Monday, July 31, 2006

I didn't check out the poker room at Binions. I just walked into the casino and was struck with a strong sour, stale and musty oder. I passed. They need new carpet or something.

Some things never change.

The bust out hand

One of the things I often comment on is the significance (or actually lack of significance) of the hand that busts you out of a tournament.

No matter what the hand you can't be busting out if you aren't short-stacked relative to the player that busts you. And, that means either that you did something wrong earlier to get yourself short-stacked or you just weren't paying attention to relative stack sizes this hand and got ourself into a risky situation no matter what your hand.

There was a thread on rgp a while back (I don't have the link handy) where someone bemoaned the fact that the hand they're most likely to bust out of a tournament on is AQ.

Here's wha the hero said about it.

> According to PT the pocket I'm most likely to end my tournament with is
> AQ. I HAVE TO be playing it wrong, as I'll end up beat with just about
> any flop except QQQ or AAQ (and no K comes).

My comment.

"If you're playing it wrong and busting out with it then you're probably playing even weaker hands wrong also, and losing enough chips in prior hands to be in a position to get busted. But, you probably are playing it wrong."

And he said.

> I'm thinking a big problem is in the preflop raise. I doubt I'd ever
> bet enough to get AK, AA, KK, QQ, JJ and probably TT to fold..

And I said.

"If you're picking a bet size in order to try to maximize the chances of people folding, then that's your mistake, and it's probably a mistake you make every hand, not just with AQ."

It's important to think in terms of what hands they'll call with, not in terms of what hands they'll fold.

Our hero needs to change the whole way he thinks about it, not just the way he plays AQ.

One thing I forgot to mention in that thread is that he also needs to pay attention to the stack sizes. If there are players behind you with stacks much larger than your stack, then you need to rethink whether you really want to put your stack at risk with AQ right now (or whatever your hand is). Position is very important, and when you're short-stacked in a touranment position relative to the big stacks is critical. Position isn't just about the button.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Harrah's in Laughlin

I drove out for the last week of two of the World Series. The last leg of the trip was an overnight drive through Arizona (to escape the heat somewhat). I had to pick up my girlfriend at the airport in Las Vegas and she called me about 6 a.m Tuesday morning to tell me that her flight was late leaving Pittsburgh and she wouldn't arrive in Las Vegas until after noon. So, I decided to go through Laughlin and stop in a poker room for an hour or two.

I got to the poker room at Harrah's in Laughlin about 6:30 am Tuesday. Since I often get offers for free nights at Harrah's properties (I assume from having playing in some WSOP events last year) I wanted to check that one out in particular.

No games. No staff. Nothing. Empty room.

It wasn't a total wasted stop. There was a Starbucks near the empty poker room and it was open.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Howard Lederer and rgp

Here's some old posts by Howard Lederer.

Just something I thought some of y'all might find interesting.

I'm busy getting packed for a road trip to Las Vegas. Going to drive out and take my time, stopping at a couple of cardrooms on the way.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Logic and Emotion tradeoffs by gamblers

Here's a news article on a recent study about the difference between logical and emotional reactions in gambling.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Standing up and yelling

After doing a little standing up and yelling about a perceived problem, Harry D got himself ejected from a WSOP event the other day.

Mike O'Malley had a little different experience.

Part of the problem is with the lack of foresight and management invovled in the running of the WSOP, but part of the problem is a problem that's universal with any tournament event anywhere. Tournaments just aren't run with full disclosure and tournament directors everywhere seem to think that players don't need to know and that whatever makes their own life easier is the right thing to do.

If you want attention in the beginning of a tournament you really do need to stand up and yell. And it really is important to be intolarant of tournament directors who just change the rules on a whim or who implement non-standard rules with a yawn.

I mentioned the new cardroom in Durant the other day. And, I liked the room and will probably go back. But one thing did happen that really did upset me and makes me unsure of how much I really want to play there.

They have daily tournaments. I was staying overnight in Durant and saw a writeup on it on Monday night. Actually I saw two, one was a flyer on the tournament I picked up, the other was a full page ad in an in-house promotional magazine.

It was a small buyin, with one rebuy and one addon. The buyin, rebuy, and addon were all the same fee and the same amount of chips, which did make it at least theoretically possible for players to balance the counts with the prize pool. (Having add ons for different chip stacks than the buy in opens the door for employee skimming).

The flyer said that registration opens at 11 a.m., the tournament starts at 1 p.m. I'd noticed monday that the 2/5 blind game probably wouldn't start before nooon, so I planned on showing up at noon to register. I showed up slightly before noon, just as they started the 2/5 game and I got a seat.

A floorman came around passing out signup forms for the tournament and somebody mentioned extra chips for early signup. I hadn't read about that in the flyer, so I asked. I was told that if you're in a live game by 11 you get extra starting chips. I said, "Oh, I don't think I was here by 11". The floorman said, "Don't worry, you'll get some extra chips".

So, I paid my money and signed up, and I got an entry tag and a seperate chit for extra chips. Other's at my table got the extra chip chit.

Then at 1 p.m. I took my seat. (Cashing out my chips was an adventure, but I'll save that story for another time). The guy next to me had two chits for extra chips. I asked him how come he had two. "One at 11 and one at 12", he said.

Opps. I'm not liking this. I've played in freerolls where people got chips for hours played, and not everyone had the same number of chips, but that was a freeroll. I paid to enter this tournament. And, other's who paid the same would get more chips than me? I don't think so. We aren't doing this.

So, I asked the dealer what I needed to do to get my money back. She said, "I don't think you can do that". I said, "Who's running the tournament?" The player with the two tickets pointed to a guy walking across the room. He didn't mention his name (I think it was David, I learned later).

Well, cards were fixing to be in the air. I knew that if I waited until the cards hit the air that I couldn't get my money back. So I wasn't waiting until he "wasn't busy". I yelled. Loud. "Hey, I don't want to play. This thing isn't being run as advertised and I want my money back."

I got his attention. He came over. I told him my problem. He went to check the signin computer to see if I'd been on a waiting list by 11. Then he came back and told me I wasn't here on time and couldn't get more chips and they didn't give refunds. I got loud. I thought that the only was to get my money back was to make them want me to leave, and I think I was right. I really didn't want to play at a disadvantage that being short-stacked would put me at.

Anyway, we went round and round, I complained about misrepresentation and that regulars who knew the unprinted rules had an advantage and I wasn't interested in that kind of set up. We went to the office (so other players wouldn't hear my complaint and maybe start realizing that some of them were getting screwed).

Finially I got my money back. I didn't even get 86'd. But since the 2/5 game had broken up for the tournament I went ahead and left.

I looked later and the flyer I'd picked up the night before did have small print on the back describing the extra chip procedure. The one page ad in the promotional magazine did not, however.

One of the things that keeps me from playing many tournaments is that you're just stuck once you give them the money and sometimes the rules aren't clear up front, and sometimes they just change the rules on a whim. And, often the floor people are just flat out incompetent (I'm not suggesting that the floor at Durant is incompentent, but I am suggesting that at least some of the floor at the WSOP is).

If you want attention and action at the beginning of a tournament there's really no other course of action other than just standing up and yelling.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The rake

Andy Prock did a good analysis of the effect of the rake. I bring it up because I got an email recently from someone that commented that almost nobody talks about how the rake makes the situation very different when comparing low-limit stratagy to mid-limit stratagy.

Andy doesn't write in his blog often, but when he does it's almost always worth reading.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Steven Levitt, a co-author of Freakonomics, plays onliine poker.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Comment on a hand.

I made a comment on a hand that Adam Labare discussed on his blog.

Thoughts on flushes

Sunday, July 09, 2006

How do you play X?

You see this kind of question on rgp all the time. How do you play suited connectors? How do you play AK? How do you play a flush draw? How do you play two pair on the flop?

The question is always about the cards. The cards. Only the cards.

The cards are just part of a situation. Usually an important part, but not always.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Thursday, July 06, 2006


I found this gem of a quote while poking around in the rgp archives.

The most financially successful archaeologists are those who author
books about how aliens built the pyramids.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

My one liners.

A while back somebody on rgp made some collections of my one liners. One example that I'm proud of --

Texas Tech, a Texas university established so rednecks who couldn't find College Station would have a place to go

Classic Carson
More Carson
Carson Unleashed

AKo v. AKs

I ran across this old rgp post and was reminded of the difference between being suited and not being suited.

These days the two hands are often not distinguished, "Big Slick" tends to be used to refer to either of them. Back when I learned the nomenclature "Big Slick" was a reference to AKs (in particualr AK spades) and "Walking back to Houston" was the term used to reference AKo. Those offsuit hands often got overvalued. They still do.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Part II of a Review of Small Stakes Hold'em by Miller, Sklansky, and Malmuth.

The authors display a fundemental misconception about what's important in poker right at the beginning, in a section titled "Where the Money Comes From". (page 16-17.)

They correctly identify explotation of your opponents errors as the important source of expected winnings in poker. They get that right. But, they apparantly don't really understand it because they don't follow through.

Here's what they say.

"Money comes from exploiting mistakes. When your opponents make mistakes, you can make money" .....

Then in the next paragraph they say:

"People learn best through practice and feedback"....

So far, so good.

Then the next paragraph they say:

"This is the normal human process for learning. Unfortunately, it does not work at all for poker" (emphasis in original).

That's the point they dropped the ball. And I think they dropped the ball there in a major way.

They clarify what they're talking about in the next parapgraph where they say:

"The correct way to play poker is to understand it theoretically, and make sure you make the correct play, regardless of the results."

Okay, they're saying don't be results oriented, and we all understand that and we all agree with that.

But the most important part of playing winning poker is the identification of your opponent mistakes, not in determining an optimal explotation. Even if you don't always do the perfectly correct thing, if your opponents are making mistakes and you can identify those mistakes well enough to just make marginally correct response then you'll do alright.

Their error is in the emphasis of "does not work at all for poker.

The best way to learn to identify opponent mistakes is by practice and feedback and observation. It works very well as a learning mechinism for poker. It doesn't work for understanding the randomness of the cards that will fall, and it doesn't work as well as other methods for determing many nuances of optimal stratagy. But it works quite well for recognizing which opponents bluff to much and which opponents don't.

Experience and observation of the reactions to events of other players is key to playing winning poker. For the authors to dismiss that mode of learning right at the git go does not bode well for the rest of the book. It suggests there will be some major deficiencies in the analysis that doesn't really take full account of the range of responses that your opponents will make.

Stratagic thinking is the recognition that the opponent shoots back. The best way to learn about that is the method they dismiss as not useful at all.

We'll get a little deeper into the book in a later post.

Feel free to tell me where you think I'm missing the authors point in my observations.

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Ashley Adams wrote one of those navel gazing pieces on whether or not he should go to the World Series Of Poker for I'm a fan of Ashley's work, even when he's just rambling, and I enjoyed reading his musings about the WSOP.

But he said one thing that I want to comment on. As one of the cons in his evaluation of whether or not to go he says that playing in the tournaments mean that you'll be playing against the best in the world, which he judges less than a good idea.

It's true that you'll be playing the best in the world. But, I'm not so sure that it's a bad idea.

The fields of the WSOP are expanding becuase the events attract the worst in the world in addition to the best. Playing with the best isn't always a bad idea if doing so gives you access to the worst players also.

You'll find this in cash games also. Some players tend to hesitate about moving up in limits because they players in the higher games tend to be better players. Well, the best players in the higher games tend to be better players than you've been playing in the lower games. But, the worse players in the higher games are often worse than the bad players in the lower games, sometimes a lot worse.

The key to playing in games with better players is to know who they are. You don't need to avoid them, you just need to be more careful in controntations with them. And in cash games sit on their left.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Review of Small Stakes Hold'em by Miller, Sklansky, and Malmuth

I've been holding off writing a review of this book for a while now. The reason is that I'm really not impressed with the book, and the public opinion seems to differ from that. Given my history with being on Mason's short list of bad people it seems to me that any bad opinion I might have of the book would just be written off as sour grapes. Well, okay, go ahead and think that if it makes you comfortable.

I do recommend the book to most readers, and do think it makes a worthwhile contribution to the poker literature. But, I think it's way overrated and it's contribution is very small compared to the price and it has some major flaws.

The flaws in the book are typical of 2+2 books. Mathematically the writers of books published by 2+2 tend to think that the standard properties of the world include linearaity, continouity, two dimensional, symmetry, stationarity and other such mathematical properties that tend to make problems easy to analyze. Well, the world isn't like that and neither is poker.

I read the book about a year ago, and decided not to review it then. I've decided to do a long, somewhat careful review of it now because I'm writing a second edition of my hold'em book and want to make sure I addreess at least some of the holes in what's available out there.

I'm going to spend more than one post on a review. Right now I'm going to just close this first part with what my thoughts on the book had been after my first read of it.

I think Miller tried to integrate many of the ideas I had in my hold'em book with the ideas from Sklansky's Theory of Poker. I think he did a good job of doing that, but I'm not sure it was a rational thing to try to do. Theory of Poker is basically a cookbook of tactics intended for beginners. It's a very good book, but it's not theoretical. Trying to put some of my ideas into a theoretical framework that isn't a theoretical framework just isn't going to work out real well.

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