actually number crunched this one, thanks Andy W.

The ultimate problem is that this becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. The more like Big Brother or Date My Daughter it becomes, the more it will be treated like cheap, ratings eating TV. But the public may have an unlimited appetite for sport, but far from it for another reality TV show.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Crisis on Infinite Earths

Well, that was interesting. For those of you that thought I was starting a burgeoning porn empire over the last few days, I'm afraid not. I was hijacked, which was a disconcerting experience as at first, not knowing about this kind of thing at all, I thought my PC had been hacked and I went into full-on anti-virus/spyware frenzy. Several pointless hours later it dawned on me that any hackers would most likely be emptying my bank accounts, not auto-posting pornography links. Anyway, after a spot of reminding, Blogspot got it back.

On a poker front, as June was quite bad, I thought I would have a spin at a few tourneys, to magic myself into profit. No joy. However I did finally figure out what I am doing wrong. Now those that knew of me back in the old, B&M days knew me as a good tournament player. In fact an occassional reader here said he that I was very, very good indeed - I think it was just mindless flattery but it was nice :) He was also aghast at my playing cash. Which showed just how much a "star" I was in those days. Anyway, masturbatory digression aside, I think my problem is that I still play these tourneys like these good ol' days. Some examples.

I'm chipleader on a full table when a tight player just UTG raises, putting in just about 30% of his stack. With 77 on the button I decide to put him to the test and put him allin. He calls with AQ and he wins the race. Standard? Internet-wise, yes. Old school no. If he was facing a real world drive back him into the middle of the night we would say something like this to himself. It is almost 100% certain that I am at best a 50/50. And quite a few times I will be badly dominated. And its a long drive. Pass. On the Net, he thinks a bit more like, fuckit, another tourney in 5 mins, call.

Similarly, with only 10 or so big blinds I face two limpers on the button. Finding KQs I move allin, expecting to increase my stack by 30%. The real worry, the first limper, passes. After some thought, the second limper calls for a big chunk of his stack with 99. Obvious result. Again, classic Internet woolly thinking. His hand wasn't good enough to raise, but is good enough to call a massive chunk of his stack with no extra factors like hitting the bubble or the like.

Well its only been two years now since I stopped playing live. I'm a slow learner.

Monday, June 19, 2006

King's Shilling

Well the world certainly turns. As the early birds may know, I am now a writer for Card Player Europe. Those who remember my robust dialogues with Rolf S, the European editor, may be a little surprised. However the Dutch have a long history of being both able to enjoy an argument and also being able to put it behind them. So those of you who have enjoyed my midly patronising style can now pick it up in print. Feel free to send raving, mildly insane letters of praise to Cardplayer. For the blog loyalists, there will still be the usual GOM stuff here, and if you want to kick off something based on my articles, then be my guest. This will remain the same old place to hang out and prove how wrong I am and I don't expect a lot of cross over traffic.

Just so this post isnt completely void of poker content, I thought I would just mention that I seem to be having my usual summer. First losing month of any significance this year, although I have been on meagre rations the last few months too. Still winning more than last year though. Touch wood.

I made the mistake of watching the WSOP Main Event on TV. Andy Black looked good. Aaron Kanter and Tiffany Williamsen though....brrrrrrrr.

Friday, June 02, 2006


It has been said that basically the career of a top class mathematician is basically over before the guy’s thirty. It’s a young man game and basically the rest of his life is spent wistfully retrospective. Now I doubt I could be argued as a top class anything but I kinda know the feeling. The best of this blog is not to come. It’s already shot its bolt. One of my favourites was Sport of Kings. It was one of my classic rage against the dying of the light entries where my true vitriolic colours were revealed.

Now against all common sense I actually watched a few televised tourneys to see if I was another pointless Nostradamus or did I really get a glimpse beyond the veil? First, the unintentionally funny. Mad Marty being a tourney director for a proper live event. Now I reported before that he did some sad TV stuff but those vanity 6 player crapshoots barely qualify as poker. But this was a real tourney! It makes you wonder what the qualifications of a tournament director are. Just turning up? Being matey with a load of players and being involved in the worst tourney decision in TV history?

Comedy apart, WTF about the WPT? I can't understand why any serious pro plays in it. Except for the rationale that if you don't stand outside in a thunderstorm you can't get hit by lightening. It that all the WPT has turned into? An exercise of clutching a lightning rod in the dark and hoping to get zapped? I’m afraid so. Let’s have a further look. One of the obvious statements about tournament poker is that you would like to have more chance to exert your skill when the money matters most. This boils down to having more play at the final table.

How does the WPT compare to say the WSOP circuit in that regard? The truth is frightening, unless you are especially conductive. At a Circuit event the blinds increase on average by 30% in each round. At headsup the players had about 200 big blinds of play between them. All good. In the rollin’ dem bones WPT the blinds increase by 60-70% each round, and at headsup the players have an amazing 70 or so big blinds between them. Which often then turns into 30. So with often nearly $500k to $1million to play for, skill has effectively been removed from the equation.

This is basically turning the WPT less into a sport – no surprise there – and more into a bad reality TV show. This is bad for poker for several reasons. Foremost, if other TV teaches us anything, is that people get easily bored with reality TV after awhile. Not in the general, where there is mountains of the inane crap, but in the particular, where shows quickly die after several series or less. Also, and especially so for the poker is sport lunacy crowd, sponsorship will never be interested in the game until there are recognisable characters. Series one promised this, but now every Tom, Dick and Harry is winning an event. Investment does not follow the anonymous.

So although I am envious of the strike it rich crowd I still steer clear of the tournament scene as I know that I just couldn’t cope with the most important poker experience of my life coming down to red and black, odd and even.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Bluff kindly gave me a kick to put up a new post, so you have him to blame. I really enjoy 2+2. Not in any productive way, to do with actually playing poker and improving my game, rather just all the shit and patheticness and noise. It seems very similar to a pornography addiction, without worrying about being caught out by the wife. The HSNL forum is a sewer. Most posts revolve around people guessing what the other posters will say and posting it first, or alternatively copying the poster above them, adding no text or value whatsoever. Or alternatively copying the poster above them, adding no text or value whatsoever.

(Who says there isn’t a rich seam of humour in what I post? Oh, hi Wintermute :-)

The PLO forum has got better. Okay, it has got *more*. Most of the posts are still mediocre at best, and the majority of folk there are probably in what David Young would christen “they can count past 13 stage”. BTW for PLO fans Bluff did post an interesting drawing hand problem. I didn’t necessarily agree with all his answers, but I did agree with the point he was getting at. Worth a serious look.

What has really got me very amused recently is a *serious* post on “what I should do with my life” issues. It seems that earning $200K+ isn’t enough for these young kids today, they want to be entrepreneur Captains of Industry too. And surely their skills of fleecing WPT worshipping donks will easily translate into broking/real-estate/CEO stardom? In true 2+2 GroupThink style, responder-after-responder genuinely believed that this question had some validity and was not the product of a too-much-too-soon insanity.

The short answer, would be grow up. I mean this literally. Life is the best teacher and no amount of “I am sure it’s a transferable skill” will actually replace *doing* the damned thing in the first place. You want to work in finance. Well do it. Just don’t think that knowing what a continuation bet is will be a worthy substitute. But there’s more. First off, don’t suppose that because you are a winning player today that you will be a winning player in ten years time. The game we play is almost unrecognisable from that I learnt almost a decade ago, except for the pasteboard bit. The good players evolve line is nice, but some players are just right people in right time and right place beneficiaries, no matter their winrate. There used to be a lot of marsupials on this planet, and they used to be very successful, until they met up with placentate mammals. How many marsupial lions have you seen recently?

The most ridiculous assumption is that poker success has an underlying set of traits or characteristics that would transfer to business success. Now for some real world players this may be true. Some of the skills and meta-game understandings that folk that understand Gary Caron’s old RPG aphorism of “being in the entertainment business” may be of some use en route to the Board Room. But being able to 8 table for 12 hours without going on tilt or insane? Profitable, yes. Transferable, no. Business will always be about people and how you handle them and unfortunately those fleshy, carbon-based things will always a key component. And saying “lol, u suck” may not be the best way to engage with them on the path to wealth and success.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Well, it's been a long time again. Also, in true lazy blogger style I will spend the vast bulk of this post talking about the *last* post. However, for the Faithful Reader there is a semi-useful tip at the end.

I didn't reply to the any blogs I would recommend comment. I was once asked this self same question at the table by one of my fans. Yes, I did used to have fans who would invariably declaim that they had learned more from my blog about PLO than anywhere else, just before blink-blink-swoosh they scooped me out of a pot. I replied without hesitation that the best stuff available on the Net was Roy Cooke's stuff. Anything else, he inquired? Silence.

To my mind 99.99% of blogs fall into one of two camps. The first is the Internal Monologue. This takes the form of I played; I lost; I won; here’s the hand. You get the picture. Just as if you had really looked into the mental processes of a poker player, chilling thought though that may be, this can be a fun place to visit but ultimately unrewarding. WTFP. The other kind I term A Day in the Life Of. In these the poker is often a sideline alongside a lot of other Socio-Economic-Political-Military-Complex stuff. I respect that this is what blogging is all about, but personally if I want that kind of stuff I buy a newspaper, figuratively speaking.

On the contentious point of ZeeJustin et al – and at least he’s had the decency to go into quiet mode now – I fall into both camps really. I have from my B&M days zero-tolerance for cheaters. OK, well approximating to zero. If they were very bad players too, then I was happy to deal them in. But the nature of online cheating is more insidious. Although it has been argued that Zee didn’t gain too much of an edge from what he did, by my approximate, rough-and-ready maths, if he was playing 5 accounts at once he was 5 times more likely to win. Although this does not seem to work out to be a big edge like say skilled collusion in a cash game, he is still 5x better off than me. This cannot be insignificant.

However, I have a lot of sympathy with Chaos. I have no doubt that Party was completely arbitrary in how and why it seized the money. Although $100k seems harsh-but-fair, what about if he had $500k in his account. And more tellingly, if he had $20k in his account would they have prosecuted him for the additional $80k? Anyone with any experience of Party can unfortunately answer these questions themselves. Disturbingly, “The Player’s Friend” PokerStars came out of the whole affair very poorly. It seems that in any large stacks NL game I sat in, I might be playing an unofficial team of soft players. The whole notion that online poker is helpless to this is as ridiculous as the idea that it is mostly harmless. There would be a variety of very simple detections and remedies that Stars could put into place, but it’s clear that they simply cannot be bothered. I had some experience of the Stars collusion detection in action – I got some tiny rebate from some collusion play they detected. The whole process was shrouded in the absurd and the ineffective. The amount was so tiny it could have only been one or two blinds; they wouldn’t say what game was involved, or players, or even when. I don’t see myself playing on Stars for some time.

Now the tip. One of the problems with short-handed NL is that no one wants to do the heavy lifting of thinking through things themselves. This is what often makes 2+2 forums and the like self-fulfilling prophecies in terms of advice. Here’s one based on an old favourite. Its often said to isolate with a vengeance against loose players short handed. This is mostly true. Except some of these folk are what I call “Fight Every Fight” guys. What this means is that they do not want to give up on any pot and they will often bet, raise, check-raise on very thin values. Especially in raised pots. So if you isolate raise them, especially in fixed buyin games, you often find them in much more rambunctious mood and harder to play than if you hadn’t. So don’t raise them. Let’sjust play poker through the streets instead.

Monday, February 27, 2006


I was going to write something meaningful and profound, but I couldn’t be bothered. I don’t seem to be the only one with a problem with posting. Most of my favourite blogs have gone very much into silent mode.

Never mind. Favourite was a hell of an exaggeration anyway.

You can tell the poker scene is really exploding in the UK. There are now two broadly available poker mags now on the High Street. Well I say two, but I can’t seem to find Poker Player for love nor money. The new kid on the block is WPT Magazine, or something like that. Now normally I treat the printed word like a Franciscan monk; but UK poker magazines invariable find their way into the bin within a couple of hours.

Now I understand that they are aimed at the lowest common denominator but often they contain advice that is simply, utterly wrong. In one issue of Poker Player, the amusingly nicknamed "The Boy" explained that having a staking plan was a key component in successful cash game plan. That is, sit down with a small amount of money and when you have made a fixed amount of profit, immediately leave. With some additional permutations I can't bring myself to repeat. Now even if this "expert" is just filling word count, this madness should not get past any sane editorial process. Oops.

WPT Magazine, or whatever the damn thing is called, is certainly glossier, and doesn’t have all the usual UK pseudo-player-parasites involved. But it is still outstandingly bad. How about this situation. Three handed in a 5-3-2 payout SNG everyone has roughly the same chips (it is a bit vague here). Either one or maybe both of your opponents go allin. The advice is to pass your AA. At least this will keep the tables healthy.

I couldn't leave you without a comment on 2+2. As pointed out by Beset, there has been some excellent Sklansky-kicking on the HSNL forum. Also fascinating was watching ZeeJustin trying to defend open softplaying as being ethically right as "PokerStars don’t really mind". He then further exemplifies his *ethics* by admitting to playing multiple seats in MTT, which has cost him his ability to play on Party and $100K.

An example worthy of Socrates himself.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Four Ps

I have surprisingly found myself still enjoying playing short handed NL. Winning helps of course. As I have commented before, when you play NL you really do feel that the "decision", with all its many variables, is king. In PLO, by comparison, it’s often just playing the maths of the situation. This is down to a very simple factor. In most big hands in NL, you are either really right or really wrong. In PLO, by contrast, big pots are often contested with hands that are very close in value and you are normally either side of a 60/40 shot.

One lesson I would like to think I would bring from my NL game to PLO is the importance of position. When you play NL, especially short-handed, the importance of position is magnified. You can feel how much harder it is to play any hand, especially in a raised pot, when you are first to act. PLO players, unfortunately, treat position almost as an irrelevance, and basically play the same hands wherever they are sat. And this gambling hurts. Here's an example:

You're sat in a six handed NL game with a mix of strong and weak players. You limp UTG with A6 suited (which I would never do, btw) and a good player raises behind you 4 times the blinds and everyone passes back to you. You both have 100x blind stacks. This is a clear pass.

Now look at a comparable situation in PLO.

You limp UTG with a nut suited ragged hand and again the same happens. But being a PLO player you call. The flop comes giving you a nut flush draw and a small pair. You check, the good player continuation bets, as he often does headsup, and you check raise.

He sets you allin.


This is a hugely common set of circumstances that you will see at PLO tables from 2-4 and up. Players, often good players, contriving to get themselves into situations where they are putting their whole stack in jeopardy with marginal hands, just because they think position does not apply to them.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

It Pays to Be Right

I thought I would let you guys do all the work this time. OK, I did have to think of the jazzy titles. Mostly after the first link, you are looking at explanations.

Except for the last one, which needs no explanation.

Pair of Ragged Claws Scuttling

Snail on a Razor
Grocery Clerk (mostly my comments)
Absolutely Goddamn Right

Someday this War's Gonna End

Death Card
It's Gonna Be Hot

And I thought: My God... the genius of that. The genius

One of Those Guys that had that Weird Light Around Him

Saturday, January 07, 2006

A Letter to Hooke

I guess we're all here bright and breezy in a new exciting year. And as promised, I am going to do a little PLOing for you old timers out there. Last year, BluffThis! a regular both here and on 2+2, did a very provocative post about tight play in PLO. As per usual, it didn't garner a whole heap of intelligent responses, however, I thought it might be useful to examine his thoughts and give my views here instead. You can find his post at :

(Quick disclaimer. Bluff has an almost psychopathic hatred of using tools like PokerTracker. I just don't understand it, but I do forgive him :) Is PT as useful for PLO players? Absolutely not. Does it have its uses? Absolutely does. It lets you build rough and ready profiles of players. Now if a guy is playing half his hands and raising with most of them, unlike in holdem, this doesn't *necessarily* mean he's a bad player. But it certainly means he's not a rock. So a raise on the flop is not always the nuts. Also, just for ease of use of reviewing significant hands. PT is a godsend. Diversionary rant over.)

This post of Bluff's is unusual and interesting. Most PLO players just play the preflop quite loosely and with little thought, and then focus from the flop onwards. It’s not unusual to have players with stats of VIP 40%+ and still be winning players. Having said this, there is a profile of winning players, playing circa low 30 preflop and raising with half of their hands they play, so clearly some players are being quite discerning about their standards, if not to Bluff's rigor.

I did feel, though, that there were several elements missing from Bluff's analysis.

1. It's Not the Full Story

If you are going to play as tight as this article advocates then you MUST be raising with the vast majority of the hands you are playing. One of the key raising strategies in PLO is to elevate the stakes when you have an advantage. Clearly, if you are playing this tight, the sheer quality of your hands will be an advantage over the field. So you have to be raising a lot, from all positions.

2. You Need to Link Preflop to Postflop

To my mind, a key element in expert PLO play is how do you link your preflop play to the play running through the streets. One of the reasons I never adopted the raising more strategy was just that I found myself banging it in on too weak values on the flop or the turn. I had a disconnect between my preflop play and the rest of my game. If you are going to be a TAG preflop you are going to need to have an excellent understanding of how you extend this approach against various opponents and situations. The overwhelming advantage and paradoxical disadvantage is that there is no published information on this style of play.

3. It Doesn't Always Win the Most Money

The TAG approach works best in the bigger games. Here, many pots are three way or headsup on the flop, and the game gets NLHE-esque characteristics at times. But certainly from 2-4 and thereabouts, the nature of the game is very different. Many pots are more multiway, regardless of raising, so the UberTAG approach doesn't necessarily have the same impact. Moreover, the pot doesn't need to already be inflated for some schmuck to charge his whole stack in into a poor situation. Bad flush draw, top pair can be a stacking off hand in an unraised pot at the 2-4 level; it may require an inflated, juicier prize in the middle to get people to play quite as loosely at the higher stakes. And of course because of this, it becomes less of a mistake.

These caveats to one side, interesting food for thought for PLO devotees.