Saturday, January 31, 2004

Posted by Dr Fro 6:35 PM
I have talked before about there being no transitive property in poker, referring to players, The same holds true for hands. For example, look at these win percentages heads-up, preflop

A As5s v 2c2h: 50.2% v 49.8%
B 2c2h v Ad6d: 50.11% v 49.9%
C Ad6dv As5s: 56.6% v 43.4%

Hand A beats hand B heads up, B beats C, and C beats A. (btw, in a 3-way pot, the pair winns 38% of the time)

On a similiar note
D AsAd v KhKc: 81% v 19%
E AsAd v 6h7h: 77% v 23%
F 6h7h v KhKc: 22% v 78%

So, even though KK kills 67suited, the 67suited plays better against AA. (btw, in a 3-way pot, the Aces win 61% of the time, 67suited 21% and KK 18%)

So how should each hand play? Lets just make a very simple assumption - each caller is in for $100 pre-flop with no more betting. Clearly, hand A prefers two callers to win 38% of $200 over only app 50% of $100 with one caller. This is no surprise, as we know that 22 is a drawing hand, so you want lots of callers and no raise pre-flop. Same holds true for hand F, which fares better with more callers.

What is intersting in this example is AA does better with 2 callers (EV=app $80 vs heads up EV = app $60). While typically high pairs want to drive others out of the pot and go heads up, the AA doesnt mind a few callers in certain situations.

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Thursday, January 29, 2004

Posted by Dr Fro 9:22 AM
Lou has a nice article.

Some of my favorite points:

There's no use in trying to induce them to take a certain course of action when they are not even going to notice what you're doing.

Amen. Yet, as much as I know this, it is the mistake that I most consistently make. Why? Because I have spent so much time in medium stakes games in Houston cardrooms and big stakes pot-limit games in the UK where the competition is tough, fancy play always paid off. Now, I find myself playing at tables that always have 2 or 3 newbies and I don't switch my style of play.

"I put you on top pair all along," he'll probably say, while thinking to himself that you were damned lucky to back into that winning flush. Why did he consider top pair as the only possibility?

A lot of players will do this and the key is when they openly state that they only put you on the top pair. These guys are dead meat when you get the 2-pair or set. The flip side of this lesson is for you to not do this yourself....always consider the full range of hands your opponent may have.

If he's really sharp he'll even go one step further, and think about what you think his hand might be.

Yes, he will. Be cognizant of this and don't fall for the experts traps. A decent rule of thumb when playing against an expert that respects you is to consider what he wants you to do and do the exact opposite. (you should only do this in marginal situations like having 3:1 shot at a pot paying say 2.9:1.) Again, don't only be cognizant that he is doing this; you, too should go to this third level of thought. My closest circle of friends (those who read this site) have all moved to the second level, which involves moving away from your hand and considering the other guy's hand. I think a lot of us should consider if we have moved to level three.

What is an easy way to do that?

Broadcast a tell you're sure they'll pick up. Then broadcast it again when your hand is that proverbial horse of a different color. Once your opponent realizes that you are thinking at his level, he'll usually realize that he does not have quite the same control over you that he might have thought, and he'll begin to respect your play a bit more.

Sure, it will only pay off at first, but once he respects you, he will stop trying to trick you and focus his efforts on the fish.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Posted by Dr Fro 10:03 AM
Let me know if you have any interest in Super Bowl Props.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Posted by Dr Fro 8:07 AM
A decent resource if you are looking for rules for your home game. However, I disagree with one aspect of his Pig rule. (I had forgotten about this wrinkle until Judge brought it up a couple weeks ago)

If person A declares Pig (going high and low), person B declares low and person C declares high, and it works out that A does have the lowest, but C beat A for high, of course A wins nothing. But according to the rules above (and what is the most common set of rules) is that B and C split the pot. While I know this is common and I expect it to be the rule by default when nobody says otherwise, I think that it is not the best rule. B didn't actually win lo, so he should receive nothing and C should get the whole pot. It is somewhat analagous to playing O/8 and two people don't qualify with "8 or better", so the high wins it all.

However, if A and B tie, then A is disqualified* and B does legitimately win 1/2 the pot. (A very technical argument could be made that B only wins 3/8 of the pot, but I won't go there). C takes the other half and gets the odd chip.

*Now that assumes that ties disqualify the Pig, which again is the common and expected rule. However, this variant makes little sense to me and is completely inconsistent with other poker rules. In poker, ties alway result in a split pot. I would say that the Pig quarters the low and takes the high.

Since I will probably never convince a table full of 8 to make these rules, I will simply never declare Pig. There is way too much downside under the common rules.

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Posted by Dr Fro 7:55 AM
This calculator seems much more user friendly than the one at two dimes.

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Monday, January 26, 2004

Posted by Dr Fro 9:17 PM
Can you imagine losing a $150,000 pot?

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Saturday, January 24, 2004

Posted by Johnnymac 2:35 PM
We played here at the house last night in our sort-of regular monthly game. The stakes are rather low and I won $25. Nothing to serious or enhancing to the bank, but fun at least.

My friend Jordan played last night for the first time in a long time. Jordan played with us a couple of times a few years ago and had some hard luck and quit playing for a while. We would always invite him to play and he would always answer that he felt the learning curve was too expensive for him to get comfortable with the games that we play and the relative strength of the hands that are usually needed to win them. Nonetheless, he's a good friend and he's always spending time at the house and he's beginning to learn poker by osmosis, it seems. Last night, he finally decided to give it another shot.

He didn't win anything - he lost $40, in fact - but he held his own and didn't feel like he was being taken advantage of, as I think may have been the case in the past. Just like anyone who's starting out playing poker, he has a lot to learn, but he's a smart guy and I think he realized last night that we a little bit of observation, the game isn't quite as intimidating.

I think that's true for anyone who plays poker - you need to sit down and observe the game before you start throwing your money around. Once you get a feel for the type of players your up against and the house rules and any other specific peculiarities of the game at hand, then it's ok to start playing away. Until then, it can be expensive.

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Posted by Dr Fro 1:51 PM
The post from Andy Bloch is great stuff. The best advice is to study numbers in advance, but then just use them as rules of thumb at the table. Attempting to work through complex calculations on the spot has little benefit, and there is a big risk of miscalculating or allowing the calculation to keep your attention away from other important pieces of information (tells, etc)

I was quite surprised at the long list of otherwise looking junky hands that warrant a call if gettin 3:1 odds pre-flop to an all-in raise, but the simulator at twodimes concurred.

One of his last points on the math in game theory is good for getting a fundamental understanding of the math supporting game theory. However, there is so much judgment/estimation involved in the inputs into those calculations, that the resulting answer may not be as helpful as you would hope. However, when Andy says, "So ask yourself, is my hand in the top X/(X+1) of the hands I might have in this situation?" he has a point. Not so much that you need to do the math, but if you are going to call, say 1/4 of the time in a situation where your only chance of winning is catching a bluff, you should do it with the top 1/4 of hands you would have in that situation. There is nothing worse than being right in assuming your opponent was bluffing, only to lose anyway. For example, you call with Q-high and the bluffer wins with K-high. This is why I don't call bluffs without at least A-high.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2004

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

From: "Mark"
To: Dr Fro
Subject: Good post
Date: Wed, 21 Jan 2004 09:03:25 -0600

I came across a good post for your site (if you're interested)

Here is text from a chat board with poker pro Andy Bloch:

I am curious as to how you weave numerical odds and calculations into
your game. I am assuming you have quite a strong grasp on this dimension
of poker since you graduated from MIT with an engineering degree. So,
when you see your hole cards or a flop, do you start calculating the
odds of you winning the hand (let's say by counting how many hands your
opponent could beat you with)?

I am struggling to find a profitable way to use my own knowledge with
regards to probability at the poker table. I know general odds (like a
low pair versus overcards, for instance) and rules of outs... but should
I try to go further? I am not a human calculator, nor do I have the
patience to try to do excessive math in my head before I act. I was
wondering if you could lend me some advice for this aspect of the game.

Andy Bloch's Answer:
Most of the hard core calculations I do away from the table. Then I take
the results and try to form some general rules or simpler procedures for
estimating my odds.

I've written several different programs of my own and use them and some
programs that others have written, (such as ) for calculating poker odds and solving
simplified poker games. I've done enough calculations of pre-flop
situations that I don't have to do much calculation. For example, if
it's heads up I know that I have odds to call an all-in raise or reraise
with practically any A if I'm getting pot odds of better than 3:1 --
even if my opponent will only make that play with QQ, KK, or AA. ("Pot
odds" is the size of the pot divided by the size of the bet that has to
be called. For example, suppose the pot is 1000, my opponent bets all-in
for 500 more. The pot is now 1500, and I have to call 500, so the pot
odds are 3:1. If I have a 25% chance of winning or better, the correct
play is to call.)

Well, to be exact, if the pot odds are exactly 3:1, I should throw away
A2, A3, and A6 through AQ offsuit. But if the pot is just slightly
larger, or if my opponent might also have JJ or AK, then I'm supposed to
call. In fact, getting exactly 3:1 against an opponent whom you know has
either QQ, KK, AA, or AK, you're getting the right pot odds to call with
quite a lot of ugly-looking hands. Any pair. Any AK. Any suited cards
except K2s through K9s, Q2s, and J2s. Offsuit 43 through JT, 53 through
T8. And offsuit AT, A5, A4, and A3.

At the table, do I calculate exactly what my probability of winning is
pre-flop? No. What I do know is that if I raise preflop I will almost
never fold to a single all-in reraise when I'm getting 3:1 or even 2:1,
if I had something worth stealing with.

On the flop, I know that I'll win half the time if I have 13 outs
("outs" are all the cards that you win with against a better hand). A
good approximation for your chance of winning is 2% per out on the turn
and twice that, 4% per out, on the flop. This will usually underestimate
your probability of winning, but being a little conservative is OK,
especially since one or more of your outs might be in your opponent's
hand or might help him also.

The next step is to think about the hands that your opponent is likely
to hold and assigning some rough probabilities to them. Total the chance
of winning against each of them weighted by their probabilities. Maybe
your opponent is bluffing or semi-bluffing, or maybe you think you've
picked up a tell that makes you think your opponent has a strong hand --
adjust accordingly. You don't need to do a perfect calculation, just
close enough so you're only making at most a small mistake. Thinking too
hard to get a more exact answer will make it harder for you to
concentrate on other important things like looking for tells and
remembering your opponents' tendencies.

If you're playing against a strong opponent, you might want to use game
theory to determine whether you should call or fold, especially on the
river. If you have a medium-strength hand, game theory says you should
call often enough to make your opponent almost indifferent to bluffing
with clearly losing hands. If your opponent bets the pot on the river,
you should call roughly half the time. If he bets a fraction X of the
pot, you should call roughly 1/(X+1) of the time (or call if your hand
is better than X/(1+X) of all the hands you could have). So ask
yourself, is my hand in the top X/(X+1) of the hands I might have in
this situation? If it's close, or if you think your hand is too
well-defined by the betting, you can even resort to flipping a coin.

Also, your hand gives you some information about what your opponent can
have, so in some situations, you should call with a hand that is worse
than a hand you'd fold with -- if you have cards that suggest your
opponent is more likely to be bluffing. For example, you might be more
inclined to call a big bet on the river when the board is A2568 with A7
than with AT, because the 7 makes it less likely that your opponent has
a straight. Top lowball A-5 draw players will sometimes call with a pair
of aces (aces are low) but fold a K-high, even though the K-high would
beat any pair, because the second ace makes it less likely that your
opponent made his low hand.

That's pretty much all the math you need to do while at the table. It
may seem like too much to some, but after a while you should get used to
it. If you can't do it while you're at the poker table, practice doing
it away from the poker table. After a time, most situations will become
second nature.

-Andy Bloch

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Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Posted by Dr Fro 1:39 PM
How much do I bet?

In limit poker, the only consideration is if you raise/bet, call/check, or fold. In NL and PL, there is the other consideration: how much to bet. This is by no means a science, but I would like to give a quick quantitative analysis of one fairly simple situation, and perhaps this will provide a framework for you to begin to answer the question in the more difficult real-life situations.

Suppose you have top two pair and "he" has a flush draw on the turn. Specifically, You hold AKo, he holds 2h,Qh and the turn shows Ah,Kh,10c,4s. You win as long as none of the 9 remaining hearts don't come, 35 out of 44 times.

The pot is $100 and he checks to you. How much do you bet?

For starters, no matter if you bet $1 or $999999999, you still have "the best of it" You still have a positive EV. As a matter of fact, the EV is positively correlated with the size of the bet, so the more you bet, the better off you are (assuming he calls). But you can't bet a trillion dollars, because you increase the risk of him folding, which would make your return only the $100 already in the pot.

Let's consider what the highest amount is that would get a call. It is $34.62. This is simply 9/44 * ($100 + $34.62) - 35/44 * ($34.62) which equals $0. Any higher bet from us gives the other guy a negative EV. Any lower bet from us gives him positive EV.

Now this assumes you know what he holds and he knows what you hold, and this should never happen. However, you are often put in a situation where it seems quite apparent that you have a made hand and he is on the come.

So, again how much do you bet? Certainly not less than $34.62 as that is leaving money on the table. Bet a minimum of $34.62. You go up from there depending on the likelihood of a call. A rational player should not call > $34.62, but players aren't rational. Worst case scenario, he folds and you get the $100, which is no worse than your EV if you had bet exactly $34.62.

The problem is that most new, inexperienced players will bet something like $20 "becuase if I bet more, he would have folded...I was trying to squeeze more money out of him" Jokes on you, Jack, he would be squeezing money out of you if you bet $20! Specifically, he would have an EV of $8.64 if you bet $20. Bet $34.62 or more and he has an EV of $0 or worse.

What is a good back of the envelope calculation? You don't need one. You know the rule of thumb for flushes (above), and straight draws are typically 8 outs, so the amount is roughly the same. When in serious doubt, though, you know that you should err on the side of an overbet, lest you give EV away.


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Sunday, January 18, 2004

Posted by Dr Fro 5:32 PM
Saturday night +$270 at Ramsey's (PL) and Sunday +$16 at Junell's (NL). Both sets of results completely driven by a pocket baby pair (22 at Ramsey's and 55 at Junell's) that made a set. But it wasnt those hands so much as how they were set up:

When we started playing, I got a lot of pre-flop monsters (AK, QQ, 99, and AQ to name a few) that forced me to make big bets preflops, with some big bets on the flop. There was a lot of folding, which meant that nobody saw my monsters and they assumed I was playing loose. I took Caro's advice to not try to reverse people's perception of me, but to reinforce it. I showed some pretty bad hands to reinforce it and they made up their mind that I was a maniac. When I bet my sets, I had no problem getting a caller.

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Saturday, January 17, 2004

Posted by Dr Fro 12:32 PM
Junell is having a tournament on February 15. Two thoughts:

Seeing as how we would have spent the prior evening showering our significant other with a romantic evening, I seriously doubt even the most whipped dude out there will have trouble getting a pass to go.

Also, this is a rebuy tournament. It seems that the WSOP- and WPT- induced craze of no limit tournaments have generated tournaments that follow the WSOP/WPT format, one without rebuys. So, this will be new to most of the participants, and presumably, they won't appropriately adjust their strategy. There is lenghty discussion of the adjustments needed in all poker tournament books, and I hope to write a summary between now and Feb 15.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Posted by Johnnymac 10:44 PM
Al Strikes Again!

I don't normally tell bad beat stories, but this story is pretty straightforward and it's about probably one of the worst beats I have had in the past year or so. I need to get it out of my system, so bear with me and don't read below if you're not interested. You've been warned (it's fairly short, however)

The story naturally begins in my weekly 5-10 experience at the Friendship tonight. I sat through about a relatively expensive 2 hours of the same stuff that's been going on for a couple weeks now - decent to good hands dealt to me but very few made hands. I was bouncing between -$100 and -$200 most of the time but I was playing well and was even able to take a few hands off of my "buddy" Al that I spoke about in my last post.

In the hand of the night, the Kill is on and I'm in the small blind. A gentleman at the other end of the table, "Kevin", raises to make the bet $20. As is my practice, I wait for the action to come to me before I look at my cards. I look and see A3c. I think a bit and decide to call his raise. He has been playing very aggressively against the Kill all night and will raise with just about any medium-strength or better hand, regardless of position or the number of callers (As I have said before, I actually think this is a good strategy in this particular game, but once it's recognized the proper response is to loosen up a bit and call). I decide to see the flop and fold if it's no help. There's one other caller in the hand too, my buddy Al.

The flop comes Jc-4c-6c. Almost the best flop I could possibly hope for, but maybe a little too scary for my opponents. I decide to slowplay and I check and call. All three of us see the turn. At this point I figure there are a few hands that Al and Kevin could have: Kevin likely has overcards and may have even flopped a set of Jacks and Al likely has the Kc and perhaps another small club. I also notice that there are the begginings of a straight flush on the board, so perhaps one of them might instead be playing another little club (2, 5, 7, or 8) and hoping to get really really lucky.

The turn comes 5c, giving me a straight flush draw to my made nut flush, and I decide to turn up the heat and get paid. I check in hopes of raising and Al steps right into it. Keven calls his bet, I raise, and they both call. At this point, I am fairly sure that one has either the Kc or Qc and the other has either the 7c or 8c. I am a big favorite against the face card, but I'm nervous about the miracle card coming and making a straight flush. (There is also the outside chance that someone has two-pair or a set and is looking to fill up, but I don't give that possibility much of a chance) The odds are very much in my favor, but I'm nervous and pray for a blank.

It ain't blank. It's the 7c.

I have my straight flush, but I'm pretty sure that I'm now- once again - in second place. I check and call on the off chance that I'm wrong, but I'm not. Al turns over 82c and Kevin turns over KTc. We all made flushes on the flop and, knowing those guys, they weren't going anywhere once they did. Any other card on 5th Street and I'm a HUGE winner and ready to roll. Instead, I'm down $270 for the night and very close to going on tilt, so I decide to call it a night and head out.

The whole FSC was buzzing at the end of the hand, mainly razzing Al for calling all those raises and then catching his miracle card.

Al turns to me and asks, "Why didn't you raise me with a made straight flush?"

I know that by now it likely seems to him that he's entitled to my money whenever we play, and I REALLY want to tell him to kiss my ass, but instead I nicely tell him that I knew he or Kevin likely had the 8c and thus any raise would probably be reraised and would just cost me more money. (a bluff would have been pointless and he would have picked it off immediately).

Anyway, Al wins another one.

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Posted by Dr Fro 8:46 AM
Mike Caro, with a good one as always

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Monday, January 12, 2004

Posted by Dr Fro 1:10 PM
A few interesting observations about Junell's post:

1. We both ended the tournament with the same hand in basically the same situation. We had QJ offsuit, with the ability to only afford 3-4 more hands and figured a raise was better than a call, and folding wasnt an option.

2. He didnt mention it, but he got 16th place, I believe.

3. His friend Michael that got 3rd place was the guy that eliminated me. The guy that "coulda been me......." in my post.

4. To put $'s in perspective there was approximately $1,000,000 in chips, so when he had $130,000, he controlled 13% of the chips.

5. While he did not state it, it is implied in his post that the blinds/antes escalated at an unbelievable pace, pirmarily because the tournament started late and slow. They had to vacate the place by a certain time, so the 25 minute intervals became more like 10 minute intervals. Consider that Junell had $70,000 (1/14th of the total) with 16 players and his stack was completely in jeopardy from the blinds (he only got app 3 more hands). Only one guy had more chips and it wasnt even 2x. Thus, all 16 players' stacks were in jeopardy from the blindss at this point. This structure lends itself to luck being the deciding factor over skill to a degree seldom seen in a $200 tournament. It is unfortunate, bc I think that if Junell could have had longer to wait for decent hands, he could have outplayed several of the guys.

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Posted by Dr Fro 1:00 PM
From Junell:
Here is my recap of Saturday's Charity Food Bank Tournament. I finished in
14th place (6 spots out of the prize pool), and am very happy with my
performance considering there were 216 entrants

All in all, I had a blast at the tournament. Although there was a great
deal of confusion at the beginning (see Dr. Fro's post below), once the
tournament got going, it went fairly smooth for me and my table.

I was seated with some pretty good players. Two guys I immediately
recognized as regulars from the Top Hat, and one played in last years WSOP
(although I believe he bought his way in). The only person I knew at my
table was Jeff Zinn, a good friend of mine. I played very tight at the
beginning, and folded every single hand for an hour and a half. At this
time, the blinds were small and there weren't any antes, so my chip count
didn't decrease much.

My first significant pot was at about 4pm (3 hours into the tournament). I
drew an AT, raised from the big blind. 3 people called, including a tough
looking New York Italian that appeared to be Sal Ferruzzo Sr.'s identical
twin. The flop gave me a 2nd ace, and the rest were rags. I was first to
act, and bet $500 (which was only a medium size bet at that point). The
Italian called, and the other two players folded. Turn was a 3. No flush
or straight possibilities. I bet $2000. He called. I was worried that he
might have made two pair on the flop, but he had been reckless all day, and
made several glaring mistakes. River was a 9h. Again I bet $2000, and he
called. He turned over a pair of 4's. I was surprised he went that far
with 4 overcards on the board, but delighted that I had incresed my chip
count to about 8,000.

Later at the same table, I drew AA twice in 4 hands. The first time, I got
plenty of action and eliminated a player. The second time everyone folded
pre-flop except one guy who I could tell didn't like his hand. Trying to
keep him in, I bet $500 (small at that time), and he folded. Although I
didn't get any action, I ended up pulling in a pot of about $2,500 (with
the blinds and antes).

At 6:30pm I had about $25,000 in chips and was consolidated to a new table.
While I wasn't the chip leader at the table, I was still in a respectable
position. 30-45 minutes later, I drew AA in late position. An older man
two spots in front of me raised with KK, and I went all in. There was
another caller who went all in for less. I drew a 3rd A on the flop, and
nearly tripled my stack.

At 7pm I had approx. $130,000, and was either the chip leader, or close to
it. The tables consolidated again. I missed a hand or two, and got
chipped away by the huge blinds and antes ($2000 ante and $10,000 big
blind). At 8:15pm I held $74,000 in chips and was in 2nd to act before the
flop. I drew a QJo and had to call $20,000 to see the flop. I raised,
making it $60,000 to go, hoping to steal the blinds and antes (which were
approx $40,000). A new player (and also the chip leader) had just been
seated immediately to my left. He went all-in. One other person called
for less. The new guy turned over AA. I hit my second Q on the river, but
couldn't beat his pair of Aces. I was out.

Afterwards, some of my friends thought I should've just called with my QJo,
but I still think I made the right play. It was late in the tournament,
and the cost to play was so high that one mistake would destroy you. If I
had called, I still would've been faced with an all-in to my left. I
probably would've called his all-in, but even if I had laid it down, I
would've been left with only $50,000 in chips, with the $20,000 big blind
only two hands away. Therefore, I reasoned that I either play with my QJ
or risk it all on whatever hand I was going to be dealt in the big blind.
One way or the other, my tournament was going to be decided in the next 3
hands. It was now or never, and I might not see a hand better than that

Although I was a little upset about not finishing "in the money," I am very
happy with my performance. I limited my mistakes and was able to
capitalize on a few big hands. More importantly however, my good friend,
Michael Pinion finished 3rd overall and won a trip to Vegas with a $1000
entry fee into a WSOP 10-man satellite. I'm only sorry I won't be there
with him...

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Sunday, January 11, 2004

Posted by Dr Fro 8:43 PM
The Charity Tournament was Saturday. It started 1.25 hours late and there was utter confusion for the first hour or so over how the re-buys and add-ons worked. Everybody gave a different answer. It was exacerbated by the lack of any poker/tournament knowledge by either the dealers or ½ the players. I am usually pretty cool in this situations, but I lost it and said, “Please don’t deal another f___in hand until I know what the f---in rules are. I don’t fancy gambling a few hundred dollars without knowing the rules.” The dealer finally got the director and the rules were made around 95% clear, which was about as good as I could have hoped for.

I started with $2,000 in TC’s, which were basically immediately lost on a hand were I bet when my Ace paired on the turn. Unfortunately, he had two pair. I re-buy and play tight for about an hour and limp in with 33. I flop 3KK and eke $2,000 out of another guy over 3 streets and double my stack to $4,000.

I had trouble doing much at that first table, because the guy to my left was very good, and that is the worst place for a good player to be seated. They broke our table quickly (it was the 2nd of 24 to be broken) and I was happy to go to a different table than that guy.

The best starting cards I got all day were at my second table, where I got AKs heads up against AQ, where I doubled up again to $7,700. Shortly thereafter, I got 26o in the blind and saw a flop of 2-6-x, which I bet and narrowed the field to 3 others. The turn brought a full house and I struggled with what the right amount to bet was. I was afraid of losing to a higher full house on the river, so I bet $1,500 and they ran. Now I have just over $8,000.

The second best cards I got were 99, which I played in a 3-way pot. I won a small amount in the side pot but lost the main pot to AA. Now the structure changed to ante & blinds, which makes it much harder to wait for good hands. I stole a handful of blinds – just enough to stay alive and find myself on the big blind ($800) with about $4,000 in chips left looking at QJo. There is a sense of urgency, because the blinds go up after this hand, so with the antes I only get about 4 more hands. There is only one caller and the SB left, so I raise and get called by AJ. I basically only have 3 outs – the 3 Q’s plus a very unlikely straight to win. Neither of us pair up and I am out. When I was eliminated, there were 80 players left (out of 216) and 12 tables (out of 24). I consider it a decent showing considering that aside from AKs and 99, I got almost no playable hands. I lasted 5 hours.

Junell lasted much longer, and I have asked him to chime in with his account.

The guy who took my money was still playing when I left, with only 14 players left. I couldn’t help but wonder if that would have been me if I had won that hand.

The field was approximately what I had guessed – a lot of ESPN watching young guys, plus a good showing of old “rocks”. I would say 10% of the players were “good” which I would define as “capable of winning or breaking even consistently in a card room at most limits.” The bulk of players were “average” which meant that they had plenty of Hold’em experience, but little No-Limit experience and little tournament experience. About 10% had no idea how to play Hold’em, the giveaway being little things like folding their hands pre-flop when they are on the BB and nobody raised. I actually saw this quite a bit. Once down to the final two tables, I don’t think there were any bad players left. An average player can play their way to the final table, but there isn’t enough luck in the world to get a bad player past a field of 216 players over 8 hours.

One guy at my second table evidently (according to the people at the table before me) had an interesting strategy. He folded every hand except 5 over four hours. All 5 of those, he went all-in pre-flop!! Once he was called and had AA, but he lost. I am guessing that he would only play JJ, QQ, KK AA, AK. That doesn’t seem like much of a strategy, but to each his own.

While the organization was horrible for the first hour, everything did settle down and it eventually became much better run. However, even for a charity event, I would have expected the dealers and organizers to have even an iota of tournament experience.

I heard that they are not doing it again because even though it was a massively successful fundraiser, the hassles with TABC to get it approved weren’t worth it. I probably would not play in it again, but that is primarily because it was too expensive, not because I didn’t enjoy it. For ½ the price, I’d play every time.

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Saturday, January 10, 2004

Posted by Johnnymac 12:07 AM
Tonight was another moderate loss playing 5-10 at the Friendship. Nothing spectacularly bad or painful, just the slow chew of missed flops and lost blinds and a rather boring game dominated by an aggressive asshole who was on the rush of his life. Terribly boring and unpleasant, but not really extraordinary, either.

What a month this has been so far! After consistent winning performances in December at just about everything I like to do on a regular basis - poker, stock trading, football betting - the gods of fortune have decided that January is their month to get some back. I've yet to find a winner in the 9 days that have so far been 2004. I was golden in December and have been mud so far in January.

(And to top all of that off, my - gulp - 30th birthday was last Friday and some jackass celebrated the occasion by breaking into my car for nothing more than the spare change in the cupholder. That little surprise cost me another $160 to get the window fixed. Note to Mr Crack Addict from the 5th Ward: call ahead next time and I'll be sure to just leave it unlocked instead.)

Anyway, no bad beat stories here, just regression to the mean (I think my hourly rate data bear that out). It happens in poker and it happens in life and eventually you learn to deal with it. I firmly believe that those of us who don't learn to accept and just deal with the occasional losing streaks are also the ones who never get to enjoy the winning streaks, either, so I'll just grin and let this thing run it's course.

January has been cold so far, but it is the wintertime, after all.

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Thursday, January 08, 2004

Posted by Dr Fro 8:46 AM
One of my first posts was called "there is no transitive property in poker" on Sept 23.

John's post below deals with a situation where his overall strategy is superior to Al's overall passive strategy. However, when involved in the same pot, Al's strategy tends to foil John's. This may be somewhat due to luck, but it is also an example of what I am talking about.

It is funny that just last Friday, Boyd was complaining that he can't beat Todd, Todd said he can't beat me, I said I can't beat Juan, Juan said he can't beat Matt, and Matt lost to Boyd. (actually, I don't remember who foiled whom, but that was the gist of it). This shouldnt be terribly surprising because often in game theory (and certainly in poker game theory), rarely does one strategy dominate all strategies. Even optimal stratgey (we'll call it Strategy A), which fares the best against most strategies most of the time, will consistently lose to an alternative strategy (we'll call it Strategy X). The reason that one does not switch to Strategy X is that it only fares well against Strategy A - it loses against stategies B throught Y, making it an overall horrible strategy.

So when you get beat by a bad player know that "luck" may be the reason why, but another possible explanation is that their style of play can expect to consistently beat you. However, these losses are just a cost of doing a profitable strategy.

[Consider a business like retail that makes a lot of money by spreading their clothes out for customers to peruse unescorted. This is the optimal (and most common) strategy for retailers ("Strategy A"). However, the strategy of shoplifting (if done well) consistently foils the wide open market ("Strategy X"). The retailers view this as a cost of business. They do not retreat to a business strategy of selling only from a catalogue just to avoid the losses to shoplifters. They view it as a cost of business. And, btw, I think the Walton family makes more money than the most succuessful shoplifters.]

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Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Posted by Johnnymac 10:16 PM
And in response to Fro's post on the "expected utility" of the charity tournament, I don't disagree at all that the opportunity to play in the WSOP may be worth the cost of playing in the tournament and I said so in my last post on the subject.

That said, except for the entry into the main WSOP tournament, which only goes to the winner of the charity tournament, I think that the satellite prizes aren't worth the money or the utility. If you're reading this blog and you have any experience playing poker, then you will likely agree with me that $1000 is not a lot of money. Why not just spend your own $1000 and pay for a guaranteed satellite entry yourself instead of spending a whole day against 215 other dreamers for just a chance to play in a satellite? Seems to me that spending $1000 to beat 10 people for a chance to enter the WSOP is a better bet than spending $200 (or more) to beat 215 (or 225, really) people for that same chance. I agree that there is a non-monetary aspect ("utility") to the prizes that is not inconsequential, but even then it seems that that same utility can be purchased more cheaply in the long run than to play in this event.

And at the risk of sounding like a grouch, I'll repeat my current tournament mantra that says that tournaments are primarily just a contest to see who can avoid being unlucky for the longest period of time. (BAH HUMBUG!)

In any case, good luck to Fro and anyone else who may be playing. I'm going to do my best to come out this weekend and offer some moral support.

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Posted by Johnnymac 9:56 PM
I played tonight at the Friendship. 2 hours of 5-10 full kill and I lost $149.

In the spirit of the new year, I'm resuming my routine of early morning endurance training, except that I'm going to focus on bicycling this year instead of marathoning (my poor feet can't take the abuse anymore and I'm burned out on running, anyway). So this morning I was in the gym at 5:30 and needless to say, I was pretty beat by the time I sat down tonight.

Over the course of my two hours playing, I won a grand total of four small pots, the biggest being maybe $60. I didn't get any really good hands dealt to me all night (the best hands I saw were AQo (twice) and 88) and most of the rest of the hands I saw tonight were complete rags. And the remaining marginal hands that did end up being worth playing didn't hit any big flops. Add the fact that tonight's crowd was rather loose and aggressive and hunting the currently enormous bad beat jackpot and you have all the makings for a dangerous night.

One player in the game tonight was a regular I've seen before named "Al". From what I have seen so far, I think he calls too many raises and he plays too many hands, but unfortunately he seems to have my number at the moment. My problem against him is that he rarely raises before the flop unless he has AA, and he never raises after the flop unless he has the Nuts on the river. In between, he won't lead the betting unless he has the nuts on any particular street and instead he will check and call almost every other single hand he plays. This is quite unusual relative to the opponents I usually play against and I usually get trapped by my own aggressiveness. For example, in the first hand I EVER played in this particular game, I ended up heads up against Al in late position with AQo and an Ace on a very non-threatening board. Al checks and calls on every street and then turns over AKo to my absolute utter surprise. Tonight, again with AQo in a near-identical situation, I flopped two pair only to discover that Al had checked and called a set of kings(!) all the way to the river. Yes, I know that it looks as if he's trapping me on purpose and that I should be more careful against him, but Al plays this way against EVERYONE and he's usually a losing player. He will almost always check and call and then fold against any action on the end. This confuses me because my personal experience tells me I should adjust against him when I get heads up - that he's trapping me on purpose - but then empirical observations say that I've just had an unlucky short term against him.

Anyway, after two hours of bad cards and bad luck (against Al and just about everyone else) I could sense that I was beginning to steam. Since I was already tired I decided that the lucre of the game wasn't enough for me to try and steer clear of going on tilt and losing even more money and that my prospects were beginning to look quite risky. I looked at my watch, counted my chips, and decided that a moderate hourly loss with good (but unlucky) play was better than risking a much bigger loss based on bad decisions from negative emotions. I'll be back there soon enough anyway.

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Posted by Johnnymac 9:14 PM
As usual, I'm sorry that I'm not keeping up my end of the whole "team blog" thing. That said, it looks like Fro has everything under control...

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Posted by Dr Fro 1:14 PM
Interesting situation (scroll to top of post)

This is one of many reasons I have steered clear of internet poker. If this guy did abuse the disconnection rule, then I am happy they nailed him.

What about the other people that abuse it but are not caught?

What about the person who was honestly disconnected?

These are enough concerns to keep me away, but I do have others. I don't think everyone should stay away from online poker. All ventures carry a certain amount of risk and reward. If you feel that the risk of getting screwed is justified by the reward (of winnings or simple fun) then by all means play. Me? I prefer human games and never have trouble finding one.

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Posted by Dr Fro 1:01 PM
More on the Charity Tournament

1. The % of the pot going to charity vs the prizes is even greater than my earlier posts suggest. This is because there are optional $100 re-buys that do not affect the prize pool.

2. While the decision to enter may not make sense from an Expected(Value) perspective, but it may from an Expected(Utility) perspective. By analogy, if a Lotto ticket costs $1 and the prize is $10 million and there is a 1 in 16 million chance of winning, this is a losing proposition from an EV perspective. Of course, a prize of $17 million would have positive EV (lets ignore ties and split pots for simplicity...we can come up with a pot that is high enough to justify entering!) Well, my guess is that the utility you get from $17 mill is not 1.7 times the utility from $10 mill. As a matter of fact, I would guess that the utility is approximately equal. Either way, your boss is getting the middle finger on Monday and within about 48 hours you will be on a beach somewhere with one of those little umbrellas in your drink. Managed properly, you could never work again. So if the E(U) of 17 mill is = the E(U) of 10 mill and we know that the $17 mill prize warrants buying a ticket, you should buy a ticket at $10 mill.

3. On a very related note people often make the mistake of the "false option". In this case, they may say, "I would rather just get 200 friends together and each put in $50 and the winner gets to go to the WSOP. OK, when are you going to get those 200 friends together? It isnt really one of your options. Your only options are play in the charity tournament or don't play. When I am on my death bed, I won't give a damn if I have an extra $150 in my pocket ($200 entry in this tournament minus the $50 in the "false option" tournament.) However, I will (possibly) be able to look back on the time that i got to play in the WSOP and fufill one of my biggest dreams. The Utility of living out a dream is something that I can hardly describe, as it only happens a handful of times in each of our lives.

4. It is, btw, a worthwhile charity - the Houston Food Bank.

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Posted by Dr Fro 12:51 PM
The biggest, most common mistake I see in poker

The biggest, most common mistake I see in poker goes like this:

Say you flop a pair and the flop has 2 of a suit and a straight draw. You are betting your pair and Dude is calling. You assume he is on the draw. After the turn and river, no flush or straight comes. He checks. You figure his hand is a bust. You bet.



Well, If you are correct and he has been busted, he won't call, so you get the current pot (upside). Downside is that he could raise you with something like a back door set and you lose 2 bets. If you simply check and show, the best case scenario is you take the pot (same upside scenario as when you bet). The downside is that you lose, and lose no more money (2 bets worth of a better scenario than if you bet).

If the upsides are equal, but one downside is worse than the other, then in Game Theory parlance, you have a "Dominating Decision" and the decision is clear.

The only situation that I can think of where you would be better off betting is if Dude had a middle pair with his draw and figured that it was worth the call on the end to a possible bluff from you. Not only is this scenario rare, Dude's decision to call in this scenario is rare. Thus, it is not worth really factoring into the decision.

You have nothing to gain by betting into an apparent busted drawing hand, so don't do it.


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Monday, January 05, 2004

Posted by Dr Fro 5:05 PM
I registered for the charity tournament. I was feeling charitable. ;-)

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Posted by Dr Fro 5:05 PM
NL at my house on Friday played out generally as expected, except for Boyd's big loss. However, since that really came down to just a handful of big hands, it isn't too surprising from an EV and std deviation standpoint.

I won $236 in the end, which was nice. I feel that I could win more, being more of a Hershberger. That is, not only playing my hands well, but stealing those pots that I don't feel anyone else will call my big bet on. This is fundamentally different from the Glazer strategy in high school of taking a shot at every pot. It involves taking a shot at a pot where there is evidence that perhaps nobody will call. I guess I have been burned too many times and I also know how hard it is to rebuild a destroyed stack, so I often avoid these situations (er, opportunities). If I were willing to take advantage of them, i could improve my EV.

What I did do well was sniff out a few bluffs from people and make medium sized calls to win the pot with mediocre hands. This is inherently less risky than betting with nothing, as there is no risk of getting check-raised. It also adds to the EV that would only come from "playing only solid hands".

My NL education is young, but the results so far are promising.

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Posted by Dr Fro 4:57 PM
We played at Junell/Wilson's the other night. I lost $100 in the tournament and won $110 in the cash game. I got 3rd place in the tourney, which goes on the long list of times that I finished 1 place out of the money. I struggle come up with the proper tournament strategy to correct this. The first thought is that I should tighten up once it comes down to "bubble" time. However, since it is safe to assume that everyone is tightening up at this point, then perhaps I should become aggressive to take advantage. The latter strategy seems to make more sense, but it has not brought me any success (yet!).

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Posted by Dr Fro 4:57 PM
Isle of Capri
We drove to Isle of Capri in Lake Charles on Monday and played for about 4 hours, 1.5 at 3-6-12 and 2.5 at 10-20. I lost $75 at the 3-6-12 where I didn't win my first hand until after 1 hour of play. At 10-20, I won $92. I am not surprised that I did better at 10-20, because I find it much easier to play. People make rational decisions, which make it easier for the (slightly) more sophisticated player to put people on a hand. I can't say that I was really ever surprised at hands revealed at the showdown.

Even at the higher "red-chip" tables, the quality of play is quite poor, and I attribute this to the "ESPN Factor" - the influx of new blood inspired by the recent phenomenon of televised poker. I think that pretty much any one of my regular poker buddies could win at 10-20 at the Isle without too much of a problem.

My favorite hand was when I flopped the nut flush from early position. I check the flop, and it checks to the button, who bets. This is a position bet. I call, because a check-raise would be a dead give away. The turn brings another spade, and I bet, acting as if maybe I just made the flush and get a raise from the button, which I call. I check the river, knowing he'll bet (thinking my earlier bet was a bluff and that I was dissapointed that he had called), which he does. I check-raise and show the flush. He was pissed. I managed to get from him 10 on the flop, 40 on the turn and 40 on the river, for a total of $90 post-flop. Had I taken a different strategy, I would likely have gotten no more than $20. Whooo-hoooo!

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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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