Saturday, August 28, 2010


The harder they try to convince you of something, the more likely it's not true. That's often the case in poker, in love, and in the world at large.
The Economist points to a very interesting study by Stanford’s David Larcker and Anastasia Zakolyukina on the use of deception in the business environment (HT: Brian McCann). The article’s title, “How to Tell When Your Boss is Lying,” gets at the thrust of the piece. Larcker and Zakolyukina look at conference call transcripts from 2003 and 2007 for evidence of determinants of companies who later ran into problems in the form of serious financial restatements or accounting errors. Can you identify a CEO or CFO engaging in deceptive conduct during a conference call? What sort of “tells” would you look for?


Thursday, August 26, 2010

An old RGP post

Here's a snip of an old RGP post and a comment from Badger that I found on Badger's site:
Gary Carson wrote...
> I've played in games (20/40 games and 3/6 games) where the right
> thing to do with KQo in second position after an under the gun raise
> was to 1) fold 2) call 3) raise. It's not a function of the KQo, it's a
> function of who those other guys are, the kinds of hands that
> under the gun player might have, and what everyone else is likely
> to do if you call and what everyone else is likely to do if you raise.

I wasn't just making the point though of adapting to specific players. Strategic advice should never be an absolute lockstep. Knowledge of your specific opponents is a good thing. However, my point is that strategy/advice should be built around the specific game "type", not just players. There can be reasons for doing either a fold, call or raise with the same hand in the same position when confronted with special circumstances, but a person should have worked out in advance the way they want to most commonly deal with situations, based on the game type they commonly play in. And games vary a lot, from California on one side (usually) to Nevada on the other side (usually) with the rest of the country somewhere in between. The common California game is so different than the common Nevada game that people are not even talking about the same thing when they say "a 15-30 Holdem game".


Tuesday, March 02, 2010


Danny Boy gives us some examples of being outdrawn, outplayed, and coolered. His cooler example:
oolered: I limped with 6-8 and he raised to isolate me and I decided to call. The flop was K-9-7 with one heart. Check check. Turn is the 10h, I bet 6000, he raises 15,000 more, I move all in with the straight, he quickly calls me with... QJ. Ugly turn card yuk.

You've been coolered when you raise with QQ and I call with AA, then I call your bet on a flop of QQ7 and we get it all in on a turn of AA, then A hits the river.
That's a han the QQ will never get away from.

But if the story starts with you limping with 68then you may have been outplaye, but you weren't coolered.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

I did it

If you close your eyes real tight and wish really, really hard (and, I guess, click your heels together), your wishes will come true.

I've kept half of my streak alive.

That's a quote from Danny Boy's blog. I think he really believes that a lucky streak is the result of his concentrating really hard on being lucky.

I think he's so funny.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Review of Complete Book of Casino Poker

Let's Play Casino has a review of The Complete Book of Casino Poker.
The book's unique contribution to poker literature is Carson's 5-dimensional model of poker players. Just about everyone who plays poker is aware of Alan Schoonmaker's tight-loose and passive-aggressive dimensions. Carson finds these two dimensions insufficient, and he adds three more of his own: weak-tenacious, rational-irrational, and tricky-straightforward.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Counter-factual thinking

This is an interesting short video on the value of counter-factual thinking.

Although they talk about it in terms of a life narrative it's also a valuable way to approach a self-evaluation of your poker game.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Marriage tips

Doyle and his wife give some tips on a long-lasting marriage in the Wall Street Journal
• Keep (some) secrets. When poker legend Doyle Brunson met his wife Louise at a country-and-western club in Texas in 1961, he told her he gambled for a living. And she accepted him for who he is. "Love is the most important thing," says Louise Brunson, 78. "You have to love your spouse more than life itself."

The Brunsons, who live in Las Vegas, have stood by each other through some serious trials in their 47 years of marriage, including the death of a daughter and an armed robbery of their home, during which they were tied up at gunpoint.

"You have to go forward, you can't go back," says Mr. Brunson, 76. Even so, the Brunsons don't share everything. He doesn't discuss his business with her. "I have won and lost millions of dollars without her knowing," he says. Ms. Brunson says that's just fine with her. "I have my own bank account," she says.


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Risk Tolerance for Poker Players

Decision analysis is bundle of procedures and concepts used in the analysis of the decision making process. I’m going to describe some of those procedures and concepts as they might apply to the analysis of decision making situations in poker.

Outcome is the result of either your decision or of the unrolling of a previously unrevealed state of nature. The value of the next card to be turned is an outcome, as is whether you win or lose a bet. The level of detail we use when describing outcomes will vary according to the situation. It might seem a little trite to go to the trouble to discuss the concept of an outcome but it’s important to keep in mind that we mean something specific while at the same time we aren’t always talking about the same level of specificity.

I’ll use the symbol X to denote outcome and the lower case x to denote a particular realization of the outcome. For example the result from flipping a coin is X and we have either x=tails or x=heads.

Outcomes don’t have to be expressed in numerical terms. For example, the outcomes might be the turn card is a spade. But we should be able to assign some sort of numerical value to an outcome.

Value of an outcome will be denoted by the functional notation V(x).

Probability is a way of expressing knowledge or belief that something will occur or has occurred. The study of probability began with Cardano in the 16th century and full development of the concept is attributed to Fermat and Pascal in the 17th century. The beginnings of probability theory is rooted in the analysis of gambling games. Cardano doesn’t often get full credit for his work on the fundamentals of probability theory because his work wasn’t published until after his death, and because it wasn’t translated from Latin into English until the early 1950’s.

In the 18th century Thomas Simpson applied concepts of probability to the study of errors in astronomical observations. But decision analysis tends to follow the branch of the development of probability theory that’s related to the analysis of gambling games.

The functional notation P(x) is used to denote the probability of x occurring.

Expected value is a technical concept that’s central to the application of decision theory or probability theory to poker. It’s simply the sum of all the outcome values multiplied by the probability of each outcome. We write E(x) = Sum[V(x)*P(x)].

A gamble is an uncertain event with two or more possible outcomes. We can often think of a coin flip where we either win or we lose, and there’s an associated value with each of the possible outcomes. In poker we tend to think of gambles as having discrete outcomes, although it can be more than 2 outcomes. For example the next card might complete our flush, corresponding to a large win, or it might pair our high card, corresponding to a moderate win, or it might miss us entirely, corresponding to a loss.

The certainty equivalent of a gamble is the fixed amount you would accept (or pay) in exchange for the gamble. This idea is where the concept of Risk Tolerance begins to take form. We’ll often think of the amount we would pay for a gamble as simply the expected value of a gamble. If we flip a fair coin and pay $1 for heads and get $1 for tails the expected value is E(coin flip) = .5*(1) + .5(-1) = 0. Flipping a biased coin might have an expected value of E(coin flip) = .6*(1) + .4(-1) = +.2

Notice that it’s important for Sum[P(x)] = 1.

It’s common to argue that we should be indifferent to a gamble that has a zero expected value and be willing to take any gamble that has a positive expected value. David Sklansky is well known for making this argument (see David Sklansky, Getting the Best of It, Two Plus Two Publishing, 1982). But that argument doesn’t really hold up to scrutiny. Just because I’m willing to take an even money coin flip for $1 should you actually expect me to be willing to make that same coin flip for $1,000?

I don’t think so.


The rest of it is available at Smashwords.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

A couple of book reviews

Friday, January 15, 2010

Shooting an angle

Danny boy gives us an example of angle shooting but then follows up with a plea that it can't be angle shooting if he does it, because he doesn't shoot angles.
clearly an infraction of the rules took place when my opponent tabled his hand with action remaining. The video doesn't show it, but the players at my table all saw his hand, I saw the Ad and only half of the other card, which looked like the 4s or 5s. I was wrong, it was the 10s. I told the truth about what I thought I saw. I said to him, "I saw your hand," which is true. I saw the Ad clearly, and the other card as well, but didn't have it exactly right. The players seated next to me did.

It was all very confusing as to what should happen here, so I gave up trying to figure it out, and I handed it over to the floor.

Let's be clear on what it means to shoot an angle. It does not mean breaking the rules. That would be called cheating. Angle shooting isn't cheating, and it does not mean any rules are broken. It means you've attempted to use the rooms in a way that was not intended. That's exactly what Danny did in the above. He'd lost the pot, he did not have the best hand (or so he believed) and thought that the only way he could win was to have the opponents hand (the best hand) declared dead. So you did what he could to make that happen.

It's angle shooting at it's worst. One common goal that all poker rules have is to ensure that the best hand at showdown wins. Anything you do (or Danny boy does) to subvert that is angle shooting. It's the definition.

CardPlayer seems to also think it's an angle shot.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010


Online Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker! The WBCOOP is a free online Poker tournament open to all Bloggers, so register on WBCOOP to play.

Registration code: 592953

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Asian Thanksgiving

According to a NYT article, the Connecticut casinos cater to an Asian crowd on Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving doesn’t mean a lot to us; it’s a vacation,” said Chan Juan Zhou, a 21-year-old college student who lives in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, and studies civil engineering. Ms. Zhou arrived at the casino with 13 friends around midnight on a jammed bus from Chinatown.

... On any other day, 50 buses might run between Mohegan Sun and Chinese neighborhoods in New York, along with some from Massachusetts; on Thanksgiving, there are 100.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

What does it mean to get lucky

I used to read a lot of poker blogs but I don't so much anymore. I still read a few regularly, Danny Boy's blog is one that I read regularly. I actually like his blog.

One of the things I like about it is that it keeps me in touch with different ways of thinking about things. There really aren't many topics that Danny thinks about in the same way that I do. If you're going to play poker at all successfully I think it's important to how other people sometimes look at things. You can't do Opponent Modeling if you don't understand how opponents think.

I think a lot of poker players are very results oriented, and Danny is no exception.
3 handed, Barry was a short stack and went all in from the button and because of a dealer error, ended up doubling through me. I was supposed to have Q-2, an easy fold, but the dealer launched my card too high, and flashed. So instead of a 2, I got an Ace for A-Q. I called Barry's all in and lost the hand to his J-10. If the dealer hadn't made that error, I would have folded the Q-2 and Barry would not have won that hand.

Danny seems to think that it was bad luck for him to have the 2 replaced by an Ace. Of course, that's absurd, it was good luck, just a bad outcome.

It doesn't make any sense at all to consider a huge increase in equity (which is the direct effect of replacing a duece with an ace) as bad luck. But players do that sort of thing all the time.

Danny's right in that results is really all that matters once it's all over. But, before you get there it's the path and the intended destination that matters, not the eventual actual outcome.

There's nothing really wrong with being results oriented unless that form of thinking carries over to the actual analysis of the game. That's bad. That leads to not changing your underwear as long as you're on a winning streak.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

A book review

A review of The Complete Book of Casino Poker

Saturday, September 26, 2009

National Identity

There are so few American poker players that we have to travel to Canada to find players to play on an American team.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Harrah's Debt

Harrah's goes deeper and deeper in debt.
Harrah's Entertainment, Inc. (“Harrah's”) announced today that Harrah’s Operating Escrow LLC and Harrah's Escrow Corporation (the “Escrow Issuers”), wholly-owned unrestricted subsidiaries of Harrah’s Operating Company, Inc. (“HOC”), are proposing to issue $1 billion aggregate principal amount of senior secured notes due 2017

Harrah’s intends to use the net proceeds from this private offering to retire a portion of Harrah’s existing term loan and revolving credit indebtedness under HOC’s senior secured credit facilities and for general corporate purposes.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Don't bet on a snooker match

At least not without inside information.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Professional Poker Player?

I guess George Will thinks
Howard Lederer, a.k.a. "the Professor," is a professional poker player, not a gambler. If Congress will acknowledge this distinction, it will rectify one of its recent mistakes.

Howard used to be a professional poker player. He was also a bookie for a time. And was a gambler, gambling on poker, sports, chess, and probably other games as well.

More recently he's an owner of FullTilt and although he plays poker he probably makes more on celebrity appearance fees and TV production fees than poker winnings.

I'm not sure that means he's still a professional poker player.


The Complete Book of Casino Poker

I'm suprised (and pleased) to see that it's still getting reviewed.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Living in a hospital

I wonder if Danny (or his brother) have ever been a hospital patient?
So I'm in Toronto visiting my mother. She's still in ICU, in fact, she has been in ICU longer than any other patient at the hospital. The real problem is her breathing- she can't do it on her own. Doctors gave us the bad news a little while ago that because she can't breathe on her own... she'll never leave the hospital. They said never, and they are probably right, but they might also be wrong. I'm obviously hoping they are wrong.

Currently she's on 50% assist, and 50% breathing on her own. She's in a hospital, so inevitably she had to battle infection after infection, because being in a hospital for an extended period of time is a surefire way to get sick.

We had a recent scare. One where the doctors wanted to have that "talk" with us. She was diagnosed with double pneumonia which they deemed was 100% fatal. They asked us if we wanted them to treat the pneumonia, or instead, "let her go." That's just brutal. Ick. I hate being in that spot, but me and my brother are on the same page all the way through this which is great. No arguing, no bickering, we both know our mother well and what she would want.

Hospital living is a very unpleasant way to spend your life.

I understand Danny's hesintacy to make the kind of important decisions that have to be made regarding his mother's care, but he's wrong if he thinks he really knows what she wants. Even his terminology ("what she would want" instead of "what she wants") suggests her current quality of life is something below acceptable.

It's a really sad situation and I'm glad my father didn't put others in the situation Danny is in -- my father was able to make his own decision when he was dying of cancer and just checked himself out of the hospital and went home, to die at home with his wife.

This sort of thing is why the end of life counseling that was in the house bill for health care is so important -- people need to think about DNR orders and Living Wills when they are well and able to communicate so that their loved ones aren't put in impossible situations later.

If you want your life prolonged no matter what then just say so clearly up front, before something happens that makes it imppossible for you to express your wishes.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bank accounts, poker sites, and player's money

n an apparent crackdown on Internet gambling, federal authorities in New York have frozen or seized bank accounts worth $34 million belonging to 27,000 online poker players, according to representatives for the players and account holders.

That's the lead paragraph in a Wall Street Journal article the other day. And it's wrong.

It's correct that Poker Player's Association said that, but it's not correct that PPA represents players -- they are a lobbyist for poker sites. And, it's not true that poker player's money was seized.

The money seized does not belong to poker players. It belongs to third party payment processors (called money launderers by the DOJ) who owe the money to poker sites who in turn owe the money to poker sites.

Poker sites would like you to think it was your money seized so they can blame their failure to pay their debts on the US government. And PPA is just doing their part in helping poker sites prepare to scam you.

The misrepresentation that PPA is putting out gets picked up by the WSJ and even by some of my favorite bloggers. PPA disgusts me.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Celebrity Apprentice

Joan Rivers beat Annie Duke on Celebrity Apprentice. I didn't watch the final episode, although I did watch most of them during the season. I watched Breaking Bad last night and switched over in the final moments to see who Trump was going to pick as the winner.

2+2 has a long discussion on the show, most of which focuses on personalities and conspiracy theories. The best analysis of the show I've seen is Danny Boy's. He does a really good job of analyzing the show.

He's so much more coherent when he's not drunk.

(I'm sorry, I couldn't resist. I just don't have it in me to be able to compliment Danny without an insulting followup.)

Although I do think Danny Boy did a good job in his overall analysis of the show, I do have to disagree with him about one thing. He says
I wasn't all that thrilled with how the profession of poker was portrayed on the show and I'd like a crack at giving people a different perspective. Too much emphasis was put on words like "deceit" and "manipulation" and while those are tools used at a poker table, I don't believe that if you play poker for a living those tools are something that are necessary in order to succeed in life, or in a game like Celebrity Apprentice.

I think that as a general rule poker players are a bunch of weasels. I don't like most of them and I don't trust most of them. That probably has something to do with why a lot of them don't like me.

Danny himself is a good example of the kind of weasels poker player's can be even away from the table.

A few years ago, before he got rich and famous, Danny-Boy was insulted by me and he challenged me to a duel, a heads-up poker match. Normally I ignore such school-yard pestering, but Danny offered 10-1 on a cash wager on the outcome of a 40 hour heads up limit hold'em match.

That was almost impossible to turn down. Even if Danny was a better player than me (something that's entireely possible) there's no way he would be a 10-1 favorite.

The initial problem was that I had no money. I also think that Danny-boy was busted at the time (this was before he was rich and famous) but he wasn't going to admit it. I tried to get Danny to give me a number, a maximum bet he would be willing and able to cover. He wouldn't do it.

By offering investors 6-1 on their money I thought I could raise $100k. So I suggested that to Danny -- my $100k versus his million dollars. He agreed. But the way he behaved I still wasn't convinced he wasn't busted. I don't think he really had the money and I don't think his tournament backers would have been willing to lay 10-1.

But I went to work on it anyway. Trying to raise cash. I found a video film maker willing to produce a documentary on the event. I found a backer to finance a series of vidios on heads up poker. I got a radio DJ to do a live internet braodcast of the event. I even talked to a Swedish TV producer about doing a reality TV show on the event. This was all before poker on TV was widespread. One of Danny's stipulations was that we play in either Las Vegas or Los Angeles. The match would have been legal in Texas and we could have done it rake free (I had a volunteer with many years of WSOP dealing and floor experience to deal it). But Danny wouldn't go for that. So I found a casino in Las Vegas that would sponser the event.

Then Danny balked. His new stipulation was that I just come out to Vegas and find him at the Belogio and we'd sit down and play right then. No advance planning, no fund-raising, and if I showed up on a day he wasn't in town that's just my tough luck.

That stipulation was presented after he had a friend call me (I think it was a potential backer of Danny) and talk to me about backing me. He wanted to know why I thought I had a chance to beat Danny. I was fairly open about that and would have told have told Danny if he'd have just asked. I thought I could play close to a game theory strategy and that Danny would likely beat himself with FPS trying to dance around.

Anyway, when it came time for Danny to call the casino that would be hosting the event to make arrangements for him to deposit his buyin (I didn't want to go to far in the planning until I actually saw the money -- I had some commitments from backers but didn't collect the monies because I never did think Danny would actually follow through). When it came time to show the money Danny Boy went berserk and the match clearly wasn't going to happen.

Basically I think Danny Boy is a worthless pestering weasel and that his lack of character is very typical of professional poker players.

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Annie Duke

I'm sorry, but this woman really does remind me of Annie.


Thursday, April 30, 2009

Andy Beal

Andy Beal is the Texas banker who played a series of headsup matches against members of a Las Vegas "poker corporation". Micheal Craig wrote The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King: Inside the Richest Poker Game of All Time about the series of matches.

It seems that Beal plays poker with his bank assets also. And he plays pretty well.
A banker who resisted the urge to invest in toxic assets during the boom is cleaning up during the bust. Andy Beal of Beal Bank in Plano, Texas "virtually stopped making or buying loans" from 2004 to 2007, leading people around him to think he was crazy. Now he's buying up loans at fire sale prices and has tripled his bank's assets to $7 billion in the last 15 months, and without government bailout money.


Have a drink

No, Danny-Boy doesn't have a drinking problem
I broke pretty much all of my rules going into this tournament, some of which just aren't my fault. My rules are simple:

1. Unpack immediately (did that)
2. No socializing the night before
3. Dinner alone in the room
4. No drinking
5. 8 hours of sleep

I broke 4 out of the 5 rules. I played in the Ante Up for Africa Celebrity event and came in 5th place. It was a lot of fun and I had a few drinks during the event. I had a fun table to start, but busted half of them and had the chip lead at the final table by a large margin before going card dead.

After the event I planned on going straight to bed, then somehow got convinced to have "one drink" at the bar. That never works! I don't know what it is about being in Europe but everything just seems like more fun. One drink turned into "more drinks" and then it just got late. I probably got about 5 hours of sleep and didn't really eat the whole night.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A weak/tight President?

Bostick wonders whether Obama is weak/tight.

Is he right?

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Total Woman

I hope Annie homeschools her kids, because if they have to go to school tomorrow they aren't going to like it.

What do you think Annie was thinking?


You know Annie, I loved you as a poker player, but as a person? Your 'I'm so great' attitude is grating. You constantly brag while putting everyone else down, this speaks volumes about you and less about your targets. I went into this rooting for you - but frankly, I just can't stand you anymore. It's going to be hard watching you play poker, you have really been behaving disgracefully - and this article cements my opinion - well, at least your brother seems to have class
Can you just imagine how many kids at school are going to bring up to
her children that she gives a "good blow job"
Kids will keep on recounting that little fact long beyond the time
they forget where it even came from. In fact, the history behind it
will be rewritten over and over against until it develops into a story
about annie blowing every male in the area.

I think the fact that she was talking to Playboy star Brande Roderick had something to do with her comment. I don’t know if she expected it to be aired.

IGN Boards

annie duke just became cool in my book and i would let her go down for the record


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mistakes They Make

This is an old article I did a while back and published on a now defunct website. I'm reprinting it as is
Mistakes They Make
by Gary Carson
September 20, 2000

In the last few essays we explored the conflict between the theory of poker that poker is a struggle among the players for the ante and the theory that money simply flows from the bad players to the good players. We saw how blending those ideas with the theory that poker is a betting game of choosing the right odds can help reconcile the conflict.

There are myriad theories of poker that you can bring to bear to develop a perspective for the game. As we go on in this series of essays we'll be talking about a lot more theoretical perspectives. It's important to keep the various ideas in mind. So far we've discussed:

Ante Theory. Poker is a struggle among the players for the rights to the ante.

Bad Player Theory. In poker, the money flows from the bad players to the good players. Good players win money from the bad players.

Odds Theory. Poker is about choosing bets where the odds you get on the bet are an overlay to your odds of winning.

This essay introduces a fourth theoretical view of poker -- a theory of poker as a game of mistake control.

Mistake Theory. The player who makes the fewest mistakes wins.

Looking at the game this way suggests that the road to winning poker is to keep your mistakes to a minimum. That leads to a game theory type approach with an objective that's more defensive than offensive. But, we can expand on a Mistake Theory.

Mistake Theory. The player who makes the fewest mistakes wins. The more mistakes your opponents make, the larger your win.

Now this leads us to the idea that we can win by playing defensively, but we can win big by actively exploiting our opponents' mistakes.

If you want to maximize your playing profits you must actively identify and exploit your opponents' mistakes. This approach can be risky, it usually is. But, it's the road to maximizing the net win.

To exploit your opponents' mistakes you have to know what they are. And, even knowing what mistakes they make isn't enough if you don't know when they make the mistakes. Sometimes you have to be able to predict mistakes. For example, if you know a player has a high likelihood of making a certain kind of mistake on the flop then you might call a bet preflop with a very wide range of hands, just so you'll later be in a position to exploit an opponent mistake.

So, knowing why a player tends to make mistakes can be critical. Knowing why often helps us predict mistakes.

This leads us to the importance of knowing your opponents. Not just general knowledge, but specific knowledge can have value. You need to know something about the kind of information you need to gather to develop strategies that will optimally exploit opponents' mistakes. This is not an easy thing to do, and it varies a lot from opponent to opponent.

Many proponents of a game theory approach to poker believe that players make mistakes because they don't know any better. They think that if players knew correct game theory strategies that no one would make mistakes and the games would die out. This argument is used to justify the idea that a defensive game theory approach to the game is optimal.

I think that belief is wrong. I think many players make mistakes, not because they don't know any better, but because they don't care. Players raise because it's fun. They call because they want to chase the illusive thrill of getting lucky. It's not about the money to most players. It's about the fun and the thrill.

This presumption that players only make mistakes because they don't know any better leads to mathematical and logical arguments are used to develop a strategy that has the characteristic that it is the best way to play against a player who plays well.

In a heads-up match against a player who plays well, that's probably a good approach. But, I'm not sure why anyone would want to be in that situation. In a full game, even when all the players are players who play well, I'm not so sure. Mathematically no one has ever found a game theory solution to such a multi-player game (they have to some multi-player games, just not any that look like poker). No one has even proved that any stable game theory solution exists to a multi-player poker game.

In a real poker game, against real people who are making real mistakes, the key is to identify those mistakes, predict when they'll make the mistakes, and act to exploit the mistakes.

I haven't said anything yet about how to accomplish any of this. That's not always easy to do. But, the first step is to identify what it is you want to accomplish. Only after that's done can you figure out how to accomplish it.

If you're playing heads-up, against an opponent who doesn't understand what a minimax strategy is, you can often play a minimax strategy and let him flail around trying to beat you and that might be the best way to play. Such an approach will certainly guarantee a profit. If you're heads-up against such a player who'll just keep playing until one of you is broke, then such a defensive approach will eventually get all the money.

But, that's not a typical poker situation. A typical situation pits you against many players, some of which call to much on the river, some of which fold to much on the river. So against some of the you don't want to bluff often but do want to make marginal value bets. Against others you might want to bluff a lot. Your tactics in a particular situation depend on the kinds of mistake your opponents tend to make, and that's often much more important information than the cards you happen to hold.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Segmenting the international poker market

I got a news release from Poker Stars about online poker in Italy.
We have recently obtained a licence from the Italian government to allow
players in Italy to play for real money on

Italian players can now play real money tournaments on the
client, but not ring games. The client will only be
available for players within Italy, and the tournaments will only have
players within Italy participating.

I'm not a big fan of this kind of market segregation, but that's the sort of thing that happens when you get too much cooperation with government.


Championship of online poker

A news release from Poker Stars
The Spring Championship of Online Poker takes place from
April 2 -12. This is THE biggest online poker tournament series anywhere
online this year so far. Even better, the tournament series runs for low,
medium and high-stakes players, so everyone can have the chance to win
big. With $30,000,000 guaranteed, even the low-stakes can win big!
Satellites are running now

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Theories of poker

This is a reprint of Chapter 10 in The Complete Book Of Hold 'Em Poker: A Comprehensive Guide to Playing and Winning
Chapter 10

Theories of Poker

Poker theory is a topic that takes much more than a chapter in a book to cover completely. At least two books devoted almost entirely to poker theory have been written, and neither of those books even attempts to fully cover the topic. The point of this chapter isn't to give a complete review of poker theory, but to provide a summary of how poker theory provides direction to strategic and tactical thinking in poker.

One problem in poker theory is that many poker analysts who write books or magazine articles about poker don't seem to really understand how theory influences thinking about the strategy and tactics of the game. Most analysts have a favorite theory about the game, and whenever they are confronted with a situation for analysis, they immediately view the situation through their favorite perspective. There are many alternative theories of poker, and a complete analysis of the game requires a frequent shifting of theoretical perspective.

In most fields it's not unusual for researchers or analysts to blur the distinction between the theory of some phenomena and a model based on the theory. That's particularly true in the poker literature. A theory of poker and a model of poker, however, are really distinct things, and I think it's important to understand that distinction when you're thinking and learning about poker.

What is a theory?
A theory has three characteristics: descriptive, explanatory, and predictive. None of these characteristics are necessarily explicit or even complete in any particular theory. A good theory is usually one that can be simply stated in one or more straightforward declarative sentences that has desirable implications for describing, explaining, or predicting observed behavior of the phenomena under study. A good theory doesn't need to do all three of these things. A good theory, however, does need to have some strong explanatory power. A theory that doesn't help us understand the game doesn't really help all that much.

An example is a simply stated theory of poker is: Poker is a struggle among the players for the rights to the ante. This theory doesn't lend much towards describing poker. It doesn't tell us how the betting is structured to facilitate the struggle among the players. It doesn't tell us how to determine which player ends up with the pot.

The theory does have some explanatory power for the first round of betting. It explains why it's usually best to limit your opening hands to those hands with self contained power rather than those that have value through drawing power. Since it does not address the pot growth that comes from multiple betting rounds, it adds nothing to an explanation of the value of hands like Jack, 10 suited in Hold 'Em.

The theory has some predictive power, but not much. A theoretical prediction for poker should provide us with a prescription for play - it should tell us something about the best way to play the game. For poker variants with multiple betting rounds, like Hold 'Em, it just doesn't do that. It does help us predict things like a tight range of likely hands that a knowledgeable player who opened from early position might have.

An example of a theory with a different kind of predictive power is: Money flows from bad players to good players. This theory doesn't have much descriptive power; it doesn't tell us who the good and bad players are. Assuming we have some other method to identify good and bad players, it does help us predict the outcome of a poker session. In fact, I used a simple mathematical model of that theory to develop the recommendations in Chapter 8 for when a single really bad player in a game can make an otherwise unprofitable game profitable.

What is a Model?
A model is a structured representation of a theory. It's descriptive of the theory, not necessarily descriptive of the phenomena. Often we can use a model to derive the predictive elements of a theory. A model might be in the form of an explicit mathematical statement, or it might just be a conceptual structuring.
An example is a game theory model of the Poker-is-a-struggle-for-the-ante-theory. You can use a game theory model to derive a list of opening hands by position. In relatively tight games, where it's typically heads-up after the first round of betting we can use that same game theory model to determine the hands with which we should be willing to call an opening bet. We can extend the use of the same model to determine when to bet, call, or bluff on the river.

For a game like draw poker, where in most games the players tend to be relatively tight and you only have two rounds of betting, you can use a game theory model to almost completely specify a winning playing strategy. That approach, however, just doesn't extend for a game with more than two betting rounds. It doesn't help all that much for a game like Hold 'Em.

Although a game theory model does help us analyze some situations, a game like Hold 'Em requires a different approach to the game. Hold 'Em is very complex and it's doubtful that we could formulate a complete model of the game - even if we could do so, the mathematics of solving it would very likely be intractable. We can, however, develop theories related to particular aspects of the game, and use the models that those theories suggest to analyze tightly defined situations.

The game theory model suggested by the ante theory is one such use. As I've already mentioned, that model can be used productively to analyze opening hand requirements in tight game conditions.

Another model is suggested by the theory that Poker is a struggle between made hands and drawing hands. This theory suggests the use of a multinomial probability model to analyze the play of drawing hands. By multinomial I mean a model that assumes multiple discrete outcomes, such as win large pot, win small pot, lose small pot, or lose large pot. Multinomial is like flipping a coin with more than two sides. A dice game is an example of a multinomial game.

The theory that Money flows from bad players to good players suggests a conceptual model of the game that implies that table selection involves looking for a table with large pots. This step from theory to model is not always an obvious one. But, it's an important one in an analysis of the game.

Variables in theory
Implicit in a theory of poker is the concept of a variable. This is something that might change value or might even be a constant with an indeterminate value. By indeterminate I mean we won't know its value until the hand is over. For example, the hand we are dealt is a variable. It's a special kind of variable in that it's random, but it's not indeterminate -- we know our hand as soon as we look at it.
The hand our opponent is dealt is also a variable, in the same way our hand is, but it's indeterminate, we won't know his hand until the showdown. By the way, my description of the hand you've been dealt as a random variable is something of an example of what I talked about earlier in the blur in the distinction between a theory and a model. In the extreme it's not really correct to call the deal random - once you've specified the initial order of the cards, tracked the exact shuffle and cut the deck it is perfectly deterministic and predictable. Of course, we don't keep track of things like the exact shuffle so it makes sense to just think of them as occurring as the result of randomness. Randomness is a model of the shuffling process, not a theory of shuffling.

Strategy and tactics
Although it's not directly relevant to theories and models, I think here is a good place to differentiate between strategy and tactics. Strategy is about the metagame. An optimal strategy is one that maximized your expected playing result over some period of time, maybe a playing session of a few hours, maybe a longer period such as months or years. Tactics are about the individual decisions that make up the play of the hand. An optimal tactic is one that maximizes the expected result of the particular situation.

The topics we've already discussed, game and seat selection, are strategic issues. There is no expectation of an immediate payoff from picking a good game or a good seat. In fact, there is no possibility of an immediate payoff. No one is going to toss you a few chips as soon as you sit down.

Playing poker as a string of tactically optimal plays does not generally lead to an optimal strategy. However, an optimal playing strategy will lead to optimal playing tactics. The reason for this is that a focus on strategic issues will tend to maximize the opportunity for profit. Without maximizing opportunity, you can't maximize profit. For example, if you consistently play in a game where the other players just aren't going to lose much money, then no amount of tactical superiority will win as much money as you would win by playing in a game where the other players will always just play until they go broke. Strategic issues, such as game selection, come first. Only then can you rationally deal with tactical issues such as a choice of what hands to play. In poker, it's usually the case that strategy focuses on the other players, and tactics focuses on the cards. The distinction isn't really that sharp, but you won't go far wrong by thinking of strategy and tactics in these terms.

Uses of Poker Theory
Poker theories help us gain a deeper understanding of inherent elements of the game. They help us develop a perspective of the game. Some of the current poker theories are given in the table below.

Table 10-1

Theoretical perspectives and game conditions

Perspective Game Conditions

Poker is a struggle among the players for the rights to the ante Very tight, tight

Money flows from bad players to good players all game types

Poker is a game of money and odds loose and very loose games

Poker is a game of partial information Very tight, tight, typical, loose, aggressive
Poker is a game of strategy and deception Very tight, tight, typical, aggressive

Poker is a contest between a made hand and a drawing hand Tight or typical

Poker is a game of kickers and hand domination Tight or very tight

Poker is a game of manipulation and pressure Typical, loose, very loose

As you can see, each of these different theoretical perspectives essentially focuses on the key variable of some particular facet of the game. No one of these theoretical perspectives provides a complete theory of poker, but each of them has its uses in developing a complete understanding of the game.
Uses of Poker Models
A poker model helps us explore the implications of a particular theory. It's through the analysis of either a formal mathematical model or a conceptual model of a theory that we can uncover the strengths and weaknesses of a particular theoretical perspective. A good poker model isn't going to try to reflect every nuance and quirk of a poker game. We can use explicit poker models, inspired by the appropriate theoretical perspective, to analyze the effects of a wide range of decisions; from deciding whether to play in a particular game or deciding whether to raise with an A A.
An example of a model is an Equity Model. PokerStove (downloadable from is an example of an implementation of an Equity Model.
Equity is the percentage of wins of a hand in a given situation. It’s not just the percentage of time that a hand will win, equity computation includes split pot situations as a half a win.
Some poker TV shows give hand equities of situations, some just give expected win probabilties, ignoring split pots. Some of the TV equity calculations include what’s known about discarded cards, some don’t.
A General Theory of Poker
We don't have a general theory of poker. By a general theory I mean a unified theoretical view that encompasses most, if not all, of the commonly accepted theoretical perspectives of the game. Some of these perspectives are:
Poker is a struggle among the players for the rights to the ante
Money flows from bad players to good players
Poker is a contest between a made hand and a drawing hand
Poker is a game of strategy and deception
Poker is a game of partial information
Poker is a game of money and odds
Poker is a game of manipulation and pressure
Poker is a game of kickers and hand domination
Poker is a game of implied odds

All of these theoretical perspectives are useful. No one of them is better than the others. Each is useful in a different aspect of the game. At different parts of this book, we look at poker through different perspectives. You've already seen two examples of this.
In Chapter 8, on game selection, we looked at poker through the perspective that money flows from bad players to good players. We used that perspective to identify games that involve many players putting a lot of money into the pot as profitable games.
Some poker players argue that the best games are those when the players are passive, preferably loose/passive, but also tight/passive. The reason they come to that conclusion is that they are looking at poker through a perspective of strategy and deception. A weak game of passive players does afford you more opportunity at using advanced strategies and deceptive plays, but that's not the most important source of profit in poker.
It's not a question of which perspective is superior to the other. It's a question of which perspective is more useful in helping to answer the question at hand. In the case of game selection, the key variable is the amount of money available. The money-flow perspective focuses on this key variable, and is the preferable perspective to use when considering selection of a game.
In Chapter 9, on seat selection, we looked at the game with a different perspective. There the focus was on the point of view suggested by a strategy and deception perspective. Most poker writers seem to look at seat selection through a prism of a partial information perspective.
One major difference in seat selection strategy that results from these different perspectives is in the case of maniacs. A common recommendation is to sit with the maniac to your immediate right. I suggest the opposite, sit with either him on your immediate left or half-way across the table from you. What is the reason for the difference? It's because of the difference in focus from the two different theoretical perspectives.
If you use a partial information perspective you'll want him on your right to ensure you have as much information as you can get before you have to act. There is nothing wrong with that except: We are talking about a maniac, someone who plays almost every hand and raises at every opportunity. How much more information can you have? You get very little extra information from having a maniac on your right. But having him on your left expands your tactical playing options tremendously.
Poker is a struggle among the players for the right to the ante
This perspective has relevance in the early parts of the first betting round. In Hold 'Em we use blinds rather than antes, but the point of the perspective is that the game begins as a struggle for the initial money in the pot. It's a useful perspective in determining opening hand requirements, particularly in somewhat tight games and from early position.
Money flows from bad players to good players
The premise of the ante-theory is that without some initial seed money in the pot, you have no game. The point of view of the bad-player perspective refutes that, however, with the observation that some players play so badly that they'd be willing to play even if the pot had no money to start with at all.
Poker is a contest between a made hand and a drawing hand
This is a perspective of a simple two-player confrontation where one of them has the best hand and the other has a possibility of becoming the best hand. It's a useful perspective to use when analyzing situations where you're fairly certain that you either have the best hand or are fairly certain what the best hand is. This perspective is not useful, and in fact can lead you far astray, once you have more than two or three players competing for the pot.
Poker is a game of strategy and deception.
This perspective has a focus on making advertising plays to establish a false image, outwitting your opponents by bluffs and semi-bluffs, and using position to steal pots.
Poker is a game of partial information
This perspective views poker as a mathematical game. The focus is on evaluation of information about your hand and the probable hands of your opponents. The idea of partial information games is derived from game theory.
Poker is a game of money and odds
This perspective is a view of poker where pot size and drawing odds are the important variables. It's a particularly valuable perspective for play in loose games and some aggressive games.
Poker is a game of manipulation and pressure
This perspective is similar to the strategy and deception perspective. The difference is primarily more of an emphasis on false image than on tactical uses of position. Players who view the game primarily through this perspective tend to use a lot of table talk to manipulate and confuse opponents. Amarillo Slim was a master of this. Other's who view the game through this perspective tend to apply pressure by playing in a fast, aggressive style. The current master of the techniques suggested by this perspective is probably Mike Caro.
Poker is a game of kickers and hand domination
This is an important perspective in tight games or in any games where tight players have entered the pot. The emphasis is on the added value of having two high cards rather than one. Of course, two high cards have value because of the increased probability of flopping the top pair, but the domination perspective focuses on the card that does not have a match on the board -- the kicker.

Poker is a game of implied odds
In deep stack no-limit games it’s often more important to think in terms of the possibility of winning future bets than it is to be concerned with current hand value.

What it all means
Which theoretical perspective you use to analyze a situation just depends on the situation and the game-condition context of the situation. Before you finish this book, you'll see examples of using all the theoretical perspectives to analyze the game. That's the key to developing a dynamic approach to the game. Developing the ability to quickly shift your point of view is the first step in being able to adjust to changes in game conditions - the key to winning poker.


Friday, December 26, 2008


Danny is just being delusional when he says

In a nutshell- I'm cutting back... big time. Cutting back on all of the extra "stuff" that I do and also going to lighten my load in terms of travel. PokerVT is something I'll continue to put my efforts into and teach those that sign up, but aside from that I'll be doing a lot less teaching. People are already getting better and just giving away my secrets is starting to feel like a bad idea.

"Giving away his secrets"? That's just nonsense, he doesn't have any secrets.

I looked for an old rgp thead where he described his approach to analysis of poker but I couldn't find it. But it explains why he actually thinks he has secrets.

What he had said was that when he was moving up in limits in Las Vegas he made friends with the best players at his new table and learned tips on how to play that level from them.

It's not that doesn't work. It does. But it's not about secrets. There is nothing that any competent observer can't figure out about the game by actual observation and analysis. t's not a secret that a "6" in your hand in triple draw severely handicaps your hand. You can figure that out from first principles. It's an astute observation and a good thing to know, but it's not a secret.

Danny's a good poker player. He's just not very bright.

From the comments
Blogger Greylocks said...

The big rush he had that one year he cashed in all those tournaments is long over, he's good but he's nowhere near good enough to win at the stakes he plays, and he needs to blame something.

hmmm, maybe.

I looked again for that old post where he described his choice of how to analyze a poker situation. I still can't find it, I did narrow it down somewhat -- I think somewhere in the first half of 1999.

Basically he recommended finding someone who's "play tou respect" and then jusy asking them.

That's his idea of what analysis is. Don't actually think about it. Just ask someone smarter than you are (which in Danny's case is just about everybody).

He really does think that learning poker is about "knowing the secrets".

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Probably the most interesting thing about this post is that's actually an academic journal called Journal of Happiness Studies. There's nho subject so trivial that an academic can't devote a career to it.

"Achieving sustainable gains in happiness: Change your actions, not your circumstances" is a research article in that journal which actually has implications for poker players.

The idea of the research is that having good things happen to you makes you happy, but it's only temporary. For permanent happiness you need to actually achieve something. To translate that into poker speak -- getting lucky won't make you happy but playing better will.

h/t Tasty Research

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Thursday, December 04, 2008


Embedded in this little story about the poker playing television celebrity, Elix Powers is an example of a mistake that's very common among dealers (and even floormen in some places).

In the story he doesn't say what the blinds are but I'm guessing 2/5. So the relevant bets are Player B (Big blind) puts up a $5 blind, Player O (Opener) makes it $20, Player R (Raiser) makes it $50 and player A (All-in) makes it $90, and is all in.

The really bad ruling is that Player R is not then allowed to re-raise. I guess because the all-in bet wasn't "twice the bet".

The actual rule is that a raise must be at least the size of the last raise, not the size of the current total bet. The $50 bet represented a $30 raise, so Player A could have made it $80 and that would qualify as a raise.

This is misunderstood by so many dealers that I don't even bother to correct them anymore. I've just given up on the whole concept of expecting competent dealers.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Chill out

Tilt isn't really about a natural reaction to stress or even an over-reaction to stress. It's about a failure to calm down after a naturally stressful event. This short video doesn't offer an answer, but it does illustrate the problem.


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Pajama gamblers

A press release from the U. of Chicago
Pajama Gamblers Could Lose Their Shirts: Online Gambling Can Be Dangerously Comfortable

People who gamble from the comfort of their home tend to think they’re more in control of their gambling than people who gamble in casinos, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Authors June Cotte (University of Western Ontario) and Kathryn A. Latour (University of Nevada-Las Vegas) found surprisingly little previous research on their subject: the habits and motivations of online gamblers, who contribute to a $10 billion a year industry.

Their study found that, unlike casino gamblers, who seek thrills and social experiences, online gamblers seek the anonymity their home computers provide. “For casino gamblers, gambling provides a perceived social connection with unknown others in a sense of shared fates and temporary community. Online gamblers, on the contrary, perceive a lack of social connections in the online realm.”

The researchers conducted a study of 30 Las Vegas gamblers. Ten were online gamblers and 20 were casino gamblers, and all considered themselves to be regular gamblers. The study involved in-depth interviews using visual images and collages created by the participants.

In the course of the study, the authors found significant differences in perceptions and attitudes between people who gamble in casinos and people who gamble on their home computers. Because sensations are not as intense in online gambling, online gamblers tend to play for longer amounts of time, and they think they’re more in control of their gambling, the authors found.

The authors believe that regulating online gambling may remove the excitement of doing something illicit.

“When gambling consumption moves into the home, gambling behavior becomes a part of everyday living. When not seen as reserved solely as behavior for an outing, gambling is more likely to become an insidiously integrated component of a consumer’s life,” the authors conclude.

June Cotte and Kathryn A. Latour. “Blackjack in the Kitchen: Understanding Online Versus Casino Gambling” Journal of Consumer Research: February 2009.


Monday, December 01, 2008

Controlling the Internet

Now Italy has joined the ranks of the US and the Netherlands in trying to control the internet. It isn't likely to work for them either.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Today's Gambling Music

Gambling Blues


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Policing the internet

It appears that the United States isn't the only country having a problem getting banks to control the internet for them.

Dutch banks don't like the idea much either.

Of course with what's going on with that Lori Drew prosecution it may be that they won't need the banks to do their policing for them, they can just put us all in jail for violation of the TOS from random websites.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Today's Gambling Music

Blues for Gamblers


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Characteristics of a good game

Will in New Haven started a thread on talking about what he calls a paradox of game conditions.
If two games are available the game with the better conditions will
attract the thinking players, making the game with inferior conditions
the better game.

The paradox arises when you think of structural characteristics of a game (such as rake structure, ante structure, or house amenities) as important.
The structure of a game actually has almost nothing to do with a games profitability. The characteristics of the players is pretty much all that matters. Structure only matters to the extent that "good" structure will attract a bunch of nits.
There really isn't a paradox if you think of game conditions in terms of the players rather than the game.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Today's Gambling Music

Kentucky Gambler, Merle Haggard

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Regulation of the internet

It appears that the US Treasury finally realized that trying to control the internet with silly banking regulation is just more than their little pea-brains can deal with.
After receiving a flood of objections from financial institutions, the Treasury Department will not require them to figure out the difference between legal and illegal online gambling, a distinction Congress deliberately left vague and regulators refuse to clarify. The Bush administration's final regulations under the UIGEA, issued last week, require American credit card companies to invent new codes for certain transactions and require financial institutions to ask their clients to avoid illegal gambling.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Showdown at FullTilt

With lawsuits come depositions. Depositions mean a lot of questions. Lederer and Ferguson have shown a lack of interest in giving straightforward explanations about ownership of FullTilt in the past (they claim to own the software that's being leased to FullTilt). It will be interesting to see how they handle the deposition questions from Clonie's lawyer.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fixed Limit Texas Holdem Strategy Tips

When players start out in fixed limit Texas holdem, they often focus on the strength of their own hands.If they like their two cards, they bet, if not, they check or fold.
While limit Texas Holdem strategy does rely in large part on playingpremium hands, more advanced players can add other strategies to theirrepertoires to improve their chances of success.
We’ll mention two important stratagems that will your poker power.

Check-Raising in Limit Texas Holdem

One important strategy to employ in fixed limit holdem is thecheck-raise. Since the game is fixed limit, building big pots can be a challenge. Thecheck-raise is one way to get a lot of money in the pot when you have a big hand.
A great opportunity to check-raise occurs when someone has been bettingthe whole way and you have a monster. You can check call pre-flop, and onthe flop, then check the turn and raise when he bets. The pot is now so large thatunless the player is on a complete bluff he will have a hard time not callingthis bet and a subsequent bet on the river.
You can wait for the river to check-raise. However, you risk the otherplayer deciding the pot is sufficiently large and checking behind you on theend.

Making it Two Bets in Limit Texas Holdem

In limit TexasHoldem, there may be some situations in which you can benefit from forcing otherplayers out of the pot. If you have a made hand, you want to discourage draws. Oneway to do this is by making it two bets. If someone on your right bets, you canraise.
Now players who might have called one bet to try and hit their draw willhave incentive to fold. If you are first to act and you suspect a player onyour right will bet when it gets around to him, you can check. When everyoneelse checks looking for a free card and the last player bets, you can thenthrow in your raise.
Now all the drawing players face two bets and the risk that it will beraised and re-raised again, once it goes back around. You are highly likely toachieve your goal of a heads up pot in this instance. If you had a goodmulti-way hand, you would have bet out right away, let other players call and the lastplayer raise, then flat called so that the other players would be pricedin.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Poker Books

There's a thread on 2+2 suggesting that Sklansky should write a book on mathematics of poker.

He did. A long time ago.

It's called Getting the Best of It

To those kids at 2+2 it didn't happen if they haven't seen it on TV.


Thursday, September 04, 2008

Dormant accounts

Poker Magazine has a story on online poker rooms that charge huge fees against dormant accounts. Read the story and beware.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Palin on gambling

From here

No expansion of gambling in Alaska
Q: Do you support the expansion of gambling in Alaska?
A: No, in so many cases, gambling has shown ill effects on families and as Governor I would not propose expansion legislation.

Q: Would you sign any bills that expand gaming in our state?

A: No.

Source: Eagle Forum 2006 Gubernatorial Candidate Questionnaire Jul 31, 2006

Saturday, August 09, 2008

What a joke

One of my favorite pastimes has been making fun of stupid things about poker that Brother Ed Miller says on his blog. Sometimes I comment on it here, sometimes at playingnolimitpoker.

But Brother Ed has taken away one of my favorite pastimes by making his blog a pay site. What a twit. The guy's just an unfriendly neighbor.

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Complete Book of Casino Poker

I'm not sure but I think the book is out of print. That doesn't stop somebody from doing a review of The Complete Book Of Casino Poker though.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Don't try this at home

Another reason to not cold call with KQo.

Doyle Brunson's Secretsw

Random Shuffle Quotes David Benyamine:
Great cash-game players know when to play good games and when to leave bad games.
It calls to mind Doyle Brunson’s top two secrets for getting rich playing poker.

Major Riddle

Jimmy Chagra

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Ghosts at the table

As I mentioned elsewhere, I've spent the last few days laying around in a hospital getting some heart bypass surgery.

One of the byproducts of that is that I got a chance to read a couple of books I've been meaning to read. Ghosts at the Table: Riverboat Gamblers, Texas Rounders, Roadside Hucksters, and the Living Legends Who Made Poker What It Is Today is one of them I've been meaning to read.

In the preface he touts himself as something of a historical treatment of poker. I'm not sure that's really accurate. It's more a treatment of the legends of poker than of the history of poker.

For example, the first chapter deals with the death of Wild Bill Hickock while playing in a poker game in Deadwood, South Dakota with the focus of the discussion on the Aces and Eights "Dead Man's Hand Legend".

History and legend are two different ways to use the past as a device to illuminate the present or future. Legends are cultural traditions formed around a story. They aren't true in a factual sense, but are true in a cultural sense.

That's not to say that legends are never factually true. Often they are. But the factual truth of a legend isn't the point of the legend.

On the first page of his preface, Wilson talks about a classic myth of poker, one that he (and almost everybody) treats as if it's factual. That's the idea that a poker player has to win at poker to be a winner at poker. That, of course, isn't true, and never has been. Many of the examples he gives in the book are of "professional poker players" who made their living making book on sporting events, or dealing faro games, or providing government protection to bordellos, or play using money from "backers", etc, etc.

There's nothing new in the book, although it's well put together. If you aren't up to date on the works on poker myths and legends it might be a good read for you. If you are it's probably a waste of time.


I wrote this review before finishing the book. I did run across something I hadn't run across in a book before -- a short discussion about poker in Victoria, Texas. I lived and played poker in Victoria in the period shortly after the boom time he talks about in the book and can verify the accuracy of what he has about Victoria. And, it is something you would not have run across in previous readings.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Collecting chips

If you're going to collect casino chips stick to casinos fixing to go busted or close up shop.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Criminals and gambling

The TV culture

It didn't happen if it's not on TV but they all look alike on TV.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Catfish Bend Casino

A few months ago Catfish Bend Casino, run by a bunch of dead raccoons in Iowa, fired a security supervisor for putting a Dilbert cartoon on a bulletin board in the employee break room.

I'm happy to report that he has a new job.

If you've been to Catfish Bend in the last few months you should be ashamed of yourself. It's run by truly worthless slime.


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Bill-O and poker

Bill O'Reilly discovers poker blogging.
Effective yesterday, all articles on the site (Brother Ed's blog) older than 30 days are unavailable. We’re going to develop a system to allow the content to be accessed for a fee, and when it’s ready the archive articles will be available again at some cost per article.

What an ultimate weenie.
He's happy with providing free content.
My original vision for this site was that it would be free to read. I always intended to make money from it, but I wanted that money to come from advertising, from donations, and from other sources, not from my readers. For a year and a half I’ve been delighted with how that free-to-read model has been working out.

But his evil masters have objected.
For about the last nine months, behind the scenes, I’ve been receiving pressure and threats aimed at forcing me either to shut down Noted Poker Authority or to make the vast majority of its content available for pay only (sounds ridiculous, I know). Up until now I’ve refused. But it’s become unpleasant and disruptive enough to me that I’m giving in. I’m not proud of it, but when I weighed my options this one made the most sense for me personally.

It's not really his fault, he's just a pawn in the hands of "those who control him".
I’m not happy with this solution, but to me it was basically either this or take the site down completely, so I’m going with this.



Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Value of a gambling operation

Whenever you see some TV report of a bust of a large drug or gambling operation you often hear some big number quoted as "street value" of the drugs or the "revenue" of the gambling operation. It's almost always some really big, really bogus number.

Some bookie who does a million dollars of business over a weekend isn't likely to seeing anything close to a million dollars. Almost all the bets he books are done on the books. He won't even collect half million from the losers to pay to the winners. Many of the winners had previous losses on the books so they aren't going to get paid anything for this weekends win. Many of of the losers will be allowed to carry this weeks loss over to next week.

But prosecutors like numbers like a million, it makes them sound important.

Also, federal sentencing guidelines used to allow them to seek longer sentences if they could invent really big numbers to describe the handle. A recent court decision seems to have changed that.

The Supreme Court says that judges have to take into account actual profits when determining the size of a gambling operation, not just look at some theoretical total cash flow. If state courts (and newspapers) would adopt the same thinking it would help a lot in reducing silly raids on private poker games. The way things are now a prosecutor can make a poker tournament look a lot bigger than it actually is by doing something really silly like counting the denomination of chips on the table.

I doubt that this court decision will actually change how local prosecutors try to manipulate local news stories, but it's a start.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Full Tilt Scam

Full Tilt isn't paying people their money.

They'd like to pay, but they aren't sure they will.

Check back with them in a couple of weeks and they'll let you know whether or not they decided to actually pay people their money.

All I can say is Wow.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

From the chatline

Say in a chatline at a table today

can't seem to beat the river today

Why do we treat the elements of the game as opponents to fight?

Don't try to beat the river, cooperate with the river. Don't fight the game, play the game.


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

World Series Live

Back in the days when the newest technological advancement in communications was television broadcast in color, the World Series of Poker was a gambling event run by gamblers. Today it's run by hotel people at Harrahs and reality TV experts at ESPN.

I think they're fixing to get bit on the ass by the gamblers who still play in the World Series of Poker.

WickedChopsPoker reports the plans under consideration for this summer
Play would be halted this July once the field was whittled down to its final nine players, and then delayed until three months later. The idea is to make the final table a big television event with plenty of lead time to hype the finalists and so no one knows who the winner is until the show airs.

Random Shuffles suggests that there might be some bad results from such a plan
Sure, let's give the final table three months to cut secret deals and work out what tapping twice vs tapping three times means when checking. Of course, they can do some of this in the short period between the last two sessions, but there's a limit on how much they can get accomplished. Over three months, you can not only work out a whole set of cheating signals, but you can practice your cheating.

But, the potential for cheating isn't just about deal making. Don't forget, we're dealing with gambler's here. Prediction markets are ripe for exploitation if the reality TV planners at ESPN and Harrahs actually give some gamblers a few extra months to set up something. What maroons.

The prediction market hustlers are already fixing Tennis and snooker matches. Does anybody really think it would be tough to exploit prediction markets on the winner of an over hyped WSOP final table given 3 months of hype time?

Even exchanges that are highly regulated and heavily policed can't keep out the cheats. We don't need to make it easy for them.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Research on skill and poker

I've been meaning to comment on this paper. But Random Shuffle said pretty much everything I intended to say about it. Not quite everything, but close enough.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Removing thorns from UIGEA

I wonder why the PPA hasn't been trying to support this legal effort rather than trying to have online poker declared illegal?

Online poker isn't currently illegal. If PPA has it's way then online poker offered by companies not approved by the US government would be illegal.

Here's some more on it.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Absolute Poker update

Monday, March 10, 2008

This is a better story than one about David Sklansky's sex life

Elliot Spitzer, the Governer of New York, the guy who caused PayPal to retreat from the gambling site payment services business back when he was Attorney General of New York, got caught with a hooker.

A $4,300 hooker, which is more than even Sklansky has to pay to get layed.

Although four people have been indicted for Mann Act and money laundering violations, he hasn't yet been charged with anthing. If (when?) he is charged it likely won't be on prostitution related charges, it will likely be for structuring bank transfers and money laundering.Structuring is the sizing and timing of bank transactions designed to keep them under the radar, for example making frequent $9,900 cash deposits.

It appears that he has been a long time customer of the escort service (they refer to him as Customer #9). The federal investigation didn't begin as an investigation into prosecution. It began becuase his bank transaction structuring caused the Feds to suspect that he was trying to launder bribe money.

There's a lesson here for poker players. Don't structure bank transactions.

As you might expect, Wicked Chops Poker is all over this story.

Also, Simple Justice, a blog of a NY criminal defense attorney has some thoughts. Simple Justice is written by a better man than me.

I doubt that Spitzer has the good sense to actually hire a real criminal defense attorney, I'm sure he'll rely on some political hack for his defense. That isn't likely to work out for him real well.

Update II:
Letterman Top 10 Spitzer excuses.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Getting banned at 2+2

I'm probably the only person around who got banned at 2+2 for not posting there.

I used to post there. It was long ago, back when Mason didn't ban people but did delete posts he found offensive. Offensive pretty much was defined as a post that pointed out some error that Mason had made. Mason made a lot of errors and I often ponted it out. So he'd delete my posts often.

So I quit posting.

A few months later he banned me.

Now he has a whole team of volunteer banners moderators.

Other blogs on bans at two plus two.

If you say it often enough it becomes true

Neverwin tells some stories about various encounters with Sklansky. One of the stories is a good illustration of the truth of the title of this post.
Then the game gets shorthanded like 4 or 5 handed, and he says, I'm done too unless anyone is interested in some Omaha hi low with no restrictions, or maybe it was Stud hi lo with no restrictions. The other players pretty much said no fuckin way I'd play that game with you, your a fuckin math genius. Moral of the story : Sklansky is a feared Hi LO no restrictions specialist be careful.

I'm pretty sure the game he suggested was stud hi/lo with no restrictions. He used to play that game in college (Yes, David did go to college for a year). Ever since then, whenever he gets a chance he'll tell whoever wants to listen that he's the worlds greatest expert in the game. After all, he beat the game regularly in the Student Union during almost the entire year of 1967 (or whenever the hell it was).

The truth is that what David is is a nit. stud hi/lo with no restrictions is not a game that's often spread in cardrooms. When it does get spread it will be likely populated by people who don't know how to play hi/lo split games. Against that kind of opposition then all it takes to clean up is to be a nit. It doesn't take any more than that, against weak opponents being a nit is being an expert.

So whenever he gets a chance David will claim to be an expert at it. It's good for his reputation.

As far as David being a math genius. Well, that must have been a joke.

I actually like David. And I think he's written a couple of very good books. He's also written a couple of very bad books. And even his good ones have some major errors. David's not very well educated, he has some amazingly stupid beliefs (such as inbreading causes blindness and that autistic women have the mental capacity to give consent to sex with men 40 years older than them) but I still like him.

I'll still like him when he ends up in prison for statutory rape. But David's not actually an expert on much of anything and he's far from a math genius (his math skills are mostly computational). He does have some fun delusions though.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Tax and destroy

I don't understand why so many people seem to think it's a good idea for the government to view online poke as a potential cash cow for government tax collections.
Some in Congress are beginning to recognize the potential financial windfall of legalized online gaming.

Back when the mob ran the numbers game the payouts averaged 60% of the take, now that the state runs it a Pick 3 pays $500, 50% of the average take.

It's even worse for the big prizes. State lotteries target the million dollar payouts at 50% of projected sales, but that's the nominal payout, the actual payout is discounted from that based on a 20 year payout.

You got a better deal when crooks ran it.

Excessive taxation is destroying horseracing. Even New York City is in danger of losing it's off track parlors to high state taxes.

Find another arguement for justification of keeping poker legal. Don't use "if you legalize it you can destroy it and make money while you're destroying it" as your arguement. It's really self-destructive.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Brandi Hawbaker causes two plus two upheavel

There's enough other blogs out there that will tell me about what's going on at that I don't need to read it anymore. It's like all you have to do to follow the soap opera storylines is go to the beauty parlor. I learned about the most recent storyline development from Wicked Chops Poker.

David Sklansky has been banned from posting on It's a temporary ban, but even after the ban is over he'll be on probation and his posting activity will be monitered closely by Mason.

That's pretty much what Mason promised me when I stopped posting over there. He promised to allow me to post again if I promised to be nice to him. Of course Mason never figured out that I wasn't actually banned until a few months after I'd stopped posting. None of those guys are what you might call real bright.

Maybe if Mason started a new policy of not employing 60 year old men who dated 16 year old runaways, 21 year old autistic women, or 30 year old alcholoic hookers then some of this stuff would not happen so often.

What's the law in Nevada about men having sex with women who aren't mentally capable of giving consent?

I'm glad the writer's strike is over. Mason would never be able to come up with these story lines without his team of comedy writer's back in action.

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Slow Play

Slow play is really overrated. Here's a slowplay that probably cost the guy a bet.

It's a razz game. $2/$4 with 25c ante.

I'm dealt a (A 2) with an 8 up.

Relevant cards showing are a couple of 4's, a 7, a 2, and an A.

A Q brings it in for $1 from my immediate left (which makes me last on 3rd street).

The 2 raises to $2, the A calls. I call. The Q folds.

My hand's not so hot since my weakest link (the 8) is shown to the world. But the A 2 is a pretty good hidden start and it's not going to get re-popped.

On 4th street the 2 catches a 3 and the A catches a J. I catch a 2. It pairs me but nobody knows that.

The 2 3 bets, the A J folds. I probably should fold. But I think the chances are pretty good that the 3 paired him. If I catch little on 5th street I'm going to look like a made 8 with a nut redraw and if he catches a brick on 5th I might be able to steal it right then. It's a little bit FPS thinking on my part, but that's what I was thinking.

But it doesn't work out that way. He catches a 6 and I catch a brick (a K). I'm done now. But this is where he gets just really stupid. He checks.

Check? With a 2 3 6 board against a probable made K with a draw to a smooth 8?

He might as well have just turned his cards faceup. He has a made 6. I have no doubt.

If I didn't have the pair, if I actually had a draw to a smooth 8, then I might well call a bet from him here, still thinking that he's paired. But when he checks even if I'm drawing to an 8 and make it I'm done with this hand.


Friday, February 29, 2008

Theory of Poker and mistakes

Somebody asked about the two mistakes in Theory of Poker.

First is the Fundemental Theorem of Poker. It's not fundemental, it's not a theorem, and it's not about poker.

It basically says that if I have KK and you raise for all the chips and I know you have AA, KK, QQ, JJ and each of those possibilities is equally likely then I've made a mistake if I call and it turns out you have AA.

It's results oriented, it says it's a mistake to act on what you actually know, it has nothing to do with expected value. It's wrong.

The other error is David's idea about playing hours, not results. He claims that if you have an overall expected value of $1 per hour and you play 10 hours then you've earned $10 no matter what the actual outcome.

That's wrong on so many levels it takes more than a single blog post to discuss it. It's just an absurd idea.

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