Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Posted by Johnnymac 7:57 PM
And now I have read Dr Fro's post... and I feel compelled to give props to my landlord again.

Chris and I both started at the same table - with Ted. As soon as I got the news, I was quite irritated because it meant that I wouldn't be able to dominate the action. I was scared to play with Ted, because, while Ted isn't a good player, he does introduce volatility to the game and I don't like volatility because that means that my chances of being unlucky just went up.

Chris, on the other hand, was about as excited as he could be when he got the news. He saw it the otherwy - as an opportunity to be lucky . This is because he figured Ted was like a free extra stack of chips - pick your spots right and Ted's chips are your chips and BOOM you're on your way to the final table. Chris recognized this and was rightly excited. He didn't up winning Ted's stack directly from Ted, but he did end up winning them eventually through other players at the table. It happened just as he was hoping.

I gotta give credit where credit is due. He had the right attitude and he took advantage of the good fortune. He needed a little luck and he got a lot of it. Congrats to Chris, he deserved it.

(now, about next month's rent...)

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Posted by Johnnymac 7:35 PM
Editor’s Note: Dr Fro and I are posting separate entries about the same subject. We have agreed not to view each other’s entries until both are posted so as to keep our own thoughts uninfluenced by the other’s. By design then, there is likely to be some redundancies... please read and enjoy

What happened this weekend, including a description of how I got busted out of my own tournament.

The Main Event was this weekend – Dr Fro and I had been planning it since July when we saw at another tournament just how popular ESPN and the Travel Channel has made poker lately. Previously, Fro had organized four tournaments over the past three years and they were all small affairs of 20-30 players 5-10% of whom we had to beg to show up after an equivalent number either was non-committal or just plain flakey when the time came to play. But this time was much different – there were so many responses that we had to put in a waiting list and even seriously considered allowing more players to play than we had previously planned. Before we even dealt the first card the tournament was a success – the winner’s piece this time around was almost $2,500! This might not even compare to even a small tournament event in Vegas or California, but for a bunch of dumbass guys in Houston, this was quite a bit of money.

One of the modifications we made from our previous tournaments was that instead of allowing players to take turns choosing from a list of different games, we decided this time to play nothing but No Limit Holdem (NLH) with escalating blinds. This was done for a couple of reasons: 1.) it’s easier and simpler to have one game with one set of rules, and 2.) this is the game that is played in the televised events today and thus it’s the game that many of the new players are going to want to play themselves. I think this worked out well for both of these reasons and was a wise decision.

Now anyone who plays a lot of poker knows that NLH is a very different game from normal limit poker in a casino, which itself is much different than penny-ante games around the kitchen table – the strategies involved are much different in each situation, with the most notable difference being that made hands are much easier to protect when large bets are allowed and accordingly, bluffs can be more effective, too. Similarly, many of the new players whose sole experience come from television don’t often grasp that the televised games are heavily edited and feature some of the best players in the world making some of the most advanced decisions and plays in the entire world of poker. While it may look like the pros are playing every single hand and calling and raising with just about any two cards, they’re not, and anyone who had played enough holdem can tell you that quality of hand-selection is one of the most key differences between good players and bad players. Altogether, the inexperience of many of the players was another one of the reasons we decided to switch the games, because it made for a more lucrative event for those players who are familiar with the game, including the organizers themselves. Yes Virginia, we were looking to take advantage of dead money, and there was a lot of it.

Now, before I give the wrong impression that this thing was like shooting ducks in a barrel, it most certainly was not. Fro and I only knew a handful of the guys playing, so there was the significant chore of trying to figure out who to respect and who to exploit among the strangers – this is a skill that I think I do well because I play with strangers so often in cardrooms. Sometimes it’s easy to tell right away – if someone comes out betting and raising on every hand it’s very likely that he’s a poor player and not very experienced either with holdem itself or playing in tournaments. And sometimes it’s difficult to tell right away, because a guy might fold ten hands in a row to the blinds and lead you to think he knows what he’s doing and then he’ll chase a gutshot straight to the river with a flush already on the board. In all situations though, I like to think that I can get a decent bead on a player’s skill pretty quickly and firmly after I’ve seen his cards just once. This is because those two cards are like the secret decoder ring to explaining all of the decisions he made leading up to the showdown, starting with his decision to play those particular cards in the first place, before anything else had happened. When I am in a game with people I don’t know, I am much more likely to respect the guy who folds often before the flop than I am to respect the guy who starts calling right away, and until I see his cards for the first time and thus can deduce the quality of all of his actions and decisions beforehand, I will continue to respect him. I feel that this was an edge that I had in the tournament, because I am more familiar with playing with strangers than most of the other people who were there.

(As an aside, this works both ways – I hardly ever EVER show my cards unless I am sure that I have the winning hand at the end – for people with a little bit of experience and a good memory for reconstructing hands, it’s just too powerful an insight into my skill and my game to be giving away such information for free, yet other people seem to be oblivious to this concept. There is also a divergence here between limit and no-limit, too – in limit holdem I might deliberate show a bluff to try and induce more calls whereas in no-limit I would much rather bully the other players into folding by always representing a strong hand... but that’s a different blog post for another day)

After saying all of that until I see some cards and until I get a read on the other players, the first few minutes of any new card game with a stranger or two is terrifying to me. Am I the best player? Am I a sucker in a trap? How do I know that the guy next to me isn’t some guy’s shill brother sent in from Vegas to clean-out all of those Houston yokels? In almost all situations, usually none of these fears come true and it turns out that, at least by the book, I’m either the best player at the table or damn close to it, but until I get a read on the strangers, I’m scared. This was the case on Sunday when I sat down.

Sitting at the table with me were my roommate and best friend, Chris C, whose ability has steadily grown in my opinion for the past two years, Jimmy #2, with whom I played in an earlier tournament and wasn’t especially impressed buy, and Ted, one of the absolutely worst players I have ever known or seen in my life. In addition to those two guys there were three strangers: Hood, Jason, and the Other Chris, and given that those guys all started out by folding regularly, I figured that it was going to be tough. Then I figured out that Jason really liked to play any A or K with any kicker and that Hood had a tendency to chase cards to the end. Shortly thereafter Hood chased two pair to the river and got busted by Ted’s nut flush, which Ted subsequently slow-rolled and almost induced the first fistfight of the night. Hood did not necessarily appreciate my explanation that Ted was just an idiot and not an asshole, but regardless, Hood was out and was not happy.

After that, Jason chased his own two pair to the river and got busted by Chris C’s Q-high flush. The hand that, incidentally, I didn’t play, but which had 5 other players call at least $150 apiece and thus gave Chris his first big pot when he won and was a big step towards his eventual tournament win.

By the time we were down to 5 players, the other tables had been losing players as well and the tables were consolidated. Two more players joined us, one of whom got knocked out on the very first hand he played. The other player who joined us, Junior, knocked me out shortly after that.

Here’s the story:

I was in the $5 big blind with AcTs. Three players called including Junior, who was in the small blind. I raised $20 to thin the field and only Junior called.

Flop is Kc-Qc-6d. Junior checks. I check.

Turn is Ad. I decide to make a play right away and I move all-in. Yes, all I have is top pair with a decent kicker, but I have a draw to the nut straight and I figure that top pair with a decent kicker is good enough to try and steal the pot against Junior’s check on both the flop and the turn.

So I make my bet and without flinching, he calls me immediately. I was surprised to hear him utter the words, and I was even more surprised with turned over Ks6h – two pair. I was sandbagged all the way.

I had just 9 outs on the river and I was gone when it came blank.

Now Chris C and Dr Fro and I have debated this hand quite a bit the past few days. Both of them seem to think that I might have overbet, but they also agree with me that he likely would have come over the top anyway and in the very best scenario I would have been looking at a short stack and a looming escalation of the blinds in 20 more minutes. I had never played with Junior before, and this was the first time I had seen his cards – a little too late for my smug attitude about playing with strangers to kick in, but I can at least offer a little bit of analysis in hindsight.

First, frankly, I’m not impressed that he would call my first raise with nothing but K-rag from the small blind, then much less not even stop to consider all of the possible hands that I could have made on the turn when the A came with the cards already on the flop. Chris said that Junior called because it was pretty obvious that all I had was A – and thus he was correct to call with his two pair, and I admit that it obviously was the right decision because it was the winning decision. But how could it have been THAT clear SO QUICKLY that A was all I had? There were 2 diamonds and 2 clubs on the board and a big straight. Certainly, I didn’t have any of those hands, but his quick call belies the assumption that he knew all I was holding was an Ace.

Second, Dr Fro does know him a little bit and Fro says that he likes to be “tricky” sometimes. Could this have been a bad tricky play that got lucky one time? I am leaning towards that answer based solely on how quickly he called. He didn’t pause to consider anything on the board or the size of my bet – he just called immediately, which tells me that he was married to this particular tricky play no matter what card came or how much I bet. Had he waited a little bit before calling, shown some sort of prudence, reflected some sort of comprehension of the circumstances at hand, then I might respect the call a little bit more, but the simple fact that there was no hesitation makes me lean in the direction of “bad tricky play that got lucky” rather than “savvy expert poker play”. Yes, it worked this time, but Mike Caro likes to warn about “fancy play syndrome” and the risks of trying to be to cute rather than trying to win when ahead. Sometimes slowplaying is a good idea and a great weapon to maximize the size of a pot, but middle two pair against an overcard with both a straight and two possible flush draws on the board isn’t one of those times.

Then again, when it was over I didn’t have any chips and he kept on playing, so that’s that and I could be full of shit. That’s also likely.

Once it was over, I went into Tournament Director mode and ran the tournament for the rest of the day. A few observations:

1. Bluffing is not as effective unless the foolishness of big calls is learned the hard way
This is a corollary of the common truism that it’s pointless to try and bluff unsophisticated players who don’t know well enough that they might be beat. One of the most fun things in poker is to sniff out a bluff and steal a pot with a bad hand. In limit poker and penny-ante games, this comes cheaply – sure he may not be bluffing, but it only costs an extra bet to find out for sure and that’s all that’s lost if he’s not bluffing. In NLH, sniffing out bluffs is just as fun, but it’s a lot more damaging if you’re wrong and call against a big hand. Not only did I notice this with Junior, I also noticed it with many other players, too – many mediocre hands called a lot of big bets mainly out of habit, I suppose. Play NLH long enough and you start to appreciate the significant risks of making a big call if your bluff radar is wrong – namely, you’ll get run out of the tournament or at least crippled. But if you only play NLH once a year and small limit games the rest of the time, the calling habit will remain and a lot more big bets will be called when the Main Event comes around.

2. Big stacks of small chips are preferred over small stacks of big chips.
This one is simple and it goes both ways – a player with a mound of chips in front of him is less likely to be called when he bets and is also more likely to bet more aggressively. This is garden-variety psychology and was demonstrated time and again by some of the players I watched.

3. Winning in cash games requires skill, winning in tournaments needs a little luck, too
All of the big poker pundits repeat this one, and it was demonstrated again on Sunday. Chris C took over the chip lead about 2:15 in the afternoon when his QT flush held up and he never relinquished it. Once he got the big stack he was able to dictate the action and force other players into bad situations and he did it very well. Of course, he needed to be lucky that one time to get the big stack started. This one is a common lesson, but it’s always interesting to see theories put into practice.

So that’s it from the tourney. I’m sure more observations are forthcoming. For now, I’m done. More info on the next tourney will be out soon. Email me with any questions.

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Posted by Dr Fro 10:03 AM
The big tournament was this past weekend and we had a lot of fun. You can view full results at http://home.houston.rr.com/friou/Updates.htm. Tournaments are a funny thing to use to assess one’s skill. The luck factor is a much larger component of your success than skill, so the rankings don’t tell the full story of who is better than whom. I am not going to waste anyone’s time talking about the luck factor, because there is absolutely nothing you can do to change your luck. I want to talk about tournament skill.

Skill is still a very important factor in tournaments. Skill comes in two forms: general poker skills and tournament-specific skills. As a general rule, the people with the most of both of these skills ended up in the top tranche (places 1-14), the people with good general poker skills but no tournament-specific skills ended up in the middle tranche (15-40) and people lacking in both ended up in the bottom tranche (41-49). This is a fairly accurate description of MOST of the people in each tranche. This is less likely to hold up for the bottom tranche than it is for the top tranche. This should make intuitive sense, but if you are knocked out in the first couple hours, you were in for a very short run, so you should expect luck to severely outweigh skill. Conversely, if you really sucked, you would have a hard time lasting 7 hours without eventually getting exposed and knocked out. So, maybe 60% of the bottom tranche was not very good and 90% of the top tranche really was good.

There is one more factor explaining why there are more good players at the bottom than there are bad players at the top, which I will explain later.

The people that lack in poker skills will necessarily lack tournament-specific skills but not the other way around. These people bet middle pairs against 5 players and are confused when they lose with the sixth best hand. They have no chance at winning in a cash game or a tournament game. They need to pick up some books and read or quit playing because they will lose a lot of money if they keep playing.

The next (and largest) group are those with poker skills, but no tournament-specific skills. They probably made up over half of the players. Here are some of the most common mistakes they make:

- Too tight. Being tight is a very good thing in poker, but in tournaments, you must give yourself a chance to increase your stack before the blinds eat you alive. This hurt me, Dan, Jan, Boyd and several others. It almost hurt Gordon, but he managed to win some hands at key times.

- Playing flush and straight draws. In poker, if the pot odds call for it, you should go for these draws, especially in no-limit. The problem with doing this in tournaments is if you miss 5 or 6 of these in a row, you may lose your stack. They have a positive expectation in cash games, but the high volatility increases the chance that you will hit $0 before you hit the jackpot. This was the mistake that hurt my stack.

[In cash games, every strategy has an associated EV and standard deviation. You can make some decisions that alter your strategy and eke up the EV with large associated changes in standard deviation. You should always make these decisions, because the s.d. is basically irrelevant and only your EV matters. However, this is an iterative calculation in tournaments, because the same decision that will increase your s.d., necessarily hurts your EV (as it increases the chances of busting out). If the damage it does to your EV exceeds the benefit you would otherwise receive, you find yourself in a situation where what is a good decision in a cash game is a bad decision in a tournament game.]

- Not playing enough with A-x. Most good poker players know that A-6 will get you in more trouble than it will help you. But the flip side of people playing less drawing hands is that it is more likely that you will win a heads up pot where nobody matched up, as long as you hold the Ace kicker.

- Not taking chances early. I am a proud man. I talk a lot of smack. If I got knocked out of my own tournament in the first 5 minutes, I would take a lot of heat. So, when the bottom tranche of 10 or so players are still in the tournament and making big bets with bad hands (this only lasts for about an hour and then they are eliminated) I SHOULD be calling. This increases both my chances of elimination and of having the chip lead. Having the biggest stack of chips is a huge advantage and when I avoid these big contests early on for sake of being eliminated, the fearless gambler either busts out or doubles up. Double up twice in the first hour and you can bully your table around all day. Don’t double up at all & you will get bullied.

By the way, I promised earlier to explain the other factor leading to good players ending up in the bottom of the standings and I just fulfilled that promise. John Greene and Chris Canonico are similar in skill, yet one was at the top and one was at the bottom. They both were aggressive early and had different turns of fate. I would argue that John’s strategy gave him a better chance of winning than mine did. My strategy maximised my chances of placing very high yet out of the money, which is precisely what happened.

I have talked about what people did wrong, but what did people do well, other than avoid the above mistakes? Plenty. But I will just focus on one for now. If you followed my advice so far and it is 2 hours into the tournament, you are either eliminated or have a big stack. If you are eliminated, then my advice is to start a side game with Ted Hoth. If you are holding a big stack, then I suggest you consider the following:

Say you have $3,200 and you are heads up against a guy with $100. Let’s also say you push all in every single hand. If he calls every time, he will have to win 4 straight hands against you just to have an even number of chips and a 50% chance of winning. Do you realise how improbable that is? He has a 6% chance of getting to that 50% chance. Overall, a 3% chance of beating you. Now say, he actually folds a few hands. That’s fine, you are picking up blinds and increasing your stack. It’s a win-win for you with a very improbable downside. Adjust this strategy slightly to not go all-in every single hand, but to instead make disproportionately large bets very often, and you lose the downside of being way overmatched pre-flop. So now do you see why you want that big stack early?

There is a counter-argument to this strategy, which is the basis for my play. If I just survive long enough by playing tight and avoiding situations that put me at risk of being eliminated, I will creep into the final table or final two tables. (this is also known as the Dan Wesson strategy or the “as long as I have a chip and a chair, I have a chance” strategy). Just a couple lucky hands late, and I will have enough to play with the big boys. Furthermore, since I am so much better than everyone else (which is what all players think of themselves), I can afford to let them win early, because with skill, I will eventually get those chips. This strategy isn’t a bad one, but I think it is the second best tournament strategy. It relies on all of the following to be true to be effective:

- It must be a very long tournament (say 6 hours or more). Otherwise, the blinds will ramp up too quickly. My tournament was marginally long enough for this strategy. (Actually, I wanted to use a format with lower blinds to increase the time and help my chances, but the popular opinion was that 7 hours was enough).
- You must truly be a lot better than everyone else. I hate to burst your bubble, but none of us, including myself, are as good as we think.
- You have to be playing against callers. If you use this strategy, when you do bet later on, if everyone folds, you are in trouble.

So, I suggest the first strategy, which is for the most part what the money winners did well.

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Thursday, September 25, 2003

Posted by Dr Fro 8:32 AM
Hypothetical situation:

You have 3 of a kind in holdem. You have been betting on every street and the only other guy in the hand is calling all the way. On the river, a card falls which gives both a straight and a flush opportunity.

If you need specifics, say you hold 5-5. Board on turn is 5s-6s-Jh-Qh, with river card of 7s.

So, the guy now bets to you. He either outdrew you or he is bluffing.

Do you bet and what is the only consideration in making this decision?

Email me your answer to drfroNOSPAM@itaintgambling.com (you have to remove the NOSPAM). You get a cookie if you get it right.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Posted by Dr Fro 9:23 AM
There is no transitive property in poker.

As you may or may not recall, the transitive property is the one you learned where if A > B and B > C, then A must be > C. In poker, I may beat Chris, Chris beats John, and John beats me. I am not talking about short-term successes based on variance (luck), I am talking about having a long term expectation of one person beating another. There is no transitive property in poker.

This is weird and not intuitive, but it can be explained.

You have to first understand the concept of the perfect game of poker. In this game, all players play the perfect game that maximises the expected profits on every decision. They bluff with perfect frequency that maximise the resulting profits. The boring part of this game is that nobody makes any money at all. In the end, everyone breaks even because they all have the identical strategy.

As you probably learned in studying game theory and the famous “Prisoner’s Dilemma”, one guy is going to adjust his strategy to take advantage of this. He is going do one thing different that gives him an edge. How can this be? After all, if everyone is playing perfectly, you can’t do better! This is actually untrue. Your strategy can only be defined as perfect in relation to the competition you are facing. You put 8 to 9 men in the box to stop the run against Nebraska. You drop a linebacker into coverage against West Coast pass-happy teams. Both are smart defences given the circumstances. Neither is perfect in all situations.

So we get to a fundamental point in poker. You cannot rank all players and expect any person to have a negative expectation against those above him and a positive one for those below him, unless he is always adjusting his game perfectly.

I did very well playing pot-limit poker at the London Victoria Casino. The players all probably knew much more than I did about the game. But being a foreigner with little experience in pot-limit, my approach to the game was unlike anything they have seen. They had no answer for me. (Had I lived there longer, they would have developed one for sure). This phenomenon partially explains “beginners luck.”

Why am I telling you this? It is because lesson #1 in poker is that you NEED TO ADJUST. Sounds simple, yet I personally believe that this is the biggest problem that most players have. I saw American golfers try to play American golf in Scotland and it was laughable. Put up your driver, take out your 4-iron, and put it in the fairway. Adjust, adjust, adjust.

What adjustments do you need to make? Well, that will be a post of its own. For now, just remember that if you aren’t consciously adjusting for each game you play in, you are throwing money away. Maybe you will make the wrong adjustments. That’s ok, because at least you are giving yourself a shot. With no adjustments, you have no shot.

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Sunday, September 21, 2003

Posted by Dr Fro 8:50 PM
Before doing much poker advice, I wanted to share my story.

I have played poker my entire life. When I was barely old enough to see the table without the help of a phonebook under my butt, I played with my parents for pennies. Throughout elementary school and junior high, I played with my friends, sometimes for money, sometimes for candy, sometimes for bragging rights. The only games we knew how to play were 5-draw, 5-stud, 7-stud and 3-card guts. We would sometimes play all day.

In early high school, we played a little bit, but our interest in girls and cars and sports and all the things that 16 yr old boys love kept us from playing more than maybe twice per year. As a junior, I went on my first deer-hunting trip. The thought of waking up early to sit in the cold a wait for hours to kill an animal sounded dreadful. However, the girl that asked me to go was really hot, and she promised that her brother’s friends would be drinking beer and playing poker all night, all weekend. This was enough to convince me to come.

Sure enough, we played a lot of cards, and these guys were in college, so they knew all sorts of games that I had never heard of. I learned to play Chicago, Chase-the-Bitch, high-low split, baseball, and many more. This opened up a whole new world for me. I got back from the trip with no venison in the cooler, but a grand idea. I immediately called up my poker gang and organized a game for the ensuing Friday night. I promised it would be fun.

I taught all of these games to my friends and they were hooked. The wild nature and the variety made staying in a hand all the more alluring. Pots grew in size, the games lasted later into the night, and we al had more fun. My gang (Glazer, Ferruzzo, Harp, Young, Planck, and Martin) still play to this day, although not with each other.

Poker pretty much stayed the same until the last day of pledgeship my freshman year at UT. A few of us played poker for about 20 straight hours with some of the actives. We played all the games that my high school gang enjoyed, but the stakes were much, much higher. Winners and losers could see a few hundred dollars move between them every hour. I was surprised to see that the higher stakes affected the play of the game. Specifically, if people were completely rationale and did not let emotions get in the way of making the poker decisions that should maximize their chances at making profits, the size of the stakes would be irrelevant. But people are not rational. A guy with a great hand facing a $100 bet is much more likely to fold that the same guy with the same hand facing a 25 cent bet. This is intuitively obvious, but when you apply it to poker, the effects are pretty amazing.

In this game, bluffing was an extremely effective tool. It worked against me, as I folded great hands all night long and let the bullies run off with my money. Up to this point in my life, nobody (or nobody that consistently won) would bluff, because they knew that the entire table would call just for the simple fact that calling is more fun than folding, and the fun is worth the loss of a quarter.

I could have left that night depressed about the financial loss, but I was invigorated. I tend to take losses as challenges, and I swore that I would improve my game. My strategy was to play with my high school friends at higher stakes and employ the same bully tactics that worked on me. I did it, and it worked like a charm. It continued to work well until the day that Glazer realized that he should employ the same strategy (and multiply it by 10). Over time, our usual game developed into a pissing match between all of us, and I no longer made profits. I didn’t lose consistently either. I probably broke even for the 7-year period from 1991 – 1998. I didn’t care. We had a blast. We would drink beer until 8:00 am, and when I woke up the next day, I would reach in my pocket and find out if I won or lost. Winners and losers often had 4-digit successes and failures, so you could understand that I was quite curious to figure out what exactly happened the night before.

The game eventually fizzled, mainly due to the bad blood that inevitably follows the combination of drunkenness, high stakes gambling and friends. That was a shame, but the loss of my regular game sent me searching for a new game.

I called my friend Jeff Plank, with whom I’d somewhat lost touch over the years following high school. He said that he had a regular group that played and I was welcome to join. That Sunday, they were having a tournament.

I was in for way over my head.

These guys didn’t drink when they played. They used phrases I ‘d never heard of (“check-raise”, “representing the nuts”, “tight but aggressive”, etc). I initially thought they sucked because, after all, they only played for like $20 buy-ins, and I was used to buying in for $500. I was so wrong.

It was a re-buy tournament, and I don’t recall how many times I re-bought, but I was the first person out of the tournament. They were so much better than me, it was silly. Once again, I felt a challenge.

I bought my first poker book, The Theory of Poker. I read things that blew my mind. I read the book cover-to-cover probably 4 times in 1 week. I never knew that I was so ignorant on a game I had spent a few thousand hours playing. I then bought book after book and completely changed my approach to the game. I played in every game I could find and (almost) immediately became a consistent winner. John Greene started a monthly game at about this time, and I managed to leave as a winner 12 of the first 12 times we played, raking an amazing $1,038 (average $80 per contest). That is mind boggling for 25-cent poker.

At the same time, I was playing in some card rooms around town. My fortune there was not so good. I would dump a lot of money every time, but in retrospect I consider that my tuition. It took about 2 years of education and about $2,000 in tuition, but I finally learned how to beat those games, too. The people in those places have been playing several times a week for 20+ years, but 75% haven’t improved one bit over that time. I figured out who the winning 25% were, and I imitated their playing habits. I now beat those games.

The past two years are hard to label as any particular phase, because I have been playing so many different forms of poker and learning from them all. I have been playing online and in person. I have played pot-limit, no-limit, spread-limit, and limit. I have played Hold’em, Omaha, and dealers choice home games. I have played in the UK and US, in casinos, homes, and card rooms. And every second of poker I play, I learn. That is why I love the game. I am a geek that loves learning and application of knowledge. Applying what you learn is even more gratifying when it lines your pockets.

On a scale of 1-100, I would say that I am a 55 in the game of poker. Ten years ago, I would have put myself at 100, but in reality I was probably a 3. I have a long way to go, and it will take much longer than the first part of my journey. I will lose and win along the way, but I will always learn. I am looking forward to it.

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Friday, September 19, 2003

Posted by Dr Fro 11:05 PM
This is my first attempt at this. For now, I'll just post a link and figure out something interesting to say later.


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Thursday, September 18, 2003

Posted by Johnnymac 11:54 PM
Friendship Club tonight. 3 Hours of 3-6-(12) holdem and $18 of profit.

Considering that I was already planning on starting this thing when I got home tonight, and considering how poorly the cards were running for most of the night, I fully expected that the new poker blog was going to be started with noble comments about how one can't expect to have a winning session everytime one plays cards. Then I hit just a couple of small hands and looked down and saw that I was not only back to even, I was ahead, not to mention that it was already approaching my self-imposed ending time of 10:00, so I decided to get up and leave. See you guys later.

The title of this new blog comes from a cliche that is familiar to all poker players - that as the game isn't designed to give any one participant a permanent advantage, eventually all of the cards are distributed equally in the long run and thus the difference between winning and losing isn't luck, it's skill. In that way, poker really shouldn't be considered a game of chance any more than should be forecasting the weather. That is, a certain level of variance is assumed and it's up to the player to interpret the available information and make an educated decision that maximizes expected value.

In the short run, though, luck contributes considerably to one's success or lack thereof, and when it's running against you, the short run sucks.

But that's all for tonight. It's late and I need sleep. More tomorrow.

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Posted by Johnnymac 10:36 PM
And so, the Poker Blog is born.

Fro and I were talking one day about my whole blog habit and we both agreed that a blog that's solely about poker might be a good idea. So we're going to try it. I can't promise it will be great and I can't promise that it will last, but I think I'm going to have fun with it.

Now, to be honest, this thing is probably more for me than it is for public consumption, but at the same time one of the things that I really like about the other blog is getting feedback from people reading what I have to say, so I'm going to throw it out into the ether and let my thoughts go where they may.

You may be wondering how I got here. Good question. When I was in college we used to play what we called "poker" but what really was really just an excuse to sit around a table and drink cheap beer, the first time I ever got drunk in my life was in one of these games during my freshman year, and the games we played weren't much more than simple things like (bad) 5 card draw and Acey-Ducey. Occasionally we would play 7 card stud, which we called "4 up 3 down", and the most one might lose in such a game was probably $10 (we were poor kids and that seemed like a lot), but really wasn't poker. And if you think that's the type of game I'm going to talk about here, you're half-wrong.

But those types of games are just about the way that anyone and everyone gets introduced to the game, and when I moved to Houston I played in a few such games, and began to organize my own on occasion , and my hobby was born. After a while the wild home games started getting a little bit slow and too far between so I gradually got into some of the more serious regular games that are spread around town in the totally illegal but totally ignored cardrooms. Nowadays I'm usually going to be found playing 3-6-(12) Holdem at the Friendship Club or 1-2 pot limt holdem at the Top Hat Club. I'll also enjoy playing in many of the low-limit holdem games in Vegas whenever I go and in fact, that's all I do when I go to Vegas nowadays - no more blackjack or craps for me unless I'm really drunk or bored or don't feel like flushing my money down the toilet the easy way. We still play at home a lot too, I often get invited to play with friends whenever they have games of their own, and I also play in some of the occasional tournaments that are springing up right now thanks to all of the poker on television nowadays (more on that to come).

What am I going to do in this space, you may ask? Quite simply, I am going to write about poker: I'll probably write a small after each time I play, I'll link to articles that might be interesting, and, since I find myself thinking about poker a lot lately, I'll probably just share these thoughts whenever they're bouncing around in my head. I might also invite some friends to be regular contributors, too - who knows.

But no matter what happens - I think it's going to be fun.

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Random thoughts from a lawyer, an accountant, a commodities trader, an ex-Marine and a WSOP Main Event money finisher that don't know as much as they wish they did...



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