Saturday, April 28, 2007

Drawing dead with outs

I'm watching ESPN Classics, some old US Poker Champ show.

One player has KK, the other K9 of diamonds. The flop is K x y, one diamond.

The announcer, I don't know who he is, runs his mouth about the K9 drawing dead.

Now, he knew the hands, so this was post production announments. I can understand that kind of mistake live, but don't they have anybody on staff that writes for these guys? Or fact checks? Or something?

(backdoor flush outs)

That's a Donald Trump event, so I guess that kind if idiotic nonsense is to be expected.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Hell just froze over

Yep, I actually found something else I agree with Mason Malmuth about. Earlier I found myself in agreement with him about PPA (my feelings about Poker Players Alliance might be a little stronger than Mason's feelings about them.)

This time I'm in agreement with Mason about MGM's behavior in the Case of Nolan's 5k Chip. For those of y'all that haven't heard, Nolan Dalla tried to cash an MGM $5k chip that he'd gotten from a 3rd party. They wouldn't cash it. Nolan got upset about it. 2+2 magazine published an article by Nolan on the event. Mason commented that he agreed with MGM's behavior and thought Nolan should have known better.

Two Plus Two magazine only keeps it's stories online for a short time, so I'll quote liberally from it here.

To start with, Nolan was given the chip by someone he won't name in payment of a debt.

He went to the cage at the MGM Casino and handed them the chip. They asked what game he'd gotten the chip from.

He told them he did not get the chip from a gaming table, that he'd had it at home.

They asked why he had kept the chip at home.

He seems to have gotten really vague with them, avoiding telling them where he'd gotten the chip.
I do not come into the MGM very often. It’s been sitting there about a month or so, but I want to cash it since I’m here today.

Now, I don't know if he was intending to be vague. I'm guessing that he was thinking it was none of their business where he got the chips from. But such vagueness does tend to set off alarms among casino bosses, whether it's the pit or the cage. In the cage everyone is trained to be alert for signs of avoidance, not just the bosses. It's best to be straightforward with those critters.

The cashier asked if he was a player, he told them yes, but he didn't have his players card with him.

He gave them an id and they looked him up.

Mr. Dalla, I do not show that you have any recent table-game activity.

They still don't know where he got the chip. They're telling him that they don't think he got it from them and he's really not being responsive to that when he responds

Yes, that’s correct. But, I am an MGM customer. I play poker here, bet on sports, and play some video poker.

Well, he didn't get the chip at any of those places. The cashier gives up on Nolan and goes to consult with the cage boss.

The cashier comes back and they have a short exchange
Cage Manager: Sir, we have a problem. You say you did not get this from a gaming table here at the MGM?

Nolan Dalla: That’s correct. It’s been sitting at my home. I obtained the chip at the Bellagio Poker Room about a month ago from a friend.

He asks Nolan why they guy gave him the chip, and Nolan says it was a repayment for a debt and he thought such 3rd party chip tranfers were common and no big deal.

The cashier corrected on that thought -- telling him it was a big deal and asking him who the chip belonged to.

Now Nolan gets smart, not a good idea. "It belongs to me", he tells them.

They want to know where he got the chip. For example, did he get it from an MGM table games dealer? But Nolan isn't telling them. That's got to look bad from the cage point of view. What's Nolan trying to accomplish here?

They asked him again where he got the chip. Finally he tells them. They look up his friend and find that his friend hasn't been rated at an MGM table game in years.

Now things are looking bad for Nolan and his chip.

The cage confiscates the chip, refusing to cash it and refusing to return it. They give him a receipt for the chip.

Then Nolan says something which just isn't true. He says,
Let me be perfectly clear. I am an MGM customer. I produced a valid ID. I told you where I got the chip. In fact, I got it at another MGM property which has never refused to cash chips of this size. I have never heard of a licensed Nevada casino refusing to pay a customer.

He's being misleading when he says he got it at another MGM property (Belligio). Yes, he got it from there. But he didn't get it from them. They had nothing to do with the transaction between him and his friend and his mentioning the location is just a misdirection.

But that's not what just isn't true. The part about never having heard of refusing to pay is not true. There was a well publicized law suit against Becky Behnen and the Horseshoe that he's well aware of when they refused to cash a chip from some poker playing friends of her brother.

Maybe Nolan just forgot.

I'll finish this later.

Update: I fixed a typo, making an above clause read "he's really not being responsive" when I'd said he was responding.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Thoughts on a base strategy

I was flipping through a couple of books the other day and a came across some passages in a couple of different books that I think illustrates how the culture of poker writing has changed over the years. It's become much more pablum than it used to be, and the readers seem to like that.

Here's what two different writers, at different times, say about changing gears from a base strategy.

The first is Mike Caro in Caro's Fundamental Secrets of Winning Poker on page 57
There is such a thing as a perfect strategy. It's the one you'd use in a vacuum against other opponents who are also playing a perfect strategy. ... if you play this perfect strategy you cannot lose - even if you don't adjust to your opponents play. ... But ... (you) can make even more money by adapting

The other is by Dan Harrington in Harrington on Hold 'em Expert Strategy for No Limit Tournaments, Vol. 1: Strategic Play on p 36
There are several styles in which no-limit hold'em can be played. ... Depending on your personality, one of these styles will appeal to you more than others, and you'll adopt it as your basic approach to the game. However, no matter which style you adopt, you'll discover that you will make you easiest money when you make plays that are the opposite of your normal style.

Harrington's statement is actually wrong, but I'll get to that in a minute. The point I'm getting to is that they are both trying to say the same thing, but they go about getting to the point in ways that are so different that they aren't saying the same thing at all.

Caro is talking about directly exploiting mistakes of your opponents ad Harrington is also talking about exploitation, the exploitation of mistakes your opponents make in evaluating you. But Harrington couches his words in a way that makes them wrong.

You don't profit from deviating from your base strategy, you profit from playing in a way that is different from what you're opponents think your base strategy is. Just changing your own play doesn't help at all, it's about just playing different from what your opponents expect, whether it's your base strategy or not.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Do the right thing

I was just watching David Sklansky playing in some poker tournament on the Travel Channel and the contrast between two different hands he played is kind of interesting.

The first one he gets all in with a 66 vs. an AT. Ten hits the flop, 6 hits the turn, David was frowning the whole way.

The second one he gets all in with AQ against KQ. Small smile from David. An Ace hits the flop. Big grin from David.

He really misplayed the first hand. A player in front of him came in for a small raise and David went allin, only doubling the original bet. There was no way the guy was going to fold, the player in front of him had lots of chips. With no chance the guy will fold a 66 isn't really much of a card to get committed with, even if it is a favorite over two overcards.

I think David was so focused on making sure he didn't make any odds type mistakes on TV that he was too busy being upset about his mistake to be able to be happy about winning the damn pot.

The second hand he had much the best of it all the way and I think he was so pleased about that he couldn't help but grin.


Friday, April 20, 2007

Poker, Swat teams, Defense Attorney

If you're going to be playing poker in Texas you need to keep the phone number of a criminal defense attorney handy. Here's a first person report of a guy who wasn't even gambling when he was scooped up in a raid. Illegal search and police destruction of evidence, the whole thing.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

What happened earlier this month?

I keep track of blog mentions of various poker players from time to time. I don't have nearly as an extensive list as I should have, I'd add to it more often if I wasn't so lazy.

But I noticed that a lot of names had a spike in the frequency of mention earlier this month. I guess something happened but I didn't notice what it was. Maybe it was something on TV. I guess I should pay more attention.


Monday, April 16, 2007


Public Defender Stuff has an interview of Scott Henson of the blog Grits for Breakfast. I'm a regular reader of both those blogs and sometimes refer to them on my American Tradition Blog.

In that interview Henson said something that I think is applicable to any blog but in particular to this blog.
As for what goes on Grits for Breakfast, with few exceptions I start with the assumption that people do not read blogs looking for information, they read blogs because they want to know what that information means.

That's kind of what I try to do in this blog. It's a poker blog, but it's more of a source for attitude than a source for information. Attitude is just an entertaining way of expressing what I think something means.


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Who PPA really represents

I misplaced the damn link but I read something the other day about PPA offering their new chairman, former Senator D'Amato, a five million dollar bonus if he can get a carve out for poker in the recent law to block funding access to online gambling. His 100k salary (I think Linda Johnson, his predecessor got less than 20k a year) plus the bonus is funded by Poker Stars and Full Tilt.

Now we know who they represent -- two online sites, not players. It also explains why they are going for the carveout rather than the more direct approach of just getting the law repealed. Barney Frank wants to just get rid of that law. So does the WTC.

If they get a carveout then Party Poker and Ultimate Bet and Bodog, who have blackjack or are affiliated with sports betting would still have trouble with getting funding from their players. But Poker Stars and Full Tilt would have an open field. Going for the carveout is just a way to gain a restriction on the competition for their sponsors. It's not in your best interest at all.

Today I got an email from FullTilt that they're giving me $300. A couple of months ago they sent me $100 but when I went to collect it I found that I'd just get it $10 at a time, as I played qualifying hands. I didn't have any money on the site so I never collected any of it. But $300. That's different.

I went to the site and didn't see any funding options that are easy for me, so I looked at some freerolls. They have a freeroll where just entry into the freeroll gets you a free membership into PPA.

These people are slimy, they're conning you by saying they represent you when they don't represent you, and they want to collect names so that they can claim to congress they are representing millions of poker players while they're actually representing two foreign companies.

They misrepresent themselves totally, to everybody. None of those sonsofbitches can be trusted. Supporting them is insane.

Here's the link on who's paying Damato that I couldn't find.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Sklansky on Razz

I think Sklansky on Razz is one of the best books ever written on poker. It was a Gambler's Book Club published pamphlet that is long out of print. It's since been incorporated into Sklansky on Poker.

I don't have my copy any more and it's been a long time since I read it.

To me the key concept Sklansky pushed in that pamphlet was more the kind of thing you'd have expected from Caro rather than Sklansky. Back in those days Sklansky represented a mathematical approach to the game and Caro represented a psychological approach to the game. In Sklansky on Razz he preached the normal edict of Just Play Tight, but he grounded that in the idea that you should play tight from the point of view of the opponent. The strength of your hand comes from your upcards, from the range that an opponent would put you on. If you played tight with respect to the cards your opponent could see, and aggresviely represented nut cards as your downcards, then the opponent would tend to put you on very strong hands. Your downcards almost didn't matter.

Of course you could take that too far, but as a general guiding rule it's a powerful concept. Represent the hand that your opponents will fear. It's not just a Razz concept, it's a poker concept. For example, in hold'em if you raise pre-flop your opponents will almost always put you on AK and you can play accordingly on later streets.

Focus on what your opponents know about your hand and how that influences their thinking. That's the lesson from Sklansky on Razz

An old post at Anything But Hold Em points to an old 2+2 thread that questions whether Sklansky on Razz is outdated. If you think the book is about Razz then I guess maybe it is outdated. Games with both a forced bring-in and a forced raise were common back then (low card bring-in, high card then had a forced raise -- or the other way around, I don't remember which). That makes for a very different game.

But the book isn't really outdated. It's a book about poker, not a book about Razz.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Chapter 14, The Dynamics of Game Conditions

From The Complete Book of Hold'em Poker

Chapter 14

The dynamics of game conditions

Game conditions are generally derived from the behavior of the players. Loose players make loose games. Tight players make tight games, etc., etc, but it really isn't that simple. Players interact to create the game conditions, and they interact not just with each other but with the environment. Sometimes it's like that butterfly who flaps its wings in France and creates a storm in Thailand. Little things can have big effects on the game conditions.

You'll seldom see tight tables all of a sudden become loose tables or passive tables all of a sudden become aggressive, unless there is a change in two or three players. Even replacing one tight/passive player with a maniac isn't enough to change the overall character of the table.

The main changes that you'll sometimes see occur abruptly are a loose table turning tight or an aggressive table turning passive. Those changes can occur at a table with lightening speed, seemingly without warning, and if you're playing a strategy geared towards a particular game condition, it's those fast, unanticipated changes that can cost you a lot of money if you don't quickly realize that the change has occurred and adjust accordingly.

The way to guard against this is to be aware of clues that suggest that a swift, dramatic change in game conditions may occur. There are some events, some external to the table, some part of the game, that should heighten your vigilance about game conditions.

Events that can tighten up a table
Fun games tend to be loose games. Most people play poker because it's fun, and when they're having fun they tend to play a lot of hands. Such games tend to have a lot of table banter, joking back and forth among the players. Anything that is likely to interject a note of seriousness or discord into this banter will likely cause many of the players to tighten up, at least temporarily.
Often the table banter is being driven by a single, jovial, fun-loving player. Everyone may be joining in the fun, but it's that one player who's been driving it. In such a situation, game conditions can change immediately if the jovial player leaves the game. But, he doesn't actually have to leave for this to happen. Anything that might cause a change in his mood will tend to cause a change in mood for the table. Things like a particularly bad beat, or another player slow-rolling him on the river might cause it. Even him getting a business-related phone call on his cell phone might cause it.
There is a good chance the table will tighten up if one of the more loose aggressive players at the table is distracted, maybe eating, maybe talking to a cocktail waitress, he just got a call on his cell phone, a friend of his walked up to the table, or any one of a number of possible distractions. This is because loose players tend to be attracted to pots that have a loose/aggressive player active in the pot. Even loose players who don't do much raising often seem to enjoy competing in a pot where they know someone will be raising with probably weak hands. If that player is distracted and not involved temporarily, the other loose players will tend to pass.
Events that can turn a table passive
Aggression at the poker table takes a lot of energy. Often this energy tends to feed on itself, with each hand being played slightly more aggressively then the previous one. When that starts happening, look for the aggression to reach a climax and quickly dissipate.
One climatic event that frequently occurs is when an aggressively contested, very large pot is won by a player who was aggressively betting a draw and there is a multiplayer showdown. It often brings a temporary halt to aggressive conditions. Even players who weren't involved in the pot often feel the climax and will play passively for a few hands after that.
Aggressive games tend to be fast-paced games. If the pace of the games slows, the aggression will often dissipate. A change in dealers is one thing that frequently causes this. Don't assume that an aggressive game will continue to be aggressive for the first few hands of a new dealer.
Things that suggest the table conditions have changed.
One common characteristic of players at a loose aggressive table is that, once they've called a bet on the current betting round, they've committed to seeing the next card - they'll call raises.
When you see a player call a bet in middle position, then fold when there has been a raise and reraise, you can usually count on a change in game conditions to occur soon.
External events
Many events that don't directly involve your table can cause a change in conditions. Any kind of commotion or activity in the poker room might tend to distract players' attention, causing them to play both tighter and more passively.
A large pot at a nearby table might be enough to cause a distraction. A dealer shift change, where for a short period there are twice as many dealers in the room may cause a distraction. Many seemingly unimportant events might cause a distraction to the players. Watch for it.


DMV made a useful comment

DMW said...

I think about that passage often actually. I cannot corroborate it.

During 2005-early 06. I played a lot of 5-10 lhe with full kill. From 2-5 am the game was wild, often 7 people in for 3 bets pre-flop.

I would check, but I did not see that the table played passive after someone raked in a huge pot. SOMETIMES the next 2 hands were not raised, but the table went back to crazy in a very short time.

I'm going to have to do some clarification whenever I get around to a second edition.
My response
It doesn't always happen, not even most of the time. That's true of that entire chapter, I'm just talking about various events that might should make you a little extra vigilant the next couple of hands.

But a big climatic pot does have an effect many times (not most). You're right that even when it does happen the conditions will likely revert back after a couple of hands unless the player composition changes at the same time.

It depends somewhat on who drug the pot, or even who was involved. The players involved in the climatic event themselves will become more passive the next hand or two. Caro made that observation years before I did.

Are you talking about online? The book was written prior to online and the player interactions online aren't the same at all. Much of the effect of a big pot is visual, large pile of chips.


Super System

There's a thread on rgp about slow-playing quads where somebody is quoting Doyle Brunson.

> If you read what Mr. Brunson has to say about slowplaying flopped
> quads in Super System 2, (see page 574, 4th paragraph), it would seem
> that you are reducing your EV (to virtually zero) by betting out on
> the flop. That is Doyle's whole point: Despite the fact that you have
> flopped such a powerful hand, it is not a very profitable hand due to
> the fact that the deck is crippled. Mr. Brunson states (probably
> correctly) that the only way you can reasonably hope to make any money
> on flopped quads is to check both the flop (and turn) and only bet a
> small amount on the end.

(The no-limit section written by Brunson in the Second Edition is the same as that in the Original Edition)

He's close to right about maximizing his chances to win something. But that's not the most profitable, it's not the same as maximizing EV.

He's close to right about maximizing his chances to win something. But that's not the most profitable, it's not the same as maximizing EV.

There's a trade off between getting small wins frequently and getting big wins infrequently. Which one you should pursue right now depends on the relative likelihoods of players having various hands.

If the flop is AAA and there's a good chance (based on pre-flop action) that someone has a big pair then maybe you should represent a pocket pair yourself on the flop. If not, then maybe not.

For some reason players are more likely to chase over-cards even if the board is 777. Pairing a 6 won't really help them any more than pairing an 8 but psychologically they're more likely to chase with an 89 than with a 56. So with small quads you should almost always bet the flop.

Doyle makes a lot of mistakes in that book, it has a good reputation because it was hyped in newspaper sports page advertising country wide, he did a really good job of promoting the book and there just weren't that many poker books with original thought in them, and he had competing thoughts from various original thinkers.

Guys like Caro, Sklansky, Baldwin, Reese, Hawthorne, and Brunson all thought about the games in different ways. That's what makes the book so rich, not that it covers different games, but it covers different ways of thinking. The richness of Brunson's ideas were that he was the first to advocate semi-bluffing in a major way.

He didn't call it that, I think he probably called it bluffing with outs, and it wasn't a new idea. But he was the first to advocate actually building a playing strategy around it. It was a powerful thought.

His details about things like psychic powers and slow-playing quads are wrong.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Poker in Texas

Poker News has a story about the bill being considered in Texas to allow raked poker games in certian situations. I'm bothered by the lede:

The game of Texas Hold 'Em is, oddly enough, not legal in the state that gave the game its name.

Actually poker is legal in Texas. It's not legal to have public, raked games. Legal games are easily found at Elks clubs, VFW's, Country Clubs. In many counties the local sheriff will allow such clubs to host raked games so long as the games are small and the rakes just cover expenses. Although that's illegal it's long been the practice in Texas for the Rangers to overlook such games if the Sheriff allows the games. I comment on this from time to time at

When a writer starts a story with a statement that's just not true I don't know if he's lying to me or he's just incompetent. It's one or the other. Whichever it is there's no point in paying attention to him.

I am paying attention because I don't understand why the lies? Either PokerNews is lying or someone is lying to them. I don't think you can live in Texas and be a poker player and not know poker is legal.

It makes me worry that this new law will outlaw un-raked games -- require state registration for existing legal games. I don't really know. But I don't expect anyone to tell me the truth if they can't be truthful about current laws about poker.

I'm a big fan of the truth.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Micheal Craig's blog revisited

The other day I was updating some of the stuff on my sidebar and noticed that Micheal Craig had moved his blog to Full Tilt. I noticed that part of that move was turning his blog into a blog into a total pimp for Full Tilt. So, rather than update the address on my blog roll I just took it off. I wrote a post about it.

A couple of bloggers noticed it and thought that somehow meant I didn't like Craig or thought badly of him. That's not the case at all. I just think his new blog isn't worth the trouble to read. There's nothing wrong with that. He's just shifted his audience and is writing to please the owners of Full Tilt rather than his readers.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Who does PPA represent

When updating a recent post about PPA I said
On a related not, Ed Miller shows really bad judgement by recomending PPA. The funny part about his post is that he's attracted by being able to join for free and that's one of the things that screams "scam" to me.

In the comments dmw said

I don't see where the con is. Sounds like they are a special interest group like any other one.

My doubt is about what special interest group they actually represent. I don't think they're being honest about that.

I have a lot of reasons for my doubt, two of the main ones are the offers of free membership and the goals they give.

The free membership is something I find really odd. They want a lot of people to sign up, but they don't care if any of those people actually support them (like with dues money). That just looks like pretense to me, that they want to be able to pretend that a lot of individual poker players support them with what counts, money.

The goals is something else again. Their goals don't help online poker players. Even if they achieve those goals poker players will still not have an ability to fund poker accounts online. In fact, I think that if they achieve the goals individual poker players will be worse off. Their goals include a failure to support the WTO rulings about the Anigua law suit in International Court which actually support the interests of individual poker players. More than a failure to support, they are taking a position that actually is contrary to the findings of the WTO.

The WTO is saying the US government does not have the legal authority to regulate the internet, PPA is taking a position that the US government does have that legal authority.

So, I don't see any evidence that they actually represent the interests of you and me. I think that makes them a scam.

Click on the PPA tag to see previous posts on the subject.



I frequently read Linda Geneen's blog, Table Tango. I don't think she does it intentionally but the blog provides some pretty good insight in how many poker players and dealers think about people -- both others and themselves.

An example from a recent post is the following:
He won one pot and didn’t tip me but I didn’t expect one - I never do.

No expectation. But she sure remembers when she's stiffed.