Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Posted by Dr Fro 8:39 PM
Lisa: Look, there's only one way to settle this. Rock-paper-scissors.
Lisa's brain: Poor predictable Bart. Always takes `rock'.
Bart's brain: Good ol' `rock'. Nuthin' beats that!
Bart: Rock!
Lisa: Paper.
Bart: D'oh!

I made five quick points the other day on which I intended to eventually elaborate. I will elaborate on #5 today.

Game Theory, which is too extensive of and too misunderstood of a subject to elaborate on here (consider reading this or this.), will tell you that in most complex situations with multiple unknowns that the optimal strategy varies based on what you know about your opponent's strategy. Using the Bart/Lisa example, if you know Bart is going to throw Rock, you should always throw Paper. That doesn't mean that Paper is always the right strategy, because if you play against Moe (or even against Bart if he ever wises up to your ways) who throws Scissors, you will lose every time.

You might think that conventional wisdom addresses this by suggesting you tweak your game based on your opponents. I don't think that goes far enough. I think you need to approach the game with an entirely different framework in order to be successful; tweaks won't cut it.

Let's define some strategies to simplify discussion:

Strategy A = bad, home game sort of poker, playing lots of hands, going for draws without getting pot odds, etc. Basically, it is the sort of poker you played before you were enlightened by reading my advice on this blog any of the good poker books out there, all of which, IMHO, steal the basic ideas from S/S and TOP.

Strategy B = the enlightened strategy that closely follows the heap of books out there

Strategy C = the way I now think you should play.

I believe that the books are overwhelmingly based on an assumption that there are a lot of players out there playing Strategy A. And if there are, then I think that Strategy B should completely dominate Strategy A. However, and perhaps this is just my experience, I think that there are very few people out there playing Strategy A. This is due to the common explanation that the A'ers went broke or became B'ers since 2003. This is also because there isn't a steady stream of new players because so many people jumped into the game in 2003. (In business parlance, I would say there was a draw on the backlog; there is no remaining inventory to put on the market.) So, when I sit down at a table, I think everyone is playing Strategy B. Even if one fish is playing Strategy A, I have a 1/9 chance of being the lucky B'er to get his money. What would be more profitable would be to figure out how to beat the B'ers, since in most hands you will be up against one of them.

My whole thesis rests on this assumption: you will be playing against primarily A'ers. If that is not your experience, read no further (but tell me where you are playing, because your game sounds juicy!)

So, what then is the right way to foil the B?

Conceptually, I would follow these rules:

- Assume your opponent is playing by the book. Assume that when he makes a hand, he will bet it.

- Assume that he thinks you are an A'er. For example, when you call, assume that he thinks you are on a draw.

Following these two guiding principles will make you some money off of enlightened players. There are all sorts of implications of these principles, many of which you will find out if you just remind yourself of these two principles before each decision.

I'll give you an easy example that follows these principles: If you have a good hand in late position (say, flopped a set), it just might be the right decision to call (not raise) a bet from your opponent. Since you assume he is an A'er, he is unlikely to be betting on a draw (unless he is Junell). Also, because he is an A'er, he should fold if you pop him. By just calling on the flop (and turn), you will eke more money off of him. Also, now that your hand is disguised (remember, he thinks you are on a draw), you can confuse the shit out of him when you pop him on the river. The downsides to slowplaying a solid hand are explained well in your poker books, but I just think that the dangers are mitigated by the circumstances you are in here. You are highly likely to be in a position that dominates your opponent (say, pairing the board gives you a higher boat than him). There are downsides, sure, but there are downsides to every strategy. I just think that they are mitigated here, and I also think that calling for a couple streets will get more value out of your opponent than the raise (which would end the hand).

Heresy? I hope so.

1 Comment(s):

Posted by Blogger Johnnymac, at 5:38 PM, June 09, 2007  

You mean playing extremely nuts-tight pays off and is the only definitely profitable poker strategy out there? The hell you say!

it may be small EV but it's still EV! By Jove, I think you've finally got it!


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