Thursday, June 29, 2006

11 Best books

I was reading 2+2 the other day and ran across a thread about the best poker books. I can't resist reading a thread like that and I was surprised to see not one mention of my hold'em book. I don't expect much mention of it on 2+2 because Mason really dislikes me and most of the posters on 2+2 go out of there way to please him, or at least not displease him. He does have a habit of banning people from the forum who displease him. But I was surprised to see no mention of my book at all.

When a similar thread came up on rgp the other day (asking about books for limit poker)two out of five responses mentioned my hold'em book and one mentioned my casino poker book.

In a thread on rgp a couple of years ago where someone asked about a good hold'em book, 5 out of the 10 responders recommending books recommended my hold'em book.

I really think there's something fundementally wrong with the kind of group-think that goes on at the 2+2 forum. It's always been like that, at one time Mason actively encouraged that kind of thinking. He doesn't actively encourge group think anymore but the effects of his old behavior remain.

I think at the time my book was written it was by far the best hold'em book on the market. Because of the growth in interest in tournaments and no limit since then it may well no longer be the best hold'em book. I'm not sure it even makes sense to talk about the best hold'em book anymore, back when mine was written hold'em basically meant limit hold'em ring games.

I thought about not posting this because it just looks like whining or sour grapes or something. But, I couldn't think of anything else to say today.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Smoke in Durant.

Durant is a non-smoking cardroom. It's enclosed in glass walls. Within the room is a Maxwell Smart style Cone of Silence, a "high stakes" room, also enclosed in glass, contained within the poker room.

During the week the 2/5 game is in the high stakes room, the 1/2 game in the main room. Monday I played 2/5 for a couple of hours in the afternoon and 1/2 for a couple of hours in the late night. I noticed a couple of things.

1. Whether it's because of the time of day difference or not I'm not sure, but the 1/2 game has a much higher proportion of smokers than the 2/5 game. Many more players where stepping outside the glass doors for a smoke in the 1/2 game.

2. When people are coming and going a single layer of protection provided by one glass wall isn't enough. When people are smoking right outside the door everytime the door opens a ball of smoke is sucked into the air. The air in the room gets polluted even though it's a large room. I didn't have a problem playing 2/5. Playing 1/2 I had a sore throat within less than 2 hours.

It would help if they moved the outside ashtrays a distance from the doors, but it looks like I won't be playing much 1/2 in that room. But the 2/5 games seems like a good game, and the double layer of smoke protection makes the air relatively clean, so I'll probably be playing that game again.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

About noon on Monday the new cardroom in Durant Oklahoma had 2 games going. 1/2 NL HE and a 3/6 HE. I got on the list (it wasn't easy doing that) and went to get a hotel room. It's a non-smoking room.

I got back about 1pm and they had added a 2/5 NL game. It had a seat open and I took it. It was about what you'd expect from a Monday afternoon game. A bunch of rocky ranchers talking about the new water well and the corn their neighbor didn't irrigate so it all dried up in the sun.

I played a couple of hours and went back late Monday night. The 2/5 game had broke up and they had a short handed 3/6 and a couple of full 1/2 NL games. Again I had a little trouble getting on a list/getting a seat. I played a couple of hours.

They serve espresso at the table before midnight, $1.50, so I'll excuse a lot of bad management. They have their share. I'll talk about that later.

They have a Tuesday afternoon tournament I'm fixing to go play.

I did okay in the 2/5 yesterday, won just a little bit, but it was a tough game. The 3/6 last night was a soft game, I won a little more in that one. The 1/2 last night was also soft. And, they cleaned my clock.


Monday, June 26, 2006

Rack Rate

Motels make it so damn hard to get a rational room rate.

I just got off the phone with TripRewards. It turns out that when they promise that you are guarenteed the "best rate" when you book through them what that actually means is that it's the "best rate" they are going to give you, not the best rate available to you.

I'm at a DaysInn in Durant OK. I'm paying $49.99. I was orginally quoted $59.99 by them even though they have a huge banner across the front of the property announcing a $49.99 rate. That's a special rate for guests who've never stayed here before, they explained. I got the $49.99 rate, but they wouldn't accept the TripRewards card. "That rate is too low, they said". They would have given me TripRewards credit at the $59.99 rate. Curious about the differential pricing I called TripRewards and found out that if I'd have booked through their website, where they promise the "best rate", I'd have been booked at $69.99.

I don't think I'll be using the TripRewards website for making reservations again anytime soon.

Language means nothing anymore.

I'm going over to the Choctaw Casino in Durant in a minute. I stopped and checked it out before I got the room. More about that later.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Poker room in Perkins Oklahoma

There's a bingo hall/slot club in Perkins Ok, near Stillwater and near Cushing, that is going to be opening a poker room soon. I don't think I'll be playing.

I went by the other day. The area for the poker room is walled off with a big plastic sheet, not open yet. But the opening is large, meaning there won't be anything to block the smoke from the slot area, even if it's a non-smoking room.

An indication of the attitude of this tribe (I forget which tribe it is, Oklahoma has so many of them) is made clear by the location of the snack bar. It's an open area right next to the smokey slots, and it pretty much makes anything they serve inedible for any rational person.

Well, Tulsa isn't that far.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

There's hope for America yet, if we can just get rid of the politicians.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Coming back after you've been cheated

I used to play a lot of poker in Players Casino in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

One woman who played there often commented on day that she'd been playing in an Omaha/8 game in Beaumont, Texas. Players didn't spread any games other than hold'em or stud.

"You're not playing in Old Man Thibodeaux's game, are you?", I asked.

"Yes, that's the game", she said.

Now, Old Man Thibodeaux was a well known crook from Sunset, Louisina in St. Landry Parish. He used to dope race horses at Evangiline Downs, run poker games equipped with hidden cameras and microphones, crap games with electric magnets, and had recently been released from a federal prison after serving a stint for bribing the St. Landry Parish Sheriff to allow his casino and whorehouse. He was rumored to have attempted the murder of a Louisisana State Trooper who was cooperating with the Feds on the bribery investigation and to have killed at least one race horse when the owner wouldn't cooperate by allowing him to drug the horse before a race. His daughter was a card cheat and both his sons were theives. I'd met Mr. Thibodeaux a couple of times. No way in hell would I play in a poker game he was involved in.

Old Man Thibodeaux's partner in the game was a busted out bookie from Port Arthur. His daughter dealt the game.

I told her, "Are you nuts? There's no way Old Man Thibodeaux's involved with an honest game. There's no way you're not being cheated."

She said, "I know. I know all about him. But it's the only Omaha game I know of".

Gamblers just want to gamble. They really don't give a shit.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Family Pot

In a 20/40 holdem game in Lake Charles a few years ago (it was at the old Players Casino) I was in the big blind with QQ.

Action city. By the time the action got to me it was at 3 bets and I was the 8th active player. I capped it. 8-way action. The small blind had folded so I was going to be first on the flop.

Flop came QQJ with two hearts. I bet. No slowplaying this pot, it's too big, they'll call is what I thought.

Call hell. It was capped with 7 way action by the time the pot got back around to me.

The turn put a little heart on the board. I bet. Capped again and we didn't lose anybody. We saw the river 7-handed.

The river brought a black 9. This time there were only two raises and I got a chance to cap it. There were 5 who called the bet, but one hand folded AA faceup when he had to call 3 raises on top of that, so there was only 4 hands at the showdown.

There was my 4 queens. Jacks full. Ace high flush. King high straight.

On the flop the raises had come from the AA, the jacks full, and the straight draw.

On the turn the raises had come from the jacks full, the flush, and the straight draw.

On the river the raises came from jacks full, the straight, then me.

God bless them all.

Building a rocket

I've got a stack of magazines at home that every once in a while I pick from and look through a magazine. The June 5th issue of Time (no longer avaialble online) has a backpage essay comparing the cold war to Iraq. The article itself isn't that interesting, but a photo used to illustrate the article is.

It's a photo of 4 teenage boys in a garage building a home made rocket. It was taken in 1957. The point of using it to illustrate the article is about how America was spurred by Sputnik to win the Cold War by just being better than them. That's not the message the photo actually sent me though.

I thought about how much we've changed. If boys today did what the boys in that photo did they'd be arrested. Probably their parents would also be arrested for allowing the boys access to explosives.

Can you say Police State? Did we really win the Cold War?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Gambling envirnonment.

I ran across an academic article the other day that I thought I'd give a short review of.

Mark Griffiths and Jonathan Parke, The enviornmental psychology of gambling. unpublished (I think). Copy available from Mark Griffiths, Psychology Division, Department of Social Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, Burton Street, Nottingham, NG1 4BU, United Kingdom

There are two catogories of marketing methods used to attract gamblers. Situational characteristics of the gambling experiance and structural characteristics of the games. This artilcal focuses on the situational characgteristics.

Sound effects and background noise are often gambling inducers. Noise creates both an impression of fun and installs the idea that winning is mnore common than it actually is.

They don't quote any direct evidence about music and gambling but do refer to some studies about music and wine sales, restuarent table turnover, willingness to purchase high ticket items, etc.

They talk some about how color affects behavior and attitudes.

All in all it's an interesting article that doesn't really give any hard data about enviornment and gambling but suggests a number of areas that are probably ripe for investigation.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Rambling thoughts about what's important in poker

I've been reading a book called How the Mind Works
How the Mind Works

He talks about how our mind makes distinctions between
artifacts and thinking beings. We naturally attribute
the movement of a rock to physics, to a strong wind or
gravity. We naturally attribute the movement of a
person to emotion or goals -- looking for something or
was uncomfortable. It's inate for us to make that
distinction, infants do it. Peoples actions are based
on internal thoughts, things move because of physical

Somehow we lose that natural ability when we play

Sklansky invented the term "levels of thinking" to
describe the act of attributing thoughts to our
opponents. What do we have? What do they have? What
do they think we have? What do they think we think
they have? etc. He described that as something we
should strive to do -- think in multiple levels.

But 2 and 3 year olds do that naturually. They don't
have to try. They know that when people do something
they do so becuase of internal thoughts, emotions,
goals, desires.

But, when we're playing cards we seem to natually
focus on the cards themselves rather than the people.

Cards don't make bets, people do.

Why do we focus on the cards rather than the people?

I'm not sure.

But, that's what I've been thinking about recently.

I'm writing a book on small blind no limit hold'em.
I'm started out by organizing the book around different types of
sterotypical opponents. I'm not sure it's going to end up with that structure, but using that structure helped me get started with the book.

I was watching a 1/2 blind game one night for a
while. One hand was striking to me. An EP player
made it 12. A late position player (sitting next to a
friend of mine I was talking to) called, and a very
tight player in the BB called. Flop was As Js 4c.
Check, EP made it 20, LP called, BB raised to 40,
call, call. Turn was a blank. BB bet 50, EP called,
LP looked at his hand. He had Ks 6s and he had $32
left. The pot was $250, $210 of which he could play
for. 7-1 on his money for a nut flush draw. He
folded. He knew he'd probably go broke if he called
and he didn't want to go broke.

He wanted to win, but he wasn't willing to make good
bets to do so if the bet meant he probably wouldn't
win -- he was willing to give up EV in exchange for a
reduction in the short term probability of going

That kind of player needs to be identified and studied
-- he needs to be exploited.

I think that's much more important that the relative
merits of KTs and 77.

So, what you probably need to do rather than read another book on poker is spend some time getting a focus on the players you
usually find in the lineup of your usual game.

Who are they? Pick out a handful that have names,
give a one paragraph description of them at the table
-- what are their goals and how do they try to acheive
those goals? It's time well spent.

Learning from experience

I made the comment the other day on that you can learn more about whether or not you're a winning player by just examing a few hands than you can from collecting results from a few hundred hands.

I say that because I think poker is a constant learning experience and that the best way to learn is a logical analysis of decisions, not an examination of descriptive statistics.

I have an example from a razz game many years ago. One hand was a tremedous learning experience for me, and tought me just tons of important stuff that has stayed with me for a long time.

It taught me the importance of paying attention, the importantance of not being predictable, and the importance of calling when the pot is big.

I knew about those things before this hand, but I didn't really understand their importance.

Anyway, it was a Razz game many years ago at some unremembered card room. I had just read something by Sklansky that talked about thin value bets on the river. He observed that a lot of people avoid thin value bets becuase of a fear that they'll get raised. Then he pointed out that you don't have to call if you get raised.

I don't remember where I read that, maybe it was Sklansky on Razz, maybe some other book, maybe an article in Poker Player. But it made an impression on me. I was mostly a no limit draw player at the time and did tend to avoid thin value bets on the last betting round because of a fear of getting raised. So I vowed to fix that at least in my limit games. (LIke I said, this was a long time ago).

I started betting made 9's more often on the river if I had a scary board. I pretty much started betting them everytime unless I was sure I was beat. Then I got raised. Dutifully recalling what Sklansky had said about not having to call, I folded. I saw the look of surprise on the guy's face but the significance of the look didn't really register. I took it as a sign that he'd expected me to call which meant I'd made a good fold. It meant that. But, it meant something else also, and it was that something else that I didn't get until later.

Maybe an hour later I again had a scary board and a made 9 and was heads up against that same player. I bet. Again, he raised. Again I folded. This time he wasn't surprised. He smirked and showed me a Jack.

He'd raised on a bluff because I'd shown him I was capable of folding a rough hand to a raise.

What did I learn from this? I learned that other players are paying attention and that if you ever show a player that you're capable of folding then you probably shouldn't fold next time.

Did that experience tell me whether I'd been a winning player or not? No, of course not. But, being a winning player really doesn't matter. Constant improvment is what matters. And, that experience was just one step in a lifetime of constant improvement in poker, it told me I was getting better. And that's what's important.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Plagiarism among poker books

I was going back through some old threads stored at and ran across this one. Alan Shoonmaker accused me of plagierism, of coping ideas like loose and tight and passive and aggresive from his book.

I'm not sure but I don't think he was talking about a copyright violation. He seemed to be claiming that I stole fundemental ideas from him. As if no poker writer before him had ever had the thought that some players play tighter than the norm and some play looser than the norm.

Anyway I think his accusations are interesting, and to me they are very revealing about the way the guy thinks. It's a fairly muddled way of thinking. It's particularly interesting in light of the "style matrix" that provides the fundemental framework of his Psychology of Poker is lifted with almost no modification and no attribution from Blake and Mouton (1964).

Shoonmaker touts himself as a psychologist, he's an industrial psychologist which is just an alternate term for organizational theorists and his academic experience is mostly business school, management and organizational theory, related. The Blake and Mouton model was very, very popular in business schools in the 1960's and 70's, there's no doubt that Schoomaker was very familar with it.

I thought is might be interesting to use the blog to review history from time to time and I just couldn't resist the opportunity to trash Dr. Al.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Poker Stars Blogger Tournament

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