Thursday, October 30, 2003

Posted by Dr Fro 9:44 AM
Some more insight on JG's note onreading hands. Reading Hands

This advice is crap against bad players. It is very very good advice for playing against good players. The bad players are to unpredictable and trying to figure them out will not be very easy.


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Posted by Dr Fro 7:53 AM
If you havent ever read this site, its the king of all poker sites. It is to poker players what is to UT fans. The quality of posts has degenerated over the past couple years as more and more idiots spew their nonsens, but look for gems from experts such as Mike Caro, (to a lesser extent) Gary Carson, Sklansky & Malmuth:


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Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Posted by Johnnymac 8:36 PM
Fro had a post last week about poker books and I have one of my own to add to the list: Inside the Poker Mind by John Feeney. I am reading this book now and am surprised at just how good and relevant it is. The book is specifically about behavior and psychology in poker and has a lot of very relevant and "gee whiz" insights.

It's a rather advanced book and assumes that the reader already knows quite a bit about general terminology and strategy and has ample experience playing casino poker, so I have to say that it should probably be way down on Fro's list of what to read first. Similarly, if you're more concerned with playing occasional beer poker with your buddies and aren't interested in playing regularly in cardrooms, it probably won't be of much help, either. Nonetheless, if you play in casinos or cardrooms and want to get better and improve your game I highly recommend that you read it eventually - you'll learn a lot.

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Posted by Johnnymac 6:21 AM
About as easy as it gets

Example from last night:

Don Murphy is in early position and raises before the flop. Five players call his raise (that itself is an entirely different topic for a different day). The flop comes with 3 spades, King high. Murphy looks at his cards and checks. Everyone checks. Turn is blank. Murphy looks at his cards and bets. Everyone calls his bet. River is blank. Murphy looks at his cards and bets the big bet. Three people call. One guy shows down 84s for a (very low) flush. Everyone else mucks. Murphy throws his cards at the dealer and unleashes one of his very creative curses.

Question: What did Murphy have?

Post your analysis of the hand to feedback - if you know Murphy (or even if you don't), this is a very easy example of how to read a hand.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Posted by Johnnymac 5:40 AM
Will they also show "classic" lottery drawings?

A new TV cable channel devoted entirely to gambling and gaming was announced yesterday.

I always find these specialty channels to be too specialized for my liking (New York Yankees TV comes to mind), but the Golf Channel apparently does very well nowadays, as do other channels that are narrowly focused on certain topics.

Anyway, we've all read the stories about how the WPT and WSOP are bringing in huge ratings for the Travel Channel and ESPN, respectively, not to mention all of the popular virtual infomercials that run on the Travel Channel and Discovery Channel at other times ("Secrets of Vegas Buffets", "Showgirls Backstage" etc etc), so I doubt this business plan is hopeless and I am sure DirecTV will pick it up eventually and I'll be able to see for myself.

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Monday, October 27, 2003

Posted by Dr Fro 5:18 PM
Poker Jokes

My favorite one:

Dog Gone Poker
A man walked by a table in a hotel and noticed three men and a dog playing cards. The dog was playing with extraordinary performance.
"This is a very smart dog.", the man commented.

"Not so smart," said one of the players. "every time he gets a good hand he wags his tail."

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Posted by Dr Fro 3:39 PM
Interesting study

It sounds good, but it flies in the faces of conventional poker wisdom. The most controversial advice is that TT and JJ should not try to limit the field. I havent run a simulation of billions of hands, but this does not make intuitive sense to me.

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Posted by Dr Fro 8:19 AM
Below are the odds of you making your hand based on the number of outs you have on the flop:


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Saturday, October 25, 2003

Posted by Dr Fro 2:21 PM
Last night was fun. Buys were $20 and most of us bought in for 2-3 times, but a couple bought in 10 times or so. It was the first time we played No Limit at home. The rollercoaster was bigger than I had guessed.

Huge starts out taking everyones money and had a mountain of chips, then it all dissappeared. Glaze was down, then up, then down. Junell's journey was similiar, although not as extreme.

What I really love about NL is the way the game grows over the course of the evening as more buyins are made. Furthermore, as a general rule, only the winners are at risk of losing a ton of chips in one hand, while the losers usually can't lose more than one buy-in on any given hand.

I was the big winner, but I have to say that with NL, results are really just a quick snapshot of wher you stand in the course of streaks, they are less indicative of skill. The proverbial long run is much longer. Yes, the poor poker player wil get devestated at NL quickly, but you can't make any assessment about who the best player is based on solely their results. I can look at a couple hands over the evening that would have made the difference between me as a loser or winner. Whereas, in limit games, a couple hands may add or subtract $20 from my final tally.

One thing was obvious, NL brings out the aggressiveness and competitiveness that drew me to poker in the first place.

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Thursday, October 23, 2003

Posted by Dr Fro 4:08 PM
My last tell-tale:

In poker, you should always be putting a man on a hand. The best clues out there are how much he bet and when. This often narrows down the number of hands to just a few. For instance, a big raise pre-flop that checks to a board of AK2 tells me he had a pair, probably QQ JJ or TT. If the turn brings a J and he calls a medium bet, then the river brings a T and he makes a big raise, I am certain he has QQ, and a straight.

However, we usually can't narrow it to one hand. Often, there is a group of 3 or so possible hands he is holding. This is where, for me, tells come it. I need one more piece of information to break the tie between the 33.3% probability I have placed on each hand. Sometimes, tells do this for me.

So, as JG was saying, you have to have the solid foundation for starters (to narrow the range of hands) but tells may give you a bit of an extra edge on top of that.

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Posted by Dr Fro 4:03 PM
My favorite tells:

- Whether or not he stacks something on his hand immediately after the deal. If not, he intends to fold, if so, he intends to play.

- Showing sudden interest. If a person was fairly uninterested and all of the sudden is leaning forward and excited about playing, he probably just made a hand.

- Trembling. Believe it or not, trembling generally does not mean a bluff. It usually means the nuts.

- Intently watching the dealer deal the turn or river card - he's on a draw.

- Counting the number of guys to the left prior to checking - considering a check-raise

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Posted by Dr Fro 4:00 PM
A big question on tells is "How do I know if it is a legitimate tell (which should be taken literally) or a fake tell (from which I should conclude the opposite of what it suggests)? Easy. Just figure out if they are intentionally letting you see the tell or not. Example:

If a guy reaches for his chips (out of turn) after the two of you have made eye contact, he is doing it on purpose, and probably is bluffing. However, if he sees his cards and grabs chips w/o ever seeing if you are looking, then he probably just accidently gave away the strength of his hand.

It's fairly bush league to try to get people to fall for your fake tell, and you generally only see the fake-tell in low limits, IMHO.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Posted by Johnnymac 8:28 PM
One More Note on Tells

Here's another trick that follows closely with my advice to memorize your hole cards.

In the previous post, I made the obvious statement that your cards are never going to change once they're dealt. No matter how many times you look, they aren't going to miraculously morph into AA or AK or JT or 68 or 2 big spades or whatever the hell you might need to win any particular hand. Your cards are your cards and they're not going anywhere.

This brings up another point - the flop isn't going to change either!

This is a rather advanced piece of advice, because you have to know what to be looking for and how to interpret it, but one of the best places to observe a tell in another player is when he sees a card for the first time, whether it's dealt to him or dealt to the board. A very common one of these tells is that a player who likes a newly dealt a card will often glance at his chips or at other players' chips rather quickly after seeing the card. Conversely, a player who doesn't like the new card will stare intently for a long time in the hope that he will either suddenly find a way to make the card fit or similarly, he'll stare at it in hopes that it might change or that he misinterpretted it on first glance. In any case, a quick glimpse away probably means he likes the card and continued staring means he doesn't. Very simple. Like all generic tells, this isn't ironclad, but it does work every now and then and can sometimes make a difference when combined with other information you get from the hand.

So how does this tie in to my previous post? Easy - if you are too busy staring at your own cards on the deal or staring at the flop the instant it rolls off, you are missing a prime opportunity to watch the other players. When I am playing in a casino or cardroom, I try and look at the other players first whenever a card is dealt. The only exeception is when I am under the gun or otherwise first to act - then, I will look at my cards immediately so as not to hold up the speed of the game. (I'm usually not going to be playing my cards from such an early position, anyway, so I don't think I'm losing any value.)

Again, your cards aren't going to change and the flop isn't going to change, so look later - it will still be there in 10 seconds and it will still be the same. You should be looking at the other players first.

And when you do look, memorize the cards and don't look again.

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Posted by Johnnymac 8:17 PM
A Quick Note on Tells

I was originally going to post this as an addendum to Fro's advice for Beavis from yesterday, but now that I think about it, it's probably more suited to someone who has a little experience and wants to get better, rather than a true novice. First of all, the unfortunate truth: Tells are not nearly as important as movies might have you think. They are great for Hollywood drama and they can help you make an extra bit of money every now and then, but unless you understand the game extremely well, all of the mistakes you are making will quickly cause you to lose money at a rate much faster than any tell will win you money. Similarly, tells are not always reliable and thus should likely be a tool you use in addition to sound poker logic. You should never make a play solely on the basis that you might have noticed a tell in another player - it's just too risky.

The other piece of reality surrounding tells is that they are not as dramatic or as individualistic as Hollywood might have you believe, either. Occasionally, you might find one in specific a player that is very unique and very reliable, but that will only come if you play cards often with that person and have lots of experience from which to gleen your conclusions. Generally, though, the most commonly known tells are quite generic. For a specific listing of these generic tells, go buy yourself a copy of Mike Caro's book, because I'm only going to discuss one that I think it very powerful, especially for new players, which is the act of looking at one's cards.

Quite simply, you should always memorize your hole cards. Look at them one time, maybe for a couple of seconds, then don't look at them again, because every time you do you are possibly giving away your hand. A three-flush flops in holdem? Most players instinctively look at their cards to see if they have one of those cards in that suit. Players who don't look probably already have two cards of that suit, or they have two cards of a different suit, and don't have to bother looking because they already know what's under there. Similarly, if a face card or an ace flops in multiple suits and a player looks at his cards, he likely has one of those and is now checking to see if his kicker paired up. That is, he noticed right away that he paired the big card, but he's not sure about the other card and he wants to make sure. No matter the circumstances of the hand, once you can draw a conclusion as to why a certain player looked at his cards, you can combine that conclusion with other evidence you might have about his hand to try and come up with a better read of his cards. It's another piece of the puzzle.

This may seem extremely simple to you and that's because it is - but as a matter of trying to find an edge against other players, every time you look you possibly give an advanced player more information towards figuring out your hand, be it from your actions after looking, your facial expressions while looking, or the length of time you look while you spend extra milliseconds trying to differentiate between Aces and Fours and Clubs and Spades. If you make an effort to memorize them, it's not hard to do it whenever you see it for the first time - even in Omaha - but the trick is making an effort to do it in the first place. Memorize them one time and don't look again - they're not going to change.

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Posted by Dr Fro 8:47 AM
A useful resource:

Poker calculator

It isnt user friendly (at all), but if you practice with it enough, you can use it while playing online and get your answers within the time limit for acting.

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Posted by Dr Fro 8:45 AM
Here's a resource for Beavis

Cheat sheet

You can even print, cut and put in your wallet.

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Posted by Dr Fro 8:44 AM

Hold'em Matchup

How big a favorite do you think K-K is against A-K suited?

Take a look below.

Hand Pct. Odds
K K 65.4% 1.89
A K 34.6% 0.53

Surprised, one way or the other?

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Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Posted by Johnnymac 7:43 PM
Great Post from Fro.

If I may, I have a few more that I will add (and I promise that someday I'll find the time soon to come up with some original post ideas of my own instead of just commenting on what Dr Fro has to write):

2a. Don't call pre-flop raises unless you have a monster hand. Fro says to raise with pairs and call with drawing hands. That's good advice, but the only calling you should be doing is of the blinds (maybe this is implied). If someone else raises either in front of you or behind your initial raise or call, you should probably fold unless you have AA, AK, KK, or QQ, and even then you should be careful.

3a. If you flop a set or make another very strong hand on the flop, then protect it and win with it. This might be a little complicated for a completely new player, because it requires you to do a little hand reading, but I think it's a key piece of strategy at any game where the size of the bet can vary. That is, if you were to flop a set or make top two pair on the flop and there are also two cards to a flush or straight, then you should make it very expensive for your opponents to see another card. Don't go overboard with this and don't bet big unless it's very clear that you are way ahead of everyone else (again, this takes practice). The moral here is not to let other players "catch up".

This is one of the biggest mistakes I see from players who aren't necessarily new to poker but who are new to Big Bet Poker. The first time I met Jimmy Promubol (2nd place in the September Tourney) was at a NLH poker tournament in July where an incident just like this occurred. Now, Jimmy is a good player and this story isn't about him - it's about the other guy who flopped a set of 3's from the button and then bet the minimum bet on both the flop and turn and then called Jimmy's all-in bet on the river when an obvious straight had come. Aside from the error of calling in that situation, the other guy had already made a bigger mistake on the flop. Jimmy never should have seen 4th Street and would not have if he had been forced to call a large bet.

4a. Sets are very powerful hands on the flop. Fro is right to tell you to throw away pocket pairs most of the time if they don't improve or if there are overcards on the board, but you should also be on the lookout to make a set. If you flop a set and there is neither a straight possibility on the board nor a three card flush, GO ALL IN. Again, make sure that there are no made hands already there, but this usually will not be the case on the flop alone. However, to repeat Fro's advice - if you do not make your set on the flop, it's almost always best to throw away those pocket pairs, especially if you are inexperienced.

4b. Don't call raises with small pocket pairs. This one speaks for itself - if you have a small pocket pair pre-flop (JJ or lower) and there is a raise behind you or someone reraises you, you should fold before even seeing the flop. You are likely already beat.

11a. Don't give them evidence to put a label on you. I have said this before, but I will repeat it. Never ever show your cards at the end unless you know you are the winner. This seems simple, but it's quite a powerful weapon, especially if you are a novice and up against players with more experience.

Finally in the spirit of NLH Tourney advice for beginners, David Sklansky's Tournament Poker for Advanced Players book has a good description of what he calls the "system" for newbies playing in no limit tournaments. The original system is very simple (basically, "go all in with big pairs or fold") and not that hard to understand. He then builds a more elaborate "modified system" which is fairly complicated. I don't think it's necessary to really memorize the elaborate point totals and rules in the modified system, but I do recommend reading the chapter because it's an excellent analysis of the mathmatical rules behind no limit poker and tournaments. If you are a little experience under your belt and want to "fill in some holes" in your tournament and no limit games, this is a very good place to start, but Beavis should probably just stick to Craig's advice for now.

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Posted by Dr Fro 8:59 AM
My friend Beavis is playing in a NL Hold'em tournament this weekend. He has never played in one in his life. As a matter of fact, he hasn't played Hold'em. He has however played a bit of poker, so he knows his straights from flushes from full houses. He has asked me to give him advice. While I do not think that the below advice is good enough to do particularly well in the tournament (for instance position is largely ignored), it is hopefully good enough to keep a completely inexperienced player from making a fool of himself. I have grouped the advice into Hold'em advice, No Limit advice, tournament advice, and one piece of bonus advice.

1. Pre-flop play premium hands.
These are any pair, any two cards 10 or higher and suited connectors (8 clubs, 7 clubs). Throw away everything else, even if they improve into, say 2-pair, someone else will have a higher two pair. You will end up playing around 20% of the hands you are dealt. If you are playing more often, then you are either getting very good cards or you are not following my advice.

2. Pre-flop, raise made hands and call drawing hands. Pairs (except very low pairs) and hands like A-K would be 'made' hands pre-flop because you probably have the best two-card hand at the time. Furthermore, it is possible that nobody hits the board (improves after the community cards are dealt), in which case you win. Drawing hands are hands like suited connectors or a pair of babies (say 3-3). These hands cannot win unless they hit the board (to make a straight or flush or for the 3-3 to make trips). These hands you should just call with. If there is raising pre-flop, don't call. Only call a single bet (the big blind) with these hands.

3. Figure out the nuts and compare your hand. For instance, say you hold QQ & the flop shows AK2. The nuts here would be someone holding an A-A. Anybody that holds an Ace or King also has a higer pair than you (and this is the most likely hand to be beating you). Someone with 2-2 also has you beat with trips, as does KK. Lets face it, the whole table has you beat. Throw away your hand. Now, say you hold QQ and the board is J92. You are so money. The only hands that beat you are pocket pairs that improved to sets, which are unlikely. If somebody paired up with the board, you have a higher pair. Bet. Last, assume the board is Q93. You have the nuts. Nobody has you beat. Bet. There is a rule in poker that if the flop didnt help you, fold, and if it did, bet. Follow that advice.

But that just covers the flop, you should always be cognizant of the nuts. For instance, say those 3 Q's you got earlier are now staring at a board on the river of Q9345 with three hearts. There is a possible flush out there and many straights (A2, 26, 67) which beat you bad. Furthermore, if the other guys called all along the way and start betting on the river, this means they were probably on a drawing hand and they now have you beat (if they follow my rule 2 that is). Give up on those Q's, don't be married to them. Which now gets its own numbered advice below:

4. Divorce those pairs. The numero uno mistake made by inexperienced players in my tournament was staying married to a pocket pair all the way to the bitter end. I dont care if you just put a heap of money into the pot, if you are getting raised and the board is showing a lot of possiblities that beat you, just fold. He who turns and runs away lives to fight another day.

5. Avoid runner-runner. Runner-runner is needing and getting two consecutive cards on the turn and river that make your drawing hand. E.g., you have two hearts and the flop has one heart. YOu need two more hearts to make your flush. Don't do it. Fold. Only draw when you are 1 card shy of your hand.

6. Bluffing is overrated. Don't bluff, you'll regret it. If you think the other guy is bluffing, let him get away with it. Let someone else be the bluff police. The only exception to this rule is at the final table. If you are at the final table, then you'll need a healthy dosage of bluffing. They should respect the bluff if you havent been bluffing all day long, too.

No Limit advice
7. Always raise in standard increments.
Whether you have a pair of Aces or a pair of Kings, raise the same amount. This disguises the strength of your hand. I always bet 3x the big blind.

8. Don't call a big bet on the flop unless you are willing to go all the way. If a guy likes the flop, he will probably like the turn and river as well. So don't call on the flop saying, "well it's only $25." If he is betting $25 on the flop, he'll be $100 on the turn. So it isn't only $25 to see it, it costs $125 to see if you'll make your hand.

9. Tis better to bet All-In, than to call All-in. Unless you hold a monster, fold when a guy bets all his chips. If you are in situation 8 above, and it appears likely that you will end up with all of your chips in the pot anyway, get them in there before he does. This isnt a bluff, because you wouldnt have made it this far w/o some sort of hand. But like a bluff, they may fold and you can win with the second best hand.

Tournament advice
10. Survive.
This is the second best strategy for tournament play. However, it is the best for you. Take no chances, especially early. Fold a lot and only call small bets. Preserve your stack. Let the bullies knock each other out. Back-door your way into the final table(s). Then, if you get a nice streak of cards, you can do well. Also, this will give you several hours of experience, which you need.

Friou's Rule
11. Put a label on everyone within 30 minutes.
Their mom's may call them Bob, Steve, and Rick. You should call them The Bluffer, the Too Scared to Bet Good Hands Guy, the I Love Flushes guy or the Stupid Idiot. Whatever, just label them and make you decisions accordingly. Be willing to change your labels as evidence supports. Of course, they'll label you too. Be aware of that.

Of course this is all game-day advice. Before the big game, spend several hours playing HE on Yahoo just to get the swing of the rules. Consider going to PartyPoker, PlanetPoker, etc and playing their FREE games.

Good Luck, Beavis.

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Monday, October 20, 2003

Posted by Dr Fro 11:48 AM
The Education of a Poker Player

The next most important thing to experience in improving your game is reading books. Below I have a list of the books that I believe are the best resources out there.

I want to point out that I believe it is extremely important to read these in the right order. Too many players try to read the advanced books first (like I did) and screw it all up. You really need to learn to block and tackle before you run the zone blitz.

First book to read should always be David Sklansky's The Theory of Poker. This is widely recognised as a the definitive piece on the fundamentals of poker. I suggest that you read it slowly and ponder each point before continuing on.

Second book is Holdem Poker by David Sklansky. I am assuming this is the game you are most interested in. Even if it isnt, you can learn the most by mastering HE first and then tackling other games. This is because I think HE simplifies the # of possibilities and provides excellent training ground for the quantitative analyses needed in all games.

Third book is Gary Carson's The Complete Book of Holdem Poker.. This largely agrees with DS's book, but provides an alternative approach to some specific situations.

Next is Winning Low Limit Holdem by Lee Jones. He points out some specific strategy that is necessary given the very different psychology of the low limit game.

Now you can stop reading and get a couple years of experience. After a couple years, read Holdem Poker for Advanced Players by David Sklansky. This is a book that only helps you if you are playing against good player in higher limits.

Two tournament books out there are good. One is written by Sklansky and the other by Sylvester Suzuki. There are definitely some adjustments that are necessary in tournaments vs cash games. However this book also helps to address adjustments between various tournament formats.

Now, move on to no-limit poker and read Doyle Brunson's Super System. This book covers many games, and I suggest you read them all. The no-limit section is the Bible of poker.

Two other books which are excellent are Mike Caro's Book of Tells. The advice is spot-on, but since reading tells is only about 2% of your game, it comes later on the list than some other books.

Last, is the book that I most enjoyed. However, it rounds out the bottom of the list due the fact that the advice can only make sense after mastering the advice in the other books. That is Mike Caro's Fundamental Secrets of Winning Poker.

Other books I have read (or read about) and enjoyed are Mason Malmuth's Poker Essays, Poker Nation, and Poker for Dummies by Lou Kreiger, all of which are educational.

I have only read a couple bad books, and I don't remember any of the titles.

Enjoy the reading.

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Saturday, October 18, 2003

Posted by Johnnymac 10:25 AM
Dr Fro's referring to me. I was (one of) the big loser(s) who added to the misery with another $20 bill late in the evening because I was losing and wanted to get even. Total hit: $80

Jesse May's book Shut Up and Deal has a great passage describing a guy in a card game in Atlantic City who's on tilt and losing and starting to empty his pockets:
This guy Vaughn is like a lot of people who play poker. Most of the time they limit themselves to two options: either they win a little or they lose a lot. Most of this has to do with ego. They want more than anything to say that they beat the game. This is why they are happy to take small wins - hit and run as it may. But guys like Vaughn are completely unable to take a loss. Once they start losing. they rarely leave unless they start winning or go broke.

It's such a small and benign game that I can't stand losing in it, even when I know that the reason for my losses is that I am playing as loose as the town slut. It's stupid and it's all because because my ego won't let me lose in this game until the end of the night and the game breaks up and gives me no other option but to stop playing.

This brings me to another point of Dr Fro's wrap-up.

I was also the drunk who got dealt 7½ twice and 8 twice and decided to use all four occasions to either show off my shiny new set of brass ones (due back at Blockbuster before noon today) or to reaffirm my belief in prayer. Take away all of the 7-27 and I probably would have been slightly up for the night or at least very close to even. Then again, I shouldn't have been drinking if I wanted to win money, because one of the most resolute tendencies that I have noticed about myself is that no matter how good I may think I am playing when I drink at the poker table, I always seem to lose. Then the next morning I look back and lament doing dumb things like trying to take a bluff to far in 7-27.

If I didn't want to lose, I probably shouldn't have stopped at the corner store for that 12-pack... but that's a subject for discussion another day.

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Posted by Dr Fro 9:54 AM
This Friday's game is shaping up. We have 4 (Boyd, Chris H, me & JG) so far

25c-50c NL Holdem. Don't be fooled by the size of the blinds, I've seen $100 pots in this situation. Not many, but more than you'd think.

You can RSVP at the post below(October 15)

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Posted by Dr Fro 9:52 AM
Big money- I won $14. That covers the pizza and beer, barely. You know, everybody knows how they SHOULD play 7-2-7, but nobody actually does it. If you aren't dealt a 7 pat, then you should really just fold. But, man those big pots are tempting and we all waste a lot of money chasing after them. I sure do.

There is one dynamic of the home game that is important to understand. If you read my earlier post, you will see that you should very much care not only if you win but how much you win. But we aren't always rational, so we love to bag a winner. I know that when I am up and it is late, I tighten up to avoid being a loser.

The flip side is that the big loser at the table starts taking huge risks just to get even, even when he has the worst of it.

Put those two tendencies together and the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Tell me who is up the most and down the most halfway through the game and I'll tell you who the big winner/loser will be at the end of the game.

Thus, it is very very important to not push small edges on expensive games early in the night. Climb up slowly. Then, when the losers get desparate, you take advantage.

That's my $14 advice, anyway...

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Friday, October 17, 2003

Posted by Dr Fro 1:17 PM
We are playing tonight in a very low stakes dealers choice game. I've won 14 of 15 times we've played for an average win of $80, so I am feeling pretty confident. Results will be posted this weekend.

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Posted by Dr Fro 1:14 PM
From the mailbag, Mark J writes:

James Robertson placed 2nd in the tournament last night. He was a rollercoaster early in the game, and was nearly eliminated at one point about two hours into it. However, he played smart, took a few pots, built a fairly decent sized stack, and ultimately made it to the final table.

Then came "The Hand".

Although not on the short-stack, James was sitting about 5th (out of 8th) place in the chip count. First to act off the big blind, James is dealt AA and raises to $5,000. Another player to his left bumps it up to $15,000. Jeff Peden calls $15,000. Then the small-blind calls "all-in".

James calls the all-in
The player to his left calls the all-in
Jeff Peden calls the all-in.

The cards are flipped up, and the hands are AA, KK, JJ, 44. No one hit their set on the board, and the AA won it. James made over $60,000 on the hand, and ultimately took second place.

I can never get that kind of action with AA, except when I lose with it... :)



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Posted by Dr Fro 1:12 PM
Last night was the $200 tournament. I was at the perfect table: all very passive (just the opposite of John’s table). This meant I could be extremely patient in waiting for the right spots to gamble. Surely if I sat there for a couple hours, at some point, I would get some good cards, right? Wrong. In two hours, I won a total of 2 hands. That sucks. I got terrible cards. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t mind getting bad cards; I would just say that the pendulum swings both ways. However, this particular night, the pickings were so good, it is a shame that I never got a chance to take advantage of it.

Only one other player at my table had ever played in a tournament before. So, I was playing with a bunch of guys that didn’t know what they were doing. (I don’t mean that as a knock, they all admitted that this was their first tournament.) While their tournament strategy was lacking, they all had the general gambling/poker skills they needed. Thad was a perfect example. Although initial confused by the blind structure and other aspects of NL Hold’em, he quickly picked it up: this is evidence of a guy that has spent plenty of time around a table. After an hour, he was on or above par with the average guy at our table (whatever that means).

I wish I could tell you a great story about how well or how poorly I played any given hand, but since my cards missed all but 2 flops, I can’t. I can however remind you that all the skill in the world (or lack thereof) means squat if you don’t get good cards, especially in a tournament. Of course, the corollary to that is that if you get great cards, it really doesn’t mater what decisions you make – you will win, which brings me to the side game:

In just under 2 hours, I won $330 in a side game with some pretty low-stakes poker. That can only be done by winning 90% of the hands, which is exactly what I did. When you make natural boats and Ace-high flushes in 5-draw, it is pretty hard to not make money. But, just because anybody can make money in that situation, it is not the case that all people would make the same amount of money. A bad player may have walked out up $100 and a pro up $600. I don’t know exactly, but I do know that in cash games (unlike tournaments) it’s those little decisions that make the difference between winning $100 and $300. And if you lose $200 on half the nights, the difference between eking out $100 or $300 the other half of the nights is the difference between being a winner and a loser in the long term.

I am just going to focus on one particular hand to illustrate this. It’s five card draw. Preflop, I bet and am raised a guy to my left. I call and we each take 1 card. Any fool would know that we both represent 2 pair, and this guy was not playing like an unpredictable idiot, so I put him on the 2-pair. I draw my full house and know that he has a 4 in 47 chance of getting his. I also know that he is not sophisticated enough to know that he shouldn’t bet the 2-pair if he misses the boat. Therefore, I check, and sure enough, he bet. I raise and get one more bet in. I say, “show me your two pair”. He does, and I show the boat and take the money. Point here is that most other players would have bet from my position and only got one bet on the river, but the check-raise got two bets. That got me $20 extra dollars and was the difference between winning $310 and $330 on the night. Take 15 other similar decisions on the night, and you see my point about the little decisions making the difference.

One more point of note is that I intentionally (once I had a lot of chips) targeted Curtis and Jay to get involved into heads up big pot hands. I (correctly, I think) figured them for the two best among the competition. By putting them in these situations, it added volatility to their stack. Even if they “had the best of it” the swings would, at some point bust them. That is what happened, and I was then able to play against the other guys, which were not as strong (one was drunk and the other guy told me he had only played a couple times).

Anyway, I was lucky as hell to get the cards that I got, but I feel like I made the most of it, and hey, at least I won back my entry fee!

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Thursday, October 16, 2003

Posted by Johnnymac 9:12 PM
Oh no! Not another bad beat story!

I decided at the last minute tonight to play in the tournament that Fro had been talking about lately. Two factors influenced my decision to play - 1.) The organizer modified the format into a one-night event and 2.) He changed some of the rules significantly enough to where I felt the format was back in my favor to play. The tournament started at 7:00 tonight and it's now 8:40 as I write this - you do the math - quite obviously, the format didn't help me as much as I was hoping.

I normally don't care to listen to other people's bad beat stories, so theoretically, I shouldn't assume that you want to hear mine. If you don't want to read it, quit reading and I won't be offended, but if you do care to hear about it, read on.

Still here? Good.

Before I go on - let me say that technically, the tournament is still going on, so I should be writing in the present tense. After all, Fro is still playing and might still win some money. Nonetheless, as far as I am concerned, it's over, so I will write in the past tense from now on with the uncertainty that I don't know how Fro is doing or did or will do. He can tell us tomorrow.

Fro and I both felt that that tourney was very much in our favor tonight because the player pool was esssentially drawn from a crowd of trust fund kids who like to gamble. In the long run, that's great, because it guarantees a lot of action. In the short run, just like playing with Ted, it's tough because it introduces a lot of volatility to the game. (For those of you who live in Houston, Fro's description was, "You know, my usual crowd all went to Lee [High School] with me - I also know a lot of these guys, too, but they all went to Kinkaid!" If you don't live in Houston, do a Google search and you'll get the idea)

So. Let's just get this over with. Stacks started at $10,000 in tournament money and blinds were $100 and $200 - fairly steep as a percentage of one's stack, but for a one night tournament, probably necessary.

The story is that one guy at my table table took off running from the start and got lucky enough early to dominate and totally destroy both my strategy and my stack of chips. He was a very loose player who, like Ted, really had no idea what he was doing, but unlike Ted, always seemed to hit his bottom two pair on the river time after time after calling very large bets to get there. I myself got a couple of small bad-beats from him right at the start, which made a couple of small dents in my ammunition, but I was able to gear down afterwards to try and protect myself against the guy. While he clearly wasn't a very good or experienced holdem player, he obviously was very smart - smart enough to instinctually start doing his best Chris Canonico impression with aggressive raises on almost every hand.

Soon enough, he had managed to knock out two of the other players at our table (who probably should not have been calling his big raises, anyway) and had tripled his stack just halfway into the first hour of the tournament. Two other almost-as-loose players had also accumulated big stacks and my strategy of tight play early won me nothing but a short stack and a desperate situation. My stack dwindled quickly as the blinds ate me up with not even semi-decent cards to try and make a play back - $6000, $5700, $5400, $5100, $4800 - it was relentless and I was eventually was down to $3300 by the time the blinds doubled.

I resolved to either make a stand on my next big blind - or before, if I was dealt a Group 1 or Group 2 hand. Very soon after I looked down on my own button to see AKo. I moved all in.

Now, before I describe the hand, a little education is in order for people unfamiliar tournament poker.

Normally, being down 67% of your stack just an hour into the tournament is not necessarily a time to panic. It's certainly not an optimal situation to be in, but can often be rescued with the proper combination of luck and patience. Why? Becasue most players in tournaments try and stay tight until they absolutely are forced to start taking risks. The common wisdom - especially among people who don't normally play in tournaments - is that there is prestige in staying alive as long as possible. Most of these typical players (incorrectly) view a tournament as a contest of attrition rather than one of skill, and because of this most players are not acting aggressively and there are no great disparities in chip stacks. As such, a little luck and a little patience and some timely raises can often get a short stack right back into the action. Among the three other tables tonight, there had just been one player eliminated up to this point in the tournament, and this probably was because no one was ready to take any risks.

It was different at my table, though. At my table, Lucky Guy had managed to create such a disparity in the stack sizes that he effectively changed the stakes of the game to such a degree that I had no leverage. He could easily call any bet or raise I might make and would feel no serious pain if he might happen to lose. So regardless of how large the absolute size of my stack was, it was very small relative to his and that's really all that mattered. Furthermore, with 2 players eliminated for the full $10000, my stack down $6700, and the other short stack down $5000, not only was Lucky Guy way up himself, but the other two players were also starting to build stacks of their own and the three were beginning to just gamble amongst themselves on every hand. I was getting left behind and with only five players left at my table, the blinds and the subsequent big raises from the other players were rapidly taking my ammunition away. I might not have been in bad shape relative to other players in the entire tournament field, but I was in very bad shape relative to the people I was playing against at my table and that's all that mattered to me and my chances in the tournament. I was captive to the circumstances at my table.

Times were desperate, but I figured I had a chance with my AKo. It was going to turn around.

But then no one chose to call me except for the other short stack. Uh-oh. Why would he call a $3300 bet against his own short stack unless he had good cards himself?

He turned over KK. My AK was in serious trouble. I was already behind and half of my hand was dead.

Then the flop came A-Q-7 rainbow. A miracle! I'm ahead!

The turn was an offsuit 3. Looking great! I might just double up! I might just get that chance! I'm not dead yet!

I won't tell you what the river card was... you should be able to guess by now.

After all, I came home to write this post, didn't I?

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Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Posted by Dr Fro 9:35 AM
Chris made a cheeky comment on my tournament strategy for tomorrow below. Actually, I'll have to change it, because it is no longer a shootout, with the top two from each table advancing. Instead, it will be the usual consolidation of tables, just like my tournament and the WSOP. This means that I don't have to be as aggressive early on. Of course, a certain degree of aggressiveness is always in order, but not as much as would be needed in a shootout.

To defend against the luck of the fish, I will avoid "making moves" and just play good hands and avoid big pre-flop pots.

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Posted by Dr Fro 9:33 AM
Alright, we are playing at my house on Friday October 24. To do something different, it will be all NL Holdem, with 25c-50c blinds, buyins in increments of $20. No tournament, just a good old fashioned cash game.

RSVP via comments section below.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Posted by Dr Fro 10:42 AM
I always like what Mike Caro writes:


If you arent familiar with him, buy one of his books. He not only gives good advice, but he is the only poker writer I know of that has a compelling style to his writing as well.

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Posted by Dr Fro 9:57 AM
The Criminal Law of the State of Texas

Section 47.01 opens up with the laying out of terminology where gambling is concerned:

- Gambling place: any real estate where gambling is occuring, versus

- Private place: any real estate where gambling is occuring that is not open to the public

Section 47.02 defines gambling in part as any act of playing and betting for money or any other item of value, a game of cards, dice, or other.

A defense to prosection for an accused to prove that i) everybody who was participating in the gambling possessed equal odds of win or loss, ii) no person collected economic benefit aside from personal winnings, and iii) that the gambling occured in private.

In other words, home gambling in the state of Texas is legal, but it must be conducted in a private place with equal odds between all players.

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Monday, October 13, 2003

Posted by Johnnymac 9:03 PM
To follow up to Fro's post: I had the opportunity to sign up to play in the same tournament this Friday night, but have decided that I am going to pass up the tournament because the rules and structure don't play to my strengths and don't give me the best possible chance to win. That's not to say that Dr Fro's decision to play is wrong - and it's probably not the wrong decision because he's much better at me at adjusting his game to non-typical rules and changing circumstances.

There's a poker lesson here: you don't have to play in every game. While we may all be able to relate to the wild west legend of Canada Bill Jones choosing to play with cheaters because "it's the only game in town," the truth is that we don't have to play whenever we can. Choose the games that play to your strength and choose your opportunities. There is nothing wrong with giving yourself the best chance to win.

(This is especially true for wild and whacky home games - think about it - or better yet, maybe Fro can expound some more on his home games post below)

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Posted by Johnnymac 8:42 PM
Beware of 2nd place

One of the new players at the club is a nice fellow named “Jason.” I first encountered him about two months ago as we were both waiting one night for seats in the game. As is usual for me, I was watching the Astros game on television and keeping to myself, but Jason was chatting with the other folks sitting around and making conversation about his newly found pastime of playing cards in the club. Jason was a new player and was not ashamed to talk about how much fun he was having and all of the different books he had read or was planning to read.

That night as I watched Jason play, it was very clear that he needed to read a few more books. He saw a quite a few more flops than his hands seemed to demand, and he quickly blew through $200 in just a couple of hours. But it was also clear that he was learning and wanted to be a better player. Since then, I’ve played with him quite a few times and I’ve noticed that his hand selection is obviously improving, as is his ability to recognize when he’s beat and his willingness to fold when circumstances dictate. Jason is becoming a better player, but there is still a glaring weakness to his game: he often draws to 2nd place.

Tuesday night I was playing with Jason and saw a prime example of this tendency. Two spades had come on the flop for four players. The turn was blank and the river caught the third spade. Two players checked to Jason, who bet and was then raised by the player on the button. The first two players folded and Jason called the raise cold. The raiser turned over the Ace (and a smaller spade) and Jason turned over the suited Jack. He wasn’t quite broke after that hand, but futilely threw the rest of his chips at the very next flop and then stormed out of the club upset over his “bad beat”.

A lot of lessons can be learned here. First, in choosing to play a suited Jack and small card from middle position, Jason was setting himself up to fail. While any suited face card often has the possibility of making a strong hand, the hand is weak and dangerous in three ways: 1.) flopping a middle pair may have a big kicker, but is vulnerable to straight draws and overcards, 2.) flopping top pair means you have no kicker, and 3.) should you make your flush, you’re likely going to be up against someone with a bigger pair of suited cards. In all three of these situations, while the dealt cards have multiple chances to make complete hands relative to two random cards being dealt, any of the hands that may be made are not as good as the hands that will likely be made by someone playing cards that are better suited for that particular board. Accordingly, in any of these situations, your made hand is likely 2nd best, and even worse, because you made a hand you feel compelled to go to the end with it in hopes of winning the pot. Jason’s troubles all started when he decided to call the blinds and were only magnified when two spades came on the flop – just about the only way he could have won the hand would have been to hope for other players to fold before the river, and as soon as it was obvious that the player behind him was on a spade draw too, he should have surrendered and girded up for the next hand instead.

Drawing to a weak flush is just one example of playing for 2nd place. It’s also quite common in this game to see players drawing to the “ignorant” end of a straight or showing down a small two pair against a paired board that clearly helps someone with a big pocket pair.

One final thought – drawing to 2nd place is not in and of itself a bad thing – nor is it necessarily the purpose of this post. If any lessons are taken away here, it should be the importance of position and the interplay of position with hand selection. Players who don’t appreciate position, or are loose with their choice of hands, or both, are usually the guys who end up in second place. It’s not always wrong to play a suited Jack or other suited cards or even unsuited connectors – they have value in certain situations, but usually should be thrown away. One of the keys to consistently winning at poker is to recognize when you’re in 2nd place and to throw those cards away for cheap. Recognizing those situations starts with an meaningful appreciation of the importance of position and hand selection, and until those skills are mastered, 2nd place can be very expensive.

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Posted by Dr Fro 5:52 PM
Article on WPT #2:

Sucks we have to wait until 2004.

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Posted by Dr Fro 10:44 AM
One more thought - why would anybody l(ike myself) willingly post strategy tips on the Internet for the guys he plays against the most to read? Why would I educate the very people I hope to beat?

I think it is safe to say that the type of person that reads through this is probably also reading poker books and other websites and is generally intersted in improving his game already. At a minimum, they spend time reflecting on the game and considering strategy. If you are reading Slansky's Holdem for Advance Players, then I seriously doubt that my amatuer advice is going to have much of an effect on your game.

The people who would benefit the most from reading this are the very people who don't. And it is because they have no desire to improve their game that they will always be losers. Yes, the occasional Friday night they will walk home with extra money bc the cards fell right. However, those nights are the outliers and more often than not, they will not win. They tend to think they already know everything there is to know, so why read anything to try to improve?

I won't name names, but you know the guys.

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Posted by Dr Fro 10:36 AM
While this blog has been largely dedicated to "real" poker thus far, I think every single reader also plays in wild, dealer's choice home games. I was hoping you could each reply via the comments link below as to your favorite game to call and why. You may submit multiple answers.

My favorite: probably 7-stud, roll your own, low card in the hole is wild

Why: multiple reasons, but for starters, I still get a laugh out of the guy that thinks his 4 sixes are worth a crap. Word to the unwise, without a straight flush or 5 of a kind, you have no chance of winning. Other reason is that I still laugh at the ineptitude of others in deciding which card to roll….probably 1 out of every 3 times I deal it, somebody bangs themselves on the head, realising that they could have won if they simply rolled the right card.....for some reason, people tend to make the lowest card in the their hand the lowest card in the hole instead of making sure that the card they have the most of is the lowest in the hole - big difference.

Also on the list is 357, low Chicago, and Anaconda. All three have very very simple strategy and in the last 2, you should generally fold very early with anything short of a monster; yet, nobody does.

Give me your fav's...

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Sunday, October 12, 2003

Posted by Johnnymac 10:50 PM
As far as pocket pairs, I have a few general thoughts. First and foremost, they are much more valuable in a big-bet game than in a limit game, for the usual reasons. Second, I think that many unexperienced limit players put too much value on pairs in the pocket and marry themselves to their pairs no matter what cards may come on the flop.

My personal philosophy on pocket pairs in a limit game is to usually call at least one raise with any pair in hopes of flopping a set . Generally, with any pair of 77 or lower, if I don't flop a set or am not playing against a very large field (8 players or more) I will the fold against any action on the flop and fold against any raise no matter how many players are in the field. Why? Because any 77 or lower will certainly be facing overcards, and if it's not facing any overcards then it's likely against a straight draw instead (think about it).

88 is a bit stronger, but not much; similarly, 99 is stronger but not great.

TT and above is very much dependent on the strength of the board, how many other players are left, what other hands are likely to be left in the pot.

Generally, pairs in the pocket, even AA or KK, almost always have to improve, and it's doubly important for TT thru QQ to improve because any overcards at all will put even the most clueless K-x or A-x ahead of you.

So, to summarize - always hope to flop a set when you're dealt a pocket pair, and if it's worse than TT, it's usually smarter to fold if you don't flop that set. Don't be married and play smart.

One more thing - David Sklansky has a great chapter on pocket pairs in his book, Holdem for Advanced Players. Highly recommended if you would like to get further into the details.

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Posted by Johnnymac 10:38 PM
Not much I can say. I got trapped and in the end I lost. That's all that matters.

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Friday, October 10, 2003

Posted by Dr Fro 2:47 PM
from the mail bag:

Article Idea for your site, "what to do with pockets?" It is something that I vary on time after time.

- Boyd in Houston


Pockets, it depends. But the general advice would be like this:

Anytime you raise, you have to ask yourself, "what am I hoping to achieve with this raise?" The second question is, "how likely is it that raising will accomplish that goal?"

With pocket 10's you want to play heads up against someone. With Aces, you want a couple callers. So lets say you have 10s and you are second to bet. First guy raised. Raise him big time, and you will likely be heads up. Goal accomplished. However, say you are on the button and it is a family pot (all players called). If you raise, you will likely get many callers. So, when you answer the second question, you are unlikely to acheive your goal. In this case, save your money and call.

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Posted by Dr Fro 1:42 PM
More from Junell. I have to say that he does point out something that JG and I had not thought of....the pre-flop raise was not necessarily large enough to represent massive strength.....


From: "Mark A. Junell"
To: "'Craig Friou'"
Subject: My response
Date: Fri, 10 Oct 2003 13:38:58 -0500

Craig here is my response to John's comments about the hand. I tried to
post them as a response, but I was limited to 1000 characters. Feel
free to forward them to John and/or post them on the site.



First let me say that I love your site. It's a great idea to have a
place like this to debate everyone's method of play, etc.

Also, thanks so much for organizing the tournament. Along with everyone
else, I had a great time, met a lot of nice people, and learned a great
deal. I'm also sorry that I knocked you out (I would've much preferred
to eliminate Glazer, Wilson or James R. :)

Now I won't even pretend to have the experience that you and Craig have.
I began playing Hold 'Em about 4 months ago, and am still feeling my way
through the intricacies of the game. That said however, maybe I can
justify why I played my hand the way I did.

As you stated, I was in the small and you were in the big. Of course I
wasn't happy with my K6, but certainly willing to put in $3 to call it
(especially considering there was only 1 caller by the time it got back
around to me). At the time I called the big blind, I had no idea what
you were holding, but was hoping to see a flop. Of course, I assumed
that if you were unhappy with your hand you would've just checked and
seen the flop.

You raised $20. At the time I believed this raise was made for one of
two reasons: (1) you held a mediocre hand and wanted to feel everyone
out (or chase them away) without betting too much, or (2) you had a huge
hand, and were trying to build a pot without scaring us off. In any
event, if you were really trying to "thin the field," I would've
expected a bigger raise. In fact, if you had raised $50 or more, I
probably would've gone away. But in any event, I had already called and
was willing to pay $20 to see a flop. It could've been wrong, but I
sensed weakness on the part of the 3rd caller (don't remember who it
was) and figured it would just be me and you after that.

Flop comes and I get 2 pair. You and I are heads up and I'm first to
act. I check partly to see what you do, but also anticipating a trap
(now or on the turn). Remember at the time I didn't know how strong
your hand was. You check, and the A comes up. I don't know if you got
a piece of this, but I'm going to find out. At the time, the only
aggressive move you had made was to raise $20 pre-flop. Also remember
that I had made no moves thus far, and only called twice from the small
blind. I had two pair with a draw to the boat, but I figured you hadn't
put me on any of those cards (given my two checks on the flop and turn).

I check. The check on the turn was a trap, and I was hoping to get a
bet. I put you on the Ace, but not the straight. I figured that if you
were on the straight draw (after the flop), you would've bet on the flop
hoping to chase me off with a hand that wasn't good yet, but could've
been a monster. In any event, I wanted to see if you got a piece of
that Ace and would bet. I could've been wrong about the straight, but
for whatever reason, I didn't put you on it.

You went All-In, and I assumed that it was because you had made top pair
(with a good sized kicker), and were trying to scare me off (which in
fact you were). I called instinctively because in my mind I didn't
believe you had made the nuts, and just as importantly, I knew you
didn't put me on two pair, since I had checked twice in a row. I
could've been wrong (as I was against Hunter on Wednesday night), and it
could've gone the other way. But at the time I thought my hand was the
best, and my outs were about the same (draw to the full house).

I hope this explains some of my moves. I'm just learning, and probably
made a number of bad decisions on Sunday. But I had fun, and look
forward to the next one. Thanks again!


Very interesting -cf

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Posted by Dr Fro 11:13 AM
OK ok, I said I wasnt goint to go into why shootouts are a sorry format. Here's why:

1. If the best 3 players are at the same table, one of them cannot go to the final table. In other words, randomness plays a larger role than skill.

2. Guys have to sit out whil others still play. This sucks to know that you could be building your stack but instead you are scratching your ass.

3. Sorthanded play becomes a factor early in the tournament. THis isnt so bad, bc shorthanded play is an important skill. However, I think it is the equivilant of putting out the 18th green at Augusta before you even make the turn. If the analogy is lost, I don't apologise.

BTW, thanks for all the reads, the hit counter is showing 20 odd hits per day.

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Posted by Dr Fro 11:09 AM
I am playing in a $200 tournement next week. Thats a lot of gidda. It is clear from the rules that this is not exactly a bunch of Vegas sharks. My first clue was the lengthy discussion of how to play Holdem. My second clue was the numerous rules that were very, shall we say, un-standard. The organiser must not have a lot of experience in playing in tournaments, or the rules would have been more, um, standard.

Of course, it is a leap to assume that the entire field will have an equal lack of experience. But it isnt that much of a leap, so I will make that assumption and make certain adjustments to my play. Specifically, I will apply the lesson learned from Hunter the Caller (aka Hunter the Straight Maker) that you cant make a move on an inexperienced player.

I may get knocked out, but I won't make the same mistake twice.

There are several other adjustments that I will need to make on my strategy based on the format. For instance, the top 2 from each table go to the final table. This is also known as a shootout. It is the format used in Maverick and it is also a pretty crappy format, based on personal experience. However, I am not here to complain, but to explain adjustments. I think the biggest adjustment is that I should lose the sense of urgency I usually have in tournaments. You see, usually, if you are doing fairly well, but a guy at another table is doing tremendously well, you are screwed. You usually have to build big stacks early so as to not end up at the final table short stacked, but not in a shootout. Nope, I have all the time in the world to win my table's chips and if a guy at another table shoots out ahead, he will end up sitting on the sidelines for 3 hours watching me bide my time and slowly accumulate chips.

This plays into the second the final table, there will be very little disparity in stacks, as every pair of players that came from the same table will (between them) have the same amount as all other pairs. Also, blinds are adjusted at this point so that they wont jeopardise the stacks. I think this makes it easier to sit tight, watch others duke it out, and slide into 3rd or 2nd place w/o really ever playing a hand. However, the discrepancy between 1st and 2nd is huge (4.4x) so, there is an incentive to go for the gusto. I will be weighing the pros and cons of my final table strategy for 24 hours leading up to it. I'll keep you posted.

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Thursday, October 09, 2003

Posted by Dr Fro 2:20 PM
See results of tournament below


From: "Mark A. Junell"
Subject: Poker Results
Date: Thu, 9 Oct 2003 11:01:33 -0700 (PDT)

Last night's "Waring Poker Tour # 1" was a huge success!

The seats were maxed out as 18 players bought in for $100. We started with two tables of nine players each, and every player began with $400 in chips. The game was No Limit Hold 'Em (the "Cadillac of Poker"), and the action was fast.

The results:

1st place: Boyd S - $900.00
2nd place: Michael W - $540.00
3rd place: Hunter C - $360.00

Given the success of last night, I think we might have to do this monthly. Let me know if you agree...



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Posted by Dr Fro 9:23 AM
Last night was a wild one. Two tables of 9 guys, each for $100, payouts to 1st –3rd. We each got 400TC. I turned my 400TC into 1300TC in about 45 minutes by trying to isolate myself against loose passive callers and it worked. My stack fluctuated a little for the next couple hours, but there is one hand in particular that I remember. I had 9-x in the BB and the flop was 8-T-J. The pot was a decent size and the bet from Kenley was moderate – a call from me would have been justified by pot odds to draw at the straight. But then I remembered, Kenley raised pre-flop. Also, Coach was in, and he was only playing premium hands except for his penchant for chasing straights. I put Kenley on A-K and figured Coach for 10’s or a straight draw. I figure I am drawing dead against Kenley and possibly sharing a pot w Coach. I lay down. Next card is a Q. My straight came. Kenly moves all in and coach calls. Sure enough, Kenly had A-K, and won the hand. Coach was eliminated and I would have been too had I not correctly read Kenley’s hand.

I went to the final table as either the chip leader or somewhere close. However, there really wasn’t a massive difference in stacks at the table. I made one masterful move when there was a big pot pre-flop that checked around on subsequent rounds. I moved all in on the river when it checked around again and stole the pot. Felt good. They knew I was making a move, but they couldn’t call, and that is what I counted on. I think they were kicking themselves that they had not tried the same. (Actually the board showed two pair, so my A-x was probably good enough to win or split anyway, and perhaps all I did was take an entire large pot that I would have otherwise split!)

Then came the defining hand. I had Ah-Jh preflop and raised 3xBB preflop, getting two callers. Flop came rag-rag-rag, with two hearts. The pot is worth taking right there, and I have 15 outs even if I get a caller (9 hearts plus 3 Jacks and 3 Aces). Those 15 outs give me a 54% chance of making a hand if I do get a call. But it is unlikely that I get a call with such crap on the board. So I am very much getting pot odds to make the bet, and I fire off several hundred TC’s. I get a call from Hunter from Texas Tech, who managed to make a pair of 3’s, the bottom pair. It is difficult to put into words how bad of a call this was on his part, and the likelihood of me having made middle or top pair was fairly high. I don’t know why he called, but as you may guess, my 54% chance of beating a caller did not come through. Lesson learned – you can’t make a move on a guy that isn’t very good at poker. They wont respect it and they will call because its more fun to call. I should know better. (no knock on Hunter, a very nice guy, but he calls way too much) Next time, I’ll make that move at Wilson and Boyd and James and Junell, but I will never ever make a move again at Hunter or his ilk (just as I promise to never drink that much again every Saturday morning!)

It was fun, and I only wish I could have played in the side games, but I was tired and had to go see Mrs Dr Fro.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Posted by Johnnymac 12:52 AM
More updates to the formatting tonight: comments are up! Recommended links are coming soon.

I had a small crisis with my template page and had to semi-rebuild it. If you notice anything that is inconsistent or doesn't seem to match up just right, please point it out via email and I will see if I missed a Blogger tag somewhere.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Posted by Dr Fro 10:56 AM
Tomorrow night is a $100 NL Hold’em tournament at Junell’s. My strategy will be so aggressive I will either be the first one out or the winner. At least that is the plan. I may have to adjust the strategy based on the circumstances…I’ll keep you posted

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Posted by Dr Fro 10:54 AM
The night that John made his score at the Friendship Social Club, I was at the table next door to him, which was $5-$10 Hold’em with a full kill. For those who don’t know what a “full kill” is, that means that if a certain criteria is met, then the next hand is played for double stakes. In this case, the criteria is that a person win a pot > $100. The double stakes mean the game becomes $10-$20. The BB still posts $10 and the SB still posts $5, but the guy that “killed” the pot posts $20 and players must call $20 to see the flop.

I scored $383 on this particular night, and I did it in 2 hours.

It was the perfect line up for me. Two dummies, two maniacs, and the rest were rocks. In case you don’t know what a rock is, they are usually old men who only play one hand an hour and they tend to raise when they have the goods.

Strategy was simple; play slightly looser in order to get involved in more pots with the dummies and/or maniacs. I generally assume the dummies have nothing and therefore bet if I have anything at all heads up with one of them, including such crap as middle pair. The maniacs are the most difficult to play against. You can’t put them on a hand, so you just play straight up and solid. Don’t fear their big plays on the end. Maniacs love to bet when they miss a draw. You may win with Ace-high.

The rocks? Fear them pre-flop and fold most hands to their raises. They are probably holding something better than you. If you get to the flop with them, always raise the flop. If they didn’t hit, they will fold. They live by the motto that if the flop didn’t improve their hand, it must have improved somebody else’s. I picked up a lot of pots with this move. Back off if they call, because they may have something…only bet them if they appear to be on a draw. This would be the case if the flop included a Q-J or J-T or Q-T. Their A-K hand may be drawing at a straight.

I play unpredictably on purpose, but all three groups of players above play fairly predictably. Even the maniac is predictable in certain situations, namely the automatic bet on the river. Take advantage of their predictability. In the case of the maniac, go for the check-raise on the river when you hold the goodies. Don’t let them be able to predict you. After two hours, a couple of the better players were on to my tricks and started to defend against them. So, I left.

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Monday, October 06, 2003

Posted by Johnnymac 10:17 PM
You'll notice a lot of changes to the site. Most notably, the formatting is really cleaned up and organized. We have a few more things in mind as well - comments, links, email, publicizing - that are going to show up in the next few weeks. Anything else you would like to see? Send me email at

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Posted by Johnnymac 10:12 PM
USA Today gets in on the act

USA Today last week joined the chorus of publications writing about the “poker craze” that has seemingly enveloped the nation. Not a bad article, but predictable, just like the article in Sports Illustrated a few weeks ago.

Perhaps the best part of the article is the flashy interactive graphic on the right that advertises, “Learn how to play Texas Hold’em,” and obviously was derived from spending an evening in a crazy low-limit tourist game… none of the sample hands fold on any street! Please, USA Today, keep up the good work in “educating” new players – that’s my kind of educating!

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Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Posted by Johnnymac 6:56 PM
Friendship Social Club. 3 Hours of 3-6-(12) holdem and $142 of profit.

[WARNING: purposely bad infusion of multiple mixed metaphors ahead! Alert! Alert! Why? Because it’s fun!]

Sneaked away for about an hour last night because I wanted to get back on the poker horse that bucked me off over the weekend – nothing better for that than sitting in the henhouse for a while and stealing lollipops from the babies.

As always, some observations to share:

1.) Quality, not quantity

I’ve ceased being amazed at the poor quality of play that is inherent in these types of games, and instead I just take it for granted. Many of the regular players in these games are there because they want to gamble and sitting and folding is just no fun to them – they want to win every pot and view every deal of the cards as an equal opportunity to win. It’s amazing, really, because the chips go to the same few good players every time, and I continually hear lamentations about how much has been lost recently in any one particular night/week/month, yet these guys keep coming back and doing it all over again without ever improving. Mason Malmuth and Mike Caro always emphasize that it’s the live ones who make the game worth playing, because if every player always improved, then eventually everyone’s expected value approaches zero, right? I guess I should be happy about this because these guys are the ones who make me a winner.


I played for barely an hour last night. I saw maybe 10 flops, including my big blinds, and I saw the turn just 3 times. Of those three, I showed my cards to the table TWICE and both times I won a big pot. The third was a drawing hand (JTs open ended) that likely would have received a lot action had I hit the river. Instead I missed and I quickly mucked when fired upon.

So what’s my point?

Sure, it’s more fun to call a lot of bets and to try and win every single pot, but it’s also more expensive and when the game is over it’s NOT fun to be a loser. Patience is the key to happiness in poker, yet for all of the hours that the typical FSC player put in, he never seems to shift from wanting to win multiple pots to trying to just win big pots.

2.) Speaking of big pots – I love the live straddle

In his Holdem for Advanced Players book, David Sklansky advises that the live straddle is one of the worst plays that can be made in a holdem game, because it’s nothing more than an extra bet made with absolutely no edge at all (i.e. it’s voluntarily taking on the disadvantages of being in the big blind for twice the cost). It’s nothing more than gambling play and is somewhat analogous to throwing money at a craps game.

Conversely, while it’s a bad play for the player who voluntarily posts the live straddle, it’s a very lucrative play for all of the other players because it creates an added return and a bigger pot should they be dealt good cards. Furthermore, the player who posts the straddle usually feels (however wrongly) obligated to chase a little bit in an attempt to recoup his bet, so Sklansky advises that a raise back at a live straddle with any decent two cards is the proper strategy because it usually isolates you heads up against a typically bad hand. Presto! A large pot against a very small number of opponents has been created against a stuck underdog. It can’t be any better than that in poker – pot odds and a hand that is a likely favorite.

Why do I mention this? Because my biggest hand last night came in this exact situation.

A weak player under the gun posted the straddle against my small blind. I looked down and saw 55. Not a great hand, but definitely worth a lot of money if I were to make my set. Furthermore, at least 5 other players called for 2 bets, and based on what I had seen all night, I figured another raise would be called all the way around so I made it three bets to play. The big blind called both raises, all of the other players called, and we had an 8-way pot for 3 bets apiece.

I didn’t flop my set, but the board was A-3-4 and I had a lot of outs that justified a bet with the implied odds I was getting. My $3 bet wasn’t raised, but was called by 4 others. The turn was 6. Still a lot of outs and great implied odds. I bet another $6 and get called twice, no raisers. Then I got that Doyle Brunson “jelly roll” feeling on the river and lo and behold I got my 5. I figured I was up against nothing better than A-x so I bet the maximum $12 bet and got called by both guys. Immediately, the gentleman to my left looks at me and smiles and says, “Shit, I knew you had something all along” as he turned over his AQ.

“Not until the end,” I replied, as he slammed the table after seeing my cards.

I got a lot of laughs and a lot of head shaking and a good bit of astonished looks at my “bad” play (this from the crowd that loves to play single Aces and any two suited cards). But I doubt a majority of them even went to college or ever sat through a even freshman lecture on probability and expected value. What do I care if they don’t understand?

3.) Let me sit and watch for a while and I’ve got you figured out

I wrote yesterday about evaluating the play of strangers and the immense amount of information that’s available as soon one shows his cards to the rest of the table for the first time and that raises and shows of strength are much more effective so long as the mystery is perpetuated. This was reinforced to me last night.

When I arrived there was a new player at the end of the table whom I had never seen before but with a very large stack of chips. He was neatly dressed and had the appearance of someone who is well-off and educated, so I immediately gave him the benefit of the doubt and assumed him to be a relatively stronger player than the rest of the table. Early on, before I had seen many hands, I was dealt TT from early position. This player called my pre-flop raise, then when I check-raised the K-9-6 flop in attempt to represent, he reraised. I called his raise, then we both checked the J that came on the turn. The river was blank and when I checked he immediately bet the $12 minimum and I mucked right away against what I thought clearly had to be at least a pair of kings with a decent kicker.

After this hand, I watched this player and saw him regularly call nearly every blind and then go to the river on almost every hand. I quickly realized that his aggressive play against me wasn’t necessarily because he had me beat (though I admit that TT was weak and likely beat, anyway) – but rather it was because he apparently had a habit of always reraising and then always calling any bet on the river or firing his own $12 whenever he was first to act at the end, regardless of the cards. Usually, this behavior scared a lot of players into folding, but quite often he was called by a member the crowd-who-knows-no-fear and it became pretty obvious that he would play any hand this way, no matter how weak, like Ace no kicker, little flushes, or even middle pocket pairs. He was loose and aggressive and was playing a strategy that might be marginally successful at higher limits but was pure lunacy against the idiots of the FSC in the long-run.

Once I saw him play for a while and got to see the cards that were behind some of his actions, I didn’t quite respect the aggression in the same way. I only had one more chance to go against him again and didn’t have to discount his aggressive play that time because then I did indeed have the nuts and I wouldn’t have been scared by his big bets anyway.

But next time I see him there, I’ll know…

4.) Something else annoying

Just a pet peave, but is it so hard to say, “raise”? Last night there were 2 or 3 players among the every-hand crowd who were mute except to mutter profanities whenever they lost. Most annoying here was their habit to either signal their raises with hand signals like the thumbs-up Aggie gig-em or to simply fire extra chips at the pot and assume the dealer will announce the implied raise when he saw it. This bothers me because it makes the game harder to follow for the people who are further away from the action. If players are just firing chips at the pot without announcing their intention, I sometimes can’t tell who’s actually making the play and who’s just following along. I don’t like this and I wish the dealers would do something about it.

I think there’s a tell in there somewhere, but I haven’t figured it out yet – perhaps it’s a signal of preoccupation with the quality of the cards, whether strong or weak, or maybe it’s indicative of the same single mindedness that defines the common “stare at the flop and hope it changes because I have shit” tell that’s everyone already knows about. I’m not sure.

5.) Patience, Grasshopper… watch football

Finally, allow me to go back to my first point about hand selection and having the patience to wait for premium situations.

It’s hard being patient. It’s even harder being patient while having to stay quiet and listen to assorted dumbasses make stupid comments and play bad cards while you’re bled dry by the blinds and cheap attempts to draw. The right cards in the right situation makes for a lot of opportunity against these guys, but the wrong cards in the right situation makes for frustration from having to watch the idiots scoop pots and make bad plays while you sit and watch. I’ve learned to deal with this frustration, but it’s hard. That’s why the good players always like to sit and face the TV, or at least I do.

More later. (as there always is)

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Posted by Johnnymac 5:45 AM
I also invited Chris to write a small piece of his own about his win in the big tourney:

Date: Tue, 30 Sep 2003 22:25:57 -0700 (PDT)
From: chris canonico Add To Address Book
Subject: Re: Fwd: here we go

Frio’s favorite $400 dollar raise: Commentary on the Melee at Merry’s

1) The Big Stack Can Impose Their Will. A couple of good cards earlier allowed me to have a stack to raise the blinds and win some easy hands. The interesting aspect of this was two fold

a. It was fun to watch players scurry away, something you cant do in $3 max raise home games.

b. Got to take a calculated risk at least once. I pulled a 4 clubs when I had 15 outs versus a pair of 5s. Got lucky, but you need luck to get to the final table. Funny thing was that Mark (3rd place) and I both rivered a 4 clubs to win big hands and stay alive... (Note, had I lost this hand, I would of still had 1k early and I would still be alive, but vulernable)

c. I believe in the 7 hours I played, there were four memorable times someone reraised my raise, thereby reinforcing the adage, the one holding the chips, calls the shots. Here’s a summary of my thoughts on these reraises.
i. Smaller stacks going all in against my bluff. No hard call here, fold politely.

ii. Mark Junell raised my $800 dollar raise against my A-10 suited. Now as Mark was the 2nd highest stack with about 15 folks left, no need to battle the 2nd stack when I could pick on little stacks later. Bad raise on my part as Junell was behind me. Easy call now, check, then fold, and live to take him on in a better position.

iii. Jimmy P in the head to head. I raised $3k with a good heads up hand (KJ), but he went all in. He put me in a position for all my chips on a spec call. Made a call that he had more than a K and decided to see what the future held. In the long term, a good decision, but it chapped me good that I conceded. Great raise on his part, but it did set up my future raises against him to get him to go all in.

2) Mouses need Dead Money. Blinds will eat up the mouses eventually, unless someone calls there raises or calls. If they raise, no need to even tempt fate and play. Give em bones and let the later blinds knock em out. In a limit game, mouses are tough.. here, just a matter of time..

3) Dead money, That’s how Phil H., Men the Master, and all make their way to the final table consistently and why my table, Fros table, and Boyds table had finalist...

4) Lots of folks loved their hand all the way to the river when 18 hands were better... Just fun to watch people get all bent out of shape on the 5th best hand on the table... Not as good as rivering John in the occasional home game, but I digress.

5) I love the Ted Hoths and Jason Bairds... Poker by the books is by the odds and there were lots of folks at the tourney who can tell you the odds of run-a-runner against the big slick. Against these folks, you need position, cards, and some huevos... that’s why I love Ted Hoth and why pros say playing against amateurs throws the bluff hand outs. Cant ever bluff against someone who loves to throw everything in, just too risky in a tournament. Some people love knowing the odds, others like reading people, I like it when people are forced to bet $400 dollars on a $1/2 blind. Ted brings that and it makes reading people really fun. Also, a tight table (the other room) is not a profitable table. In the end these tight people need cards, or else the big stack is going to blind em. Mark C was the only one from the “other room (see No.3 above)” that made final table Too tight to get any money to attack.

6) No matter whether you know the odds, play the accepted risks or win money in home games, its all about chips and luck. I didnt run into one great hand against me.. no quad-4s or full houses.. Lots of luck in that or I caught some tells so I folded... Definetaly the latter (ha), although some folks have some nice tells.. Ask who played better, the guy who went all in with Qs preflop and ran up against Ks or .... Thats just luck.... Everyone who plays either enters a showdown behind, gets rivered, or gets called on the bluff. That’s why its poker and why repeating is almost impossible... I had a good day, tomorrows could be Teds... no, wait...

Now about that rent.....

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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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The Doctor is IN

Dr Fro
aka "slow roller"

Which one is the fish?

aka "Sunday Stroller"

You go now!

Johnny Mac
aka "Chop Suey"

You got to know when to hold em;  Know when to Mo' em ...

aka "Mo roller"

Old School

"Baby's Daddy"

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