Thursday, May 31, 2007

Right Rule, Wrong Ruling.

I was just an observer on this hand. I was in the three seat and had a good view of details.

Here’s the way the dealer described it to the floor.

The six seat bet 24, the four seat called allin for 15, I gave the six seat back $9 and he mucked his hand.

“He mucked”, asked the floor?


“Four seat has a hand”?


“Push the pot to the four seat”.

Sounds straightforward, right?

I don’t think it was.

The six seat can’t clearly see the four seat. There’s a bright yellow betting line on the table, which is only used as a guideline, and the four seat put his $15 call out in front but still back from the line. The five seat had has arms on the table and it’s not clear that the six seat could see the 3 red chips. It is clear that he didn’t see them, whether he could have if he’d tried is something I’m not sure about.

The dealer returned the extra $9 to the six seat by picking up all the $24 worth of chips and dropping $15 on the felt with a flick of the wrist (I think the wrist flick is a significant cue that the six seat saw and interpreted). Then he threw the $9 back with a second flick of the wrist.

I have no doubt that the six seat interpreted that as the dealer returning the last bet as a prelude pushing him the pot). The combination of the body language of the dealer and the failure to push the call chips out to the bet line indicated that the bet had gone uncalled and the six seat thought he’d won without a showdown.

The dealer did something that he should not have done if the bet had been called. He put his fingers in the pot. If the bet had been called he needed to just leave the money along, there’s no need to touch it or make change until the showdown determined who won. The $9 only needed to be returned if the four seat one the showdown.

The floor didn’t really care or even think about the details of what happened. You could tell from her body language her only thought was “What rule can I apply to make this ruling be done with?”. Her thought should be “What are the facts?” But like most floors she doesn’t think in terms of determining facts, then applying the rules. She just thinks in terms of finding facts to match her favorite rule so she can move on to the next job task.

BTW. The mucked hand was sitting on top of the discarded stub, clearly visible as two cards separate from the muck and the stub. There would have been no doubt at all about accurate retrieval.

We need more floor people with the experience to actually apply some judgment to a situation, and fewer nits who would be just as comfortable working for Homeland Security checking socked feet at the airport.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Making moves

What is a move?

I really don't know.

PokerNews has an article by Tim Lavali about the Pareto Principle
applied to poker that talks about moves.

The Pareto Principle is the 80/20 rule. 80% of the benefit comes from 20% of the effort.

Lavali uses the term move in a way that implies it's some kind of attempt to use deception, not straight-forward behavior.
The second part, which is perhaps a more advanced play, is that many really good moves at the poker table need a set-up. You need to make the first bet and fold to the reraise a few times to set the player up for the big kill. Or you need to not defend your blinds, in order to pounce when the blind stealer gets too greedy. So, you are using moves and plays that you know will lose you small amounts of chips, in order to set up the big score.

He seems to think everything is so calculated, so planned out. It's all manipulation, doing things that have a purpose of causing a certain reaction in your opponent that becomes habit to them which you can exploit later. Part of a move is conditioning your opponent.

I supposed there's something to that. I don't know. I think of it more as observation of how a specific opponent reacts and then exploiting that later.

Is poker really about moves that require a setup intended to condition your opponents?


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Online poker room cultures

The Poker Chronicles has a nice post about historical changes in market supremacy among online poker rooms.
I find it odd and somewhat disheartening that Paradise Poker is switching to Boss Media's network. It sort of marks the end of an era in online poker, just like Kmart going bankrupt did for retail. I remember playing on Dise back when it had first opened and the only real competitor was Planet Poker. Their software was so much better, even for those of us who didn't know that Planet Poker's shuffle had been taken advantage of, that it was practically in a different league. It was what made me believe that some day online poker might be almost as good as the real thing.

I don't have quite the same emotional attachment to the downfall of Paradise, but it interesting to look at the ups and downs of individual poker rooms. One of the things that's changed in the poker world is the concept of celebrity. What made a poker celebrity 10 years ago isn't what makes a poker celebrity today. Poker rooms that understand that have done well, those that didn't understand if fell by the wayside.

Online poker started with Planet Poker. The main thing they provided was being first. The software was clunky, their software maintenance was not user-friendly (they had complete shutdown every Tuesday morning for maintenance.) They really didn't have much going for them. But they were first and they thrived. When online poker people said PP you knew they meant Planet Poker.

Then came Paradise Poker. What they offered was clean looking and clean operating software. Planet Poker responding to the better product by hiring two celebrity spokespersons -- Mike Caro and Roy Cooke. Both derived their celebrity from writing for Card Player Magazine. In those days Card Player Magazine was the poker magazine market, and the magazine strongly featured it's writers.

Today that market is a little different. Card Player isn't only part of the market and almost all poker magazines these days feature players seen on TV, not the writer's. Poker writer's aren't the celebrities they were in the past. That movement away from featuring writer's and featuring players started with June Field when she established Poker Digest and put players on the cover as opposed to Card Player who always put casinos on the cover. Card Player tried to stem the competition by buying Poker Digest, but the market was destined to grow way to fast for them to maintain a stranglehold on it.

Planet Poker's attempt to compensate for an inferior product by using celebrity flopped. They just kept losing market share.

But Paradise Poker also failed to respond adequately to competition. For a while the term PP no longer meant Planet Poker, it meant Paradise Poker. But that didn't last long. Party Poker came along showing a high degree of competence in promotion. They established strong affiliates, they had high player bonuses (funded by high rakes). Then when poker hit TV they hit it with ads. They succeeded in a huge way. It was all about promotion.

An underfunded room, Poker Spot, came along and tried to establish a niche by copying Party Poker's high player bonuses and combining it with tournaments. They were the first room to offer tournaments. But, it's harder to get away with very large rakes in tournaments and they quickly found that the high player bonuses didn't self fund without high rakes. They flopped in a big way.

But Poker Stars did succeed with their tournament offerings. Chris Moneymaker helped establish them as a new brand of poker celebrity -- a TV celebrity.

TV makes a huge difference in the value of celebrity. Something Planet Poker didn't last long enough to figure out.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

On my mathandpoker blog

I have a blog elsewhere where I talk about topics related to application of mathematics to poker and other gambling games. I have more than one blog because it helps me segment the things I write about. I'm not sure that's really productive, but it's what I do anyway.

I common theme that I hit on time and time again on that blog is that poker is not mathematics, mathematics is a tool that can be used to help analyze poker, but mathematical models are not the game itself.

Formulating a model, adjusting a model, validation of a model, all those topics are the main meme of the blog.

This post is about the culture of poker, so bear with me.

Anyway, I made a blog post at mathandpoker that commented on something that Ed Miller had posted on his blog.

Although I don't think much of Ed, he has a terrible track record in evaluation of the character of people, the post wasn't critical of Ed personaly in any way that I can see, although it was critical of something he'd said and the way he said it. (This statement is critical of Ed personally, not the post I originally made).

His mistake was an over-reliance on the concept of EV, something that on it's surface seems to many to be something that's impossible to do. It's not at all impossible to do. It's a topic I've talked about before.

I often hit on statistical or mathematical sacred cows on that blog. For example, the first post I made in that blog, in June 2006, was an attack on the popular idea in poker that you have to have huge sample sizes. I've made other posts pointing out the importance of looking at things other than the sample size when considering how much data you need, the most recent being yesterday.

A blind reliance on EV is also a common theme. My earliest post on that topic was in July 2006, the second month of the blog. Micheal Trick also has a nice comment on that post.

This is what I'd said in that first post on expected value.
If you really want to optimize your stratagy and maximize your win, they you just have to look at the game in a global sense. A strategic Expected Value of a collection of actions is what you need to consider, not a tactical Expected Value of one action.

Micheal Trick related my comments about poker to some airline scheduling problems he'd been working on (he's not a poker player) and he said
The problem with both the poker example and crew scheduling is that the objective is much “fuzzier” than the underlying main objective. And that makes it much harder to “optimize”.

The point is often overlooked, but the reality is that EV is often only part of the story, it's seldom the entire story in situations that have any complexity to them at all.

But EV has been elevated to religious status in the poker world. I'm not sure why. But a worship of EV has become part of the culture.

Some blog software will pick up any other blog reference to a post and put a link to it in the comments section. Ed Miller's software does that. So, my post showed up as a comment on his blog. That's fine with me, it's the way blogs should work, blogs should have software features that advance the conversation. But what I was doing wasn't really writing a comment about Ed so much as using Ed's post as a point to step off and advance an existing meme on the evils of a tunnel vision focus on EV. I don't think many of Ed's readers realized that.

The reaction I got from Ed's readers was more like something I'd have expected from Kansas school board members to somebody who pointed out that Jerry Falwell was an ignorant bigot.

It's not surprising, given the religious status of EV, and since 2+2 types think of themselves as high priests of that religion. But I think it's an interesting example of how the culture of poker works out.

One thing I don't think I made clear is that this blowback isn't about Ed Miller (or about me) it's about a religious reverence to EV = Sum(x * P(x)). Ed's wife seems to think it's about Ed and I made some comments on her blog that's probably more about Ed than it should have been.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

An old Rec.Gambling.Poker directory

I ran across this old directory of web addresses for 120 something old rgp posters. I'm still there, but most have moved on. Interesting list though.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Chris Ferguson is supporting theives

If you're reading this Chris, call me.

Same scamming affiliate of FullTilt attracts web traffic by stealing content from honest websites (copyright is property, they are thieves) and using it to promote FullTilt.

Not only that but FullTilt supports them by sponsoring a freeroll tournament they put on to promote themselves.

This is not tolerable behavior on the part of FullTilt. Not even close.

Haley is on top of it, I didn't even know about it until I read her blog about it.

Representatives of FullTilt try to weasel around it. I expect Chris Ferguson to fix this and fix it quickly and permanently. And I don't want to hear any weasel shit about him not actually owning FullTilt.



There's a short thread on rgp about a hand where the hero made a flop re-raise in an attempt to "isolate a short stack".

Most of the discussion in the thread is pretty much on target about mistakes he made in the hand, I just want to talk about the idea of isolation and when it makes sense to try to isolate a player.

Isolation is a concept that's highly overrated.

The idea used to be bandied about a lot in the context of limit games, where the general thinking was that it was smart to 3-bet a weak raiser to isolate them in later betting rounds so that you could "out-play" them with impunity.

The typical Las Vegas game of the time was much like the game in AC that was protrayed in The Rounders. One or two seats with a rotation of tourists with the rest of the table made up of a bunch of pros who knew each other and tended to prefer a low risk approach of staying away from each other. You could count on them to "respect" your 3-bet

During that time the worst poker games in the world where those Las Vegas games. Yes, isolation worked, but only becuase the games where so damn tight that blind stealing was the norm and multi-way pots seldom developed.

Things changed.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Texas shoots down Indian casinos again

Way back when Shrub ran things in Texas, the state shut down two of the then three Indian casinos in the state. For some reason the one in Eagle Pass escaped unnoticed.

Some people think it might have had something to do with the fact that Jack Abramoff represented Indian casinos in Louisiana (close to the Texas casino in Livingston that competed in the same market) and casinos in New Mexico (close to the Texas casino in El Paso that competed in the same market). Of course, that might mean George Bush is a crook, so the possibility never really got looked into after he left Texas for greener pastures.

Recently some of the lege in Texas tried to pass a bill bringing back the two closed casinos (both had poker). It didn't pass. Maybe next time.

The part I really liked was this quote --
Rep. Will Hartnett, R-Dallas, called the tribes criminals for previously running casinos that were found to violate the law.

We can't let crooks run casinos. Just wouldn't be right.

Another good argument was that since Indian tribes have a history of providing illegal combatants during the Indian Wars we shouldn't allow them outside of the reservations.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Self Deception

There's a thread on rgp that started out with questioning something some poker player claimed in an interview.

In a recent Cardplayer magazine interview, Paul Wasicka claimed that
when he started playing, he was making between $1000-3000 a day
playing $10-20 Hold 'Em.

I don't think he's making that up, but I do think he's being somewhat self-deluded when he makes a claim like that.

Someone accused him of lying and I responded with this.

It's not really lying so much as it is a form of self-deception.

You see the same thing with waitresses, strippers, used car salesmen, and other
residents of trailer parks. When you ask them how much they make on an average
day they'll tend to answer with an approximation of an average good day, not an
average day. It's just the way they think.

Fuzzy brained people just don't have many rational thoughts. They don't really
make stuff up as much as it is they just don't understand the question.

I think that was probably his typical win range on a good day. That's not an average though, and like most people I think he just doesn't think about the difference all that clearly. There's really no reason why he should.

Then somebody took that as an opportunity to try to insult me in a way that I think is pretty funny. He said.

Gary is right. For example, look at the way he deceives himself about
his non-existent academic credentials and his non-existent poker
ability, even when the rest of the world can see what a useless, self-
important idiot he is.

What's funny about it is that it's completely contrary to pretty much anything I've ever claimed about myself. It's an example of how little people do pay attention to things and how little they tend to understand what they see or hear.

I have a couple of master's degrees. That means I've been an academic failure. I've attempted 3 different PhD programs, at 3 different schools, in 3 different fields. That's given me a pretty broad and pretty solid education, but it's not what I'd call academic credentials. I've often called myself a failed academic and I think my academic record supports that assessment pretty solidly.

As far as poker ability, I've never in my life claimed anything other than I can't play for shit.

So, while it might well be true that I'm a useless idiot, I think it's a stretch to call a clear and admitted failure delusionally self-important.

Anyway, I just thought it was funny.

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Versus a random hand

Probability of winning versus a random hand (all in) for selected hands
(using PokerStove)

AA 85%
KK 82%
QQ 80%
JJ 77%
TT 75%
99 72%
88 69%
AKs 67%
AQs 66%
77 66%
AKo 65%
AJs 65%
ATs 65%
AQo 64%
KQs 63%
KJs 63%
A9s 63%
66 63%
A8s 62%
KTs 62%
A9o 61%
KQo 61%
KJo 61%
A7s 61%
A8o 60%
K9s 60%
KTo 60%
QJs 60%
A6s 60%
A5s 60%
55 60%
A7o 59%
QTs 59%
A4s 59%
A6o 58%
K8s 58%
K9o 58%
K7s 58%
Q9s 58%
JTs 58%
QJo 58%
A5o 58%
A3s 58%
A4o 57%
K6s 57%
QTo 57%
A2s 57%
44 57%
A3o 56%
K8o 56%
K5s 56%
Q8s 56%
J9s 56%
K8o 56%
K4s 55%
K7o 55%
A2o 55%
K3s 54%
K6o 54%
J8s 54%
Q7s 54%
Q6s 54%
33 54%
K2s 53%
K5o 53%
Q5s 53%
K4o 52%
Q4s 52%
J7s 52%
Q7o 52%
K3o 51%
Q3s 51%
J6s 51%
K2o 51%
22 50%
Q2s 50%
J5s 50%
J4s 49%
J3s 48%
Q2o 47%
J2s 47%
85s 45%
J2o 44%
T4o 44%
32s 36%
42o 33%
320 32%


Monday, May 14, 2007

Pot odds

I ran across another blog post from Ed Miller that I kind of agree with. He explains why he doesn't like to emphasize pot odds.

I also think pot odds is something that's often given more emphasis than the topic deserves, for similar reasons to those he gives. Ed gives two reasons.

1. Discussing “pot odds” automatically makes many newer players assume that they are behind.

I'm not so sure I agree with this reason. He goes on to say
The chance that your hand is best is more important when the pot is big.
and he's right about that. But a big pot doesn't make it more likely your hand is best.

I agree that you shouldn't just automatically assume that you're behind, but the recent history of both you and the other guy, plus the texture of the board is what figures into that calculation, not the size of the pot.

It's his second reason that I do agree with strongly.
2. Discussion of “pot odds” makes people play more passively.

I've often said "Pot odds is for losers". It's about calling and that's the last thing you should be thinking about.

Ed has the potential to be a pretty bright guy if he wasn't such an awful judge of character.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Poker Theory

In my book, The Complete Book Of Hold 'Em Poker: A Comprehensive Guide to Playing and Winning , I have a chapter on Poker Theory covering what I call theoretical perspectives -- different ways to look at the game. Someday I might like to try to write a book expanding that chapter, it's my favorite chapter of the hold'em book.

Here's an old thread on rgp where somebody was critical of that chapter. Like most of the criticisms of the book, he was complaining that I didn't cover as much material as he thinks I should have. As I point out in one of the replies in that thread, the book was contracted for 100,000 words and I came in long as it was. And, I don't think my writing style is longwinded (I'm a little more long-winded in blog posts than in other writing because in blog posts I'm writing for search engines in addition to for readers).

Here's the first post in the thread
Carson's "Theories of Poker" chapter contains some wonderful gems but
also some misleading fool's gold.

Many poker players tend to take a rather rote "cookbook" approach to
the game. They memorize general rules of thumb without really
understanding the reasons behind that advice. When "exceptions to the
rules" arise, these folks aren't aware the advice no longer applies,
and they make mistakes.

Most serious players eventually seek a better understanding of poker
fundamentals. Many, however, develop a theoretical perspective that
offers only a single, narrow view of the game. This "tunnel vision"
might be adequate for numerous situations in their usual game, but it
often fails when less normal conditions arise.

One of the strengths of THE COMPLETE BOOK OF HOLD 'EM POKER is that
Carson encourages readers to adopt a broader, more flexible approach.

There are many alternative theories of poker, and a
complete analysis of the game requires a frequent
shifting of theoretical perspective. (P. 107.)

Which theoretical perspective you use to analyze a
situation just depends on the situation and the game-
condition context of the situation. . . . 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.
(P. 116.)

He lists eight theoretical perspectives, such as:

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

* Poker is a game of strategy and deception.

He gives a brief explanation of each theory and indicates the game
conditions when they are most likely to be relevant. More
importantly, Carson uses these theories throughout his book to explain
various aspects of poker and why you should think differently when
playing in different situations.

I commend Carson for encouraging his readers to reflect on poker at
this new level. This is all very nice, as far as it goes.
Unfortunately, he doesn't do as well taking them to the next level.
Indeed, he indicates the next level doesn't even exist. Here's that
misleading vein of pyrite I mentioned earlier:

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. (P.

I believe there is a general theory of poker, at least for those
players whose primary goal is big profits:

* Poker is a game where maximizing the expected values (EVs)
of your decisions maximizes your long-term profits.

It's that simple--and that complex.

It's that simple, because once you understand expectation well, you
will understand everything Carson's eight theories attempt to
explain--and more.

It's that complex, because it isn't easy to understand expectation
well. And it's even more difficult to compute or estimate EV for the
many different situations that arise at the poker tables.

This complexity means serious players often need to think about
expectation away from the tables in order to develop good short cuts
or rules of thumb that they can apply in the heat of battle.

For example, there are instances when you very likely make your best
betting decision simply by comparing your pot odds to your odds of
losing the hand.

Similarly, there are times when you very likely make your best betting
decision by recognizing you are in a struggle for the antes and simply
playing aggressively.

I view Carson's eight theories as short-cut methods for guessing which
decision has the greatest EV. They supplement the general theory of
poker that I presented above and are encompassed by it.

If readers do not understand the eight theories in terms of
expectation, they are less likely to recognize which theory applies to
a specific situation.

Suppose you have pocket aces under-the-gun in a very tight game.
Based on Carson's explanations, you probably will conclude the
"struggle for the antes" theory pertains best and raise pre-flop.

In some of those situations, however, you ought to just limp in. If
you understand expectation, you can realize when calling is better
than raising. In the same way, this knowledge allows you to recognize
when you need to consider more than just pot odds.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

D'Amato and the PPA

I started this post a while back and never did anything with it.

It's just an example of how good the PPA is at promoting itself. They misrepresnet who they are and who they represent, they can't be trusted, but they can be depended on to get their name in the paper.

When they hired D'Amato after he failed to get re-elected they got a lot of coverage. But who is D'Amato? What kind of background does he really have?

Insider stock trader

HUD corruption

Dirty campianer

Character witness for the mob

Can't think of a more qualified person to represent the poker world.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

When the longshot bias disappears

In horse racing it's pretty well known that pari-mutual pools attract a disproportionate amount of money on long-shots. Horses going off at long prices tend to be over bet, while short money horses tend to be under-bet. Research has found this time and again, over decades of studies.

The bias by itself isn't enough to overcome the track take except in the case of very short priced horses, odds on favorites are sufficiently under-bet so that you could actually make a long term profit by just flat betting every odds on favorite. The profit margin would be very slim though.

What that means is that gambler's are willing to pay for a shot at a big payoff. Not really surprising when you think about it. There's not a lot of thrill in cashing a $2 ticket for $2.20. But cashing a $2 ticket for $40 gives you a pretty good kick.

I was reading Why are Gambling Markets Organized so Differently from Financial Markets? by Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame when I ran across this about NFL betting markets
Bettors exhibit a systematic bias towards favorites

That observation by itself isn't new to me, but he points out in a footnote the difference between this bias and the horseracing favorites/longshot bias. It's just not something I've really thought about before. In NFL betting, payoffs are even money, so there's not really an incentive from a big potential payoff to bet on underdogs, they might be longshots to win, but not with corresponding big payoffs. Of course, after point spread adjustments the underdogs aren't always even longshots to win, which is part of the broader point of the article.

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Rhetoric of law

Unless you're the President or Attorney General of the United States, law has a huge effect on your life and how you're allowed to live it. Law rules your life and activities with a somewhat iron fist. It's not entirely iron, it's just as hard and tight as iron, but it lacks the clear form of iron. Law is formed from rhetoric.

Law has no requirement to actually make any sense. A lot of people have trouble with that -- both lawyers and non-lawyers alike try hard to make sense of law. The whole legal industry is built around the attempt to make sense of it. So we fool ourselves into thinking it does make sense.

That's the only thing I can figure is driving this nonsense debate about whether poker is a game of predominantly skill over chance. It matters because some laws make a distinction between games of skill and games of chance. But just because a low makes such a distinction doesn't mean that it's a real distinction.

It's not real. It's nonsense. Lou Krieger has another post about it, the whole post is written with the presumption that it actually means something to contrast skill and chance. Assuming something is true does not make it true.

Lou is so busy supporting the rhetoric that he gives an argument that he thinks supports the side that poker is a predominately skill game, but the argument actually supports the side that poker is predominately a game of chance.
Most of the legal wrangling centered on determining the preponderance of skill or luck in poker. In my opinion, determining skill versus luck is not a function of looking at any given hand, but one of bounding the issue. In other words, how long does a game of poker take?
Before I get to the whole arguement, I have to comment on the rhetoric part of it. Bounding the issue? What the hell does that mean? It certainly sounds like it means something (good rhetoric usually does), but it doesn't really mean anything in this context (depending on your goals, good rhetoric can intentionally have no meaning).

Elsewhere in the post Lou points to a couple of academics as possible saviors in the debate. Economist Steve Levitt of the University of Chicago and Stat/OR guy Jay Kadane of Carnegie-Mellon. Both well known math/dweeb type academic research guys who have shown interest in various issues about skill in games. In that context bounding might refer to the idea of bounded, as in bounded sets or bounded rationality. That basically refers to imposing limits.

So he wants to put limits on the issue? No, he wants to treat the question as a question posed in the long-term, in unbounded time.
If you were to conclude that each hand constitutes a “game,” then poker is surely a game where luck predominates. But if a “game” is construed as lasting a year, or five years, or ten years, or even a lifetime, then skill prevails. In the long run, a player’s results tend to mirror his or her expectation — for better or for worse.

In other words, if you play poker long enough, you figure to reap what you sow. In the short run, anything can happen.

So rather than bounding the timeframe he looks at, he wants to look at the long run, an unbounded time frame.

But what skill there is in poker isn't applied to the long run, it's applied over the long run, a bet at a time. Each bet requires the application of gambling skill. Each bet doesn't stand alone in the sense that a sequence of bets aren't independent.

From a point of view of government regulation, the gambling operator normally offers the game a hand at a time -- not only can players come and go between hands but the fee is collected at the hand level (sometimes at the level of half hour increments).

According to Lou's argument that means poker is primarily a game of chance. Good argument Lou.

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Friday, May 04, 2007


Aggression is everything in poker. But it has to be selective, careful aggression. Blind, constant aggression is just throwing away money. Erratic, maniacal aggression is pointless. The most important factor in the selection of the time and playce to show aggression is position. In real estate it's location, in poker it's position.

Good position is a primary source of value for many poker hands. It's often more important than the cards themselves are. Aggression is how you realize value in poker, but position and the use of position in guiding your aggression is the source of the value.

Your position determines how much information is available to you when it's time to make a decision. Assuming you can evaluate and use it correctly, the more information you have the better decision you will make. Also, the less information your opponents have about your hand the more likely it is they'll make a bad decision. Position controls both sides of that coin -- how much information you have and how little information they have.

The value associated with position is easily demonstrated by looking at hold'em or Omaha -- games where position remains fixed for each betting round. In those games, if you're in late position every player (with the exception of the blinds in the first betting round) has to act before you do each betting round. Throughout the play of th ehand you'll have the maximum information about other's hands while they'll have to act with a minimum level of information about your hand.

If you're holding a hand like A8 clubs it's a lot easier to bet into a field of four players with a flop of K84 and one club if they've all checked than it is if you're first to act. That's not to say you shouldn't be betting that hand from early position, but it is a lot more iffy than it is from late position after everyone has checked.


This material appears in a slightly different form in my book The Complete Book Of Casino Poker

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Some more on luck v. skill

I just made a post over at on the age old question of skill v. luck in poker. As I've said many, many times (mostly on rgp), I think the question is a very silly one, but I keep answering it anyway.

In writing that mathandpoker post I looked up some old stuff I've said before on rgp but didn't use most of it in that post. So I thought I'd put some of together here.

Skill is about decision making. It's about the management of luck. It's about the process.

Luck is about outcomes.

I think the whole concept of contrasting skill and luck in an attempt to attribute outcomes to some skill/luck distribution is nonsense.

It's like saying life is 72% what kind of car you drive and 38% whether you remember your mother's birthday.

Poker skill isn't about winning specific hand match-ups. It's about the kinds of bets you make, the kind of match-ups you get involved in.

Part of what skill is involves making your own luck. BThere a lot of ways to do it. Brunson talked about it in his Super System I but I don't think he had the writing skills to really make it clear.

The way of making your own luck that Brunson harped on was using early aggression with a lot of bluffing with outs (semi-bluffing).

The idea was that he could pick up a small pot about 40% of the time and the other 60% of the time he'd play for a slightly bigger pot as a slight dog.

His overall EV at the time of his bet was positive, but the only hands people
saw were the ones he went to the river as a dog. So the only times he showed a winning hand were the times he got all the money in as a dog. When he won it looked like he was lucky.

The reality was that he wasn't lucky at all, he was just skillfull but it was hard for an observer to realize that.

After his book he had to adapt other ways to get lucky since his book was widely read. But the readers seem to have never understood that luck is not something different from skill at all.

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