Friday, February 29, 2008

Theory of Poker and mistakes

Somebody asked about the two mistakes in Theory of Poker.

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

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

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

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

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

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Who to trust?

Poker Girl in Vegas asks
I never know who to trust

It's not difficult. Just never trust anyone you meet in a poker room or an NA meeting.

David Sklansky is an idiot.

An idiot. A total idiot. He has the brains of a dead armadillo.

He not only carries a vibrator in the glove compartment of his car, he thinks incest causes blindness.

I'm not the only one who thinks he's an idiot.

And Theory of Poker has at least 2 major errors.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Closing doors

The NYT has an article about research on the human tendency to want to leave themselves options, even when we know the options have no value. I was going to write about this and relate it to poker and getting yourself pot committed but decided to just point you the article and let you think about how it relates to poker.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Does Gambling Regulation Lead to Crooked Cops?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

State regulation and internet poker

A commenter to my recent PPA post asked about the form of state regulation I might like to see.

I don't see any reason to change what is. Every state already regulates gambling to some extent (except for Hawaii and Utah, which just ban it outright).

Regulation of the internet should be done by international treaty, not by the Federal government, not by individual states. Whether it's internet porn, or internet gambling, or internet sales of motercycle parts, or internet political discussion doesn't really matter. It's a form of communication. It's protected by the first amendment. Government agencies have no business meddling in it.

Commercial transactions, such as gambling transactions, do have some special government interests involved. One such interest is to protect citizens from fraud. That's a good thing. But we don't need regulation to do that. We don't need criminal law to do that. Regulation and criminal law are both very heavy handed. Commercial fraud is a civil tort and we need wide discovery rules in the individual state courts for citizens who want to bring civil action against interet sites such as Absolute Poker. We need broad ability to go after affiliated assets, such as assets of high profile paid spokespersons or of internet companies who do business with internet gambling sites.

Let's see what Annie Duke and the PPA think about that idea?


Monday, February 25, 2008

More PPA thoughts

They actually have "talking points" on their website. I think that's creepy. But I have some thoughts about them.
Technology has progressed to effectively combat problem gambling and ensure that players are of legal age.

What does this even mean? What technology effectively combats problem gambling? I read a recent Newsweek story about advances in drug treatments for some addictions, but they talk mostly about more direct chemical addictions. Although the brain chemistry works in a similar way for gambling problems, were still a ways away from an actual technological treatment.

So I guess they're talking about computer technology. Are they talking about some overall government tracking of gambling activity? Some big brother technology? What are they talking about here? And why is it a good thing?

Billions in potential tax revenue from online poker are being lost under the UIGEA.

Uh. This is nonsense. There was no tax revenue. UIGEA didn't cause something that never was to be lost.

Appropriate federal regulation can ensure that minors are kept out of sites, services are provided to problem gamblers and the proper taxes are collected.

Now we get to the nitty-gritty. Federalism. Historically in the US gambling regulation has been a state function, not a federal function. The Wire Act was an exception and sports betting in general has been an exception. Casino gambling, poker, horseracing, bingo, and other forms of gambling have been left completely up to the states to regulate.

Is it the position of the PPA that the US government should federalize the regulation of gambling in the United States? Do they really think that's a good idea?

Prohibitions don't work. The UIGEA effectively bans online poker in the U.S. and drives those players underground. Meanwhile, poker continues to grow in popularity nationwide. 75 percent of Americans oppose banning online poker.

The problems with UIGEA is that it interferes with personal banking transactions and tries to regulate international internet financial transactions in a very heavy-handed way. Exempting poker isn't going to do anything to solve the fundamental attack on freedom represented by UIGEA.

If Congress allows me to bet on horses and state lotteries online, why can't I play a skill game like poker with other consenting adults?

This skill game arguement is a joke, as I've pointed out many, many times. It just makes PPA look like a bunch of rubes. Three Card Monte is a skill game.

Please co-sponsor and support HR 2046 "Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act" and HR 2610 "Skill Game Protection Act".

I don't know what these are, but they just sound bad.

Federal regulation of the internet is a bad thing. Period.

We don't need Federal Protection of Skill Games. We need Federalism in the sense of allowing the individual states to regulate gambling.

I don't know who PPA actually represents. But who do they think will the most likely to benefit from having federal regulation of gambling of of the internet? How do poker players benefit from that kind of nonsense?

Here's another view on PPA. Well not another view, another expression of the same view.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

The culture of specialization

FemaleScienceProfessor has a post up about specialization among academic science researchers. I like her blog, she expresses her thoughts and observation in clear, simple language. I've found that talent somewhat unusual among both academics and feminists and she falls into both those categories. Mostly she writes as an academic observer with just a very slight feminist slant. The post about specialization falls into the strictly academic part of her writing. But the topic is about a lot more than academics, it's very relevant to poker players.

She doesn't call it specialization, she calls it focus, here's how she describes the two camps of the focused and the unfocused
We divided neatly into two subgroups, one of which was comprised of scientists whose research is highly focused on a particular topic, and the other by those who tend to work on a wide range of research topics at the same time.

The dangers of being too highly focused on a particular form of poker game should be very familiar to all you former loball, 7-card stud, or limit hold'em players. There will be a time in the not so distant future when those dangers will also become apparent to many current no-limit hold'em players.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Reviewing books

I got an email from somebody asking me about Sklansky on Poker He asked if I'd read it.

I haven't read it. But I read Sklansky on Razz long ago in its original edition. I think it's the best Sklansky ever. Sklansky on Poker is a collection of short works of Sklansky and includes a reprint of Slansky on Razz

My correspondent has wondered about the book because he'd read a bad review of it on 2+2 by one of the resident idiot posters and suspected that meant it was probably a good book. From the review:
The section “Sklansky on Razz” is certainly the best material on that game in print, but it’s a game that’s rarely spread anymore. As for the other essays, they were even at the time of publication little more than Theory of Poker simplified and explained for beginners. The examples and many of the concepts are specific to fixed limit games, and some even more restricted to obsolete games like jacks-or-better five card draw.

Obsolete games?

I think the typical 2+2 sage is looking for a book that says a lot of "If A then do X". That kind of potential reader probably wouldn't like Sklansky on Razz.

It's been a very long time since I've read Sklansky on Razz (over 20 years) but there are a couple of key points the reader should take away from what I remember about the book.

One is the importance of never forgetting what they think you have, or what they think you might have. The other is that a draw is sometimes in better shape than a made hand, even heads up.

Those are poker concepts, not Razz concepts, although Razz is the perfect game to illustrate that. (KK)A45 might well be a much better hand than (23)A89 in a matchup with those two hands. That's a scary looking board for the made 9. Also (23)A44 actually is way ahead of (23)A89 although it's still drawing.

Important concepts made clear when you look at it from the viewpoint of razz.

Sklansky on Razz is pretty much basic stuff but it's important basic stuff. Stuff that's important to all poker players, not just Razz players.

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Danny goes on the wagon for a day

Danny Boy is going to try playing sober at the tournament at the Commerce just to see if it improves his performance any over his recent play in some European events. Never can tell.

He also tells us he isn't going to tell us.
Speaking of cool, I just got word today that I'll be adding yet another trip to my March schedule and I don't care how far it is. I'm scheduled to be in Australia from Mar 3-8 to be a part of something that is beyond cool. I'm not sure I have the ok to talk about it, so rather than ruin the opportunity for myself, I'll wait until I get the word that it's cool to talk about before mentioning it.

I'd always thought that it would be best to not mention it if you don't want to mention it.

Curious I did a quick google on Australia Mar 3-8 and came up with this.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Take off the hat, you bum

Phil Hellmuth probably will never visit the Alamo either. When he tried to go out to eat in London this is what happened to him
Phil was asked to remove his trademark baseball cap with a gold 'PH' logo in order to sit down in the Grill (at the Dorchester Hotel). The Poker Brat decided to stand his ground and refused to take it off. The management then asked the ex world champion to leave, which he did.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Just one little mistake

It's not how many mistakes you make that matters, it's whether the mistakes you make matter that matters.

I was reading Danny Boy's recent blog post and came across this gem of a short paragraph.

I've had a really strange year in that regard. Moments of great play overshadowed by a sloppy play here and a bad call there. Thing is, I'm not discouraged in the least! You'd think I should be, but I'm really not. Why? Well, because I know it's a pretty easy fix. It's in my control and my skill level today is better than it's ever been. It's a simple case of poor preparation before tournaments.

Easy fix? I'm not so sure about that. The only poor prepreation he talks about in that blog post is playing with a hangover, drinking, and drinking too much, when he knows he shouldn't. If that's a problem for you then I really don't think it's a problem that's likely to be easy to fix. If it's really easy to fix then you wouldn't do it in the first place.

It's been my experience in no limit that your overall outcome often hinges on just one or two decisions or outcomes. You can't control the outcomes, sometimes you'll just get beat. But controlling those decisions is hard. It's hard enough that if you keep trying to convince yourself that it's easy then it's probably not going to happen.


Fear and confusion in no limit poker

Sometimes it's hard coming up with topics to write on. It's so much easier to find a topic somebody else wrote on then pick on what they write. Original thought makes my head hurt.

I don't get a lot of work done, but I wouldn't get nearly as much written if I didn't have brother Ed feeding me straight lines.

He has a recent post on betting patterns that indicate weakness in opponents. The post was okay, although as he's been doing a lot lately I think he showed some symptoms of FPS, I don't think some of the betting patterns he talks about are nearly as reliable as he seems to think. In particular I think it can be a huge mistake to treat a small lead bet on the flop as a reliable indication of weakness by itself.

But what I really want to pick on this post is his lead. He starts with
Being too readable can really hurt your no-limit game.
I certainly don't have any arguement about that.
Winning no-limit depends on fear and surprise.


Actually I don't think he meant "fear", I think he meant "confusion", but the idea that you should try to instill fear is a pretty common one and it's a really bad idea.

Fear is a fairly strong emotion. When I was in the Navy and heard the sound of incoming artillery I felt fear. My stomoch knoted up, my mind raced, adrenalin pumped, my body reacted with automatic defense reactions (I ducked and hit the deck hard). So I know what fear is, but I've never felt fear at a poker table. (Well, I did once.

Some opponents do feel fear, and they will be easy to exploit. But there aren't very many of them. The ones that will cause you seriuos trouble are the ones who aren't going to be fearful and will also be able to exploit you if you try to rely on instilling fear as an important part of your gameplan.

So, don't be predicable. Confuse them whenever possible. But don't try to scare them. It's wasted effort and will more likely backfire. The few times it will work are really only with opponents that are so easy to beat that you didn't need to instill fear to accomplish the task, it will only seem like instilling fear worked.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Proving his theorem and checking it twice

Here's a guy who thinks he's disproved a claim that William Chen made about the EV of doubling up early in a large tournament. He wants Sklansky to check his work to verify that he's disproved Chen's work.

Chen has a Phd in math. Skalnsky flunked out of college as a sophomore business major.

Where do these people come from?


Monday, February 18, 2008

Ethics and online poker sites

I really have more and more serious doubts about Full Tilt poker. I didn't blog about it when Clonie Gowen got caught committing plagerism, although I did put some comments on a website. But she's one of the Full Tilt "pros". Plagerism is theft. Full Tilt doesn't seem to think that's a problem. Theft is okay with them.

I really don't know what kind of ethical compass they have over there. It just seems like a problem to me.

Now we have another Full Tilt "pro" with an ethical glitch. Matasow talks about some cheating he did as if it's just another day at the office.

He took over in a tournament for a friend when he was 6 hours deep, to bring a fresh mind to the game. I personally don't think sites should have rules against that simply becuase it's impossible to really enforce the rule. But they do have rules against it. It's cheating. Some sites will take your prize money back and 86 you if they catch you doing it.

But Full Tilt seems to think it's just find so long as it's one of their insiders who is doing it. I don't know if it happened on Full Tilt or not, Matasow won't say, but why they think supporting an admitted cheat is a good idea is beyond my ability to understand.

For a couple of viewpoints that differ from mine in some ways see and Random Shuffle.

For a negative view of FullTilt's approach to ethics that's unrelated to this particular event see BlogsRGhey

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Another view of gambling addictions and compulsive gambling

Lou Krieger has a post about a recent psychiatrict study on gambling addiction.
the investigators found no evidence to support the commonly held assumptions that individuals cannot recover from (gambling addiction).

I don't think gambling addiction is a problem and I think the tendency to treat it as a mental disorder is a trip down the wrong path.

I think there are a lot of people who are compulsive losers. Gambling isn't their problem, losing is their problem. And if they didn't have gambling then they'd just find some other way to lose.


Be Careful on New Poker Sites

PokerScout suggests that there might be some problems on the new poker site, DoingPoker.
A routine observation of the traffic at DoingPoker revealed some unusual activity. After further investigation, it seems likely that the site uses robotic players, or bots, to fill up the games and create the illusion of an active player base.


The first remarkable thing about DoingPoker is the number of players. Every online poker site has a daily cycle, with traffic building throughout the day, peaking in the evening, and bottoming out in the early morning hours. Every poker site, that is, except DoingPoker.

The site averages about 90 real money ring game players, but what is unusual is that the site has the same number of players at all times of the day and night. Over the span of 48 hours, observations at many different times showed that DoingPoker always had between 90 and 95 real money ring game players. (At the time of this writing the table arrangement had been changed slightly and player counts were consistently in the mid-80s around the clock). This fact by itself is enough to indicate that something highly unusual is gong on, but it is certainly not the end of the story.

The site offers five different poker variations: hold’em, omaha, omaha high/low, stud and stud high/low. At most sites of a similar size, players naturally gravitate toward hold’em, the most popular game, and the other games will run only sporadically, if at all. DoingPoker, however, has at least one active game of every type around the clock. Such a high level of game diversity is unheard of for such a small site.

h/t to PokerFilter.Net


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Making fun of Danny Boy

I just love Danny Boy. He's such an easy target, I just don't know what I'd do for intertainment without him.

In his recent blog post he leads with
I almost never, ever, ever, go out

The lead for the second paragraph is
If I go to a club it's usually Pure

He's the only guy I know who almost never, ever, ever goes out and has a favorite club.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

A tax on poker

The feds tax marijuana without it being legal, maybe they should do the same thing with poker.

The people who keep saying they should legalize it so they can tax it just don't understand government.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

For horseplayers

This is an old post about overlays and late money coming into the win pool. It's a good one thoug.

Roger Clemens

For you baseball fans out there, Freakonomics Blog looks at Roger Clemens career stats
We conclude that “the available data on Clemens’s career strongly hint that some unusual factors may have been at play in producing his excellent late-career statistics.”
To be clear, we don’t know whether Roger Clemens took steroids or not. But to argue that somehow the statistical record proves that he didn’t is simply dishonest, incompetent, or both. If anything, the very same data presented in the report — if analyzed properly — tends to suggest an unusual reversal of fortune for Clemens at around age 36 or 37, which is when the Mitchell Report suggests that, well, something funny was going on.

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Going it alone

Continuation of my review of The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently...and Why.

I'm not sure what this has to do with poker or Crazy Asian Gamblers, but I still think it's interesting.

This was an experiment that compared Japanese to Americans. The experiment had two conditions -- an alone condition and a group condition.
Participants in the alone condition were told that they would draw four lottery tickets, each having a one digit number on it. In the group condition, all participants beleived that they were part of a four-person group (whose members they never actually saw) and that each person would draw a lottery ticket. To participants in both conditions it was explained that the sum of the numbers on the lottery tickets would determine who would have to take the bitter drink. (They) asked participants how likely they would be among the unlucky ones.

The Japanese thought they were more likely to escape the unpleasant experience in the group condition. American men thought they were more likely to escape in the alone condition. Aamerican women behaved like Japanese.

Like I said, I'm not sure what this means in relationship to gambling. Maybe nothing.



Here's the lead on a recent post from Brother Ed.
Playing aggressively isn’t natural.


Not Natural?

Maybe not for vegetarian yankees.


Saturday, February 09, 2008

A holistic view of poker

Continuation of my review of The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently...and Why.

Nesbitt describes a study that compared Koreans to Americans. Holistic thinking is defined (in the study) as a tendency to agree with statements such as
1. Everything in the universe is somehow related to everything else. and
2. It's not possible to understand the pieces without considering the whole picture.

Koreans were much more holistic than Americans.

The study also involved telling the participants a short murder mystery story then giving them a list of 100 items of information, asking them to eliminate the items that they could safely assume would be irrelevant to the solution of the murder mystery.

On the average Koreans eliminated 37 items and Americans 55. In addition, the higher the participant scored on the Holistic scale the more items they eliminated as irrelevant, no matter what the nationality.

What does this have to do with poker? I'm not sure. But I think it points to the possibility that asians will tend to look at more pieces of information at the table and be more likely to detect weakness as a result. Or maybe Americans are more likely to zero in quickly on the relevant items of information. I don't know.


Tilt control and attitudes about change

As I mentioned before, I've been reading The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently...and Why.

Think about this passage from page 103
Ancient Greek philosphers were powerfully inclined to believe that things don't change much or, if they really are changing, future change will continue in the same direction, and at the same rate, as current change. And the same is true for ordinary modern Westerners. But like ancient Taoists and Confician philosophers, ordinary modern Asians believe that things are constantly changin, and movement in a particular direction, far from indicating future changes in the same direction, may be a sign that events are about to reverse direction.

If you look at that pasage from the viewpoint of a typical Westerner you'll be asking yourself which of the two views is the correct view.

Don't do that.

Become an Asian for a minute and just ask yourself which viewpoint of the world works.

Think about tilt.

A lot of you tilt after things go wrong, after a bad beat. But if you look at things from an Asian point of view a bad beat is just an indication that things are fixing to get better. You won't be nearly as likely to tilt if you look at the world that way.

That would be a good thing, whether the viepoint is correct or not.

Dead spreads

A dead spread is a table with a dealer sitting in front of an open tray of chips at a table with no players. It never made any sense to me to have a dead spread in a poker room. You aren't going to start a game unless 4 or 5 players happen to walk up together and even if that happens by the time you get them all in a chair you can have a dealer come in from the break room and get the tray opened up.

But this is just insane. A poker room with an actual policy of having as many as 3 dead spreads at once. Why casino bosses who think like this are allowed out of the house without being escorted by their mother is something I'll never understand.


Friday, February 08, 2008

Divorce and poker

The only person that you can be sure will benefit from a divorce is the divorce attorney. They almost always make out pretty well. Men and women not so much.

But the effects of divorce on men and women are typically different. Typically women suffer financial hardship from divorce and men suffer emotional hardship.

Women usually are the ones that initiate a divorce, so their unhappiness is in the past. The divorce is going to tend to make them happier even though because of the nature of gender roles in a marriage they'll usually take the short end financially. Men usually didn't know they were unhappy until they got blindsided by the divorce, so the divorce itself tends to make them very unhappy.

But maybe there's something different about poker players. I don't have a big sample, but if you look at the divorces of a couple of high profile poker players the typical pattern doesn't seem to play itself out.

When Annie Duke got divorced she did just find financially. But, of course ended up just fine financially. In her case, although her marriage started out with the traditional gender roles (her husband had a small trust fund income that supported them) she didn't move to get divorced until after she'd developed her own independent career.

And Danny Boy seems to be doing just fine emotionally since his divorce.

Maybe poker players tend to develop non-traditional gender roles in their marriages?

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

More on the crazy asian gambler

The other day I made some comments about a book I've been reading. Among other things, I said that the Chinese tendency to look at the world as tending towards change (versus the Western tendency to look at the world as tending towards staying static) has some implications for how the different cultures looked at poker strategy.

Anything But Hold'em commented on that and said
The Crazy Asian Gambler, in my experience, tends to believe that luck is a predictable quantity.

Yes, they do. That's consistent with the world view of a world undergoing change.

The asian tendency is to view the future as knowable. Changing, but knowable. They think they can predict the future and that future involves a change, but a predicable change that moves first away from the current state then will return to the current state. Luck and fate are part of a regularity of movement in the state of the world.

The westerner tends to think the future is unknowable. But the westerner also tends to think that future states will resemble the status quo. The westerner thinks thinks tend to stay the same but random forces will push things around so much that too much noise in any attempts at prediction.

The Asian thinks of the future as moving in a smooth, wavy line. The Westerner thinks of the future as being Brownian Motion.

When playing the table versus playing individual players you need to think like an asian. You need to think of the world as moving with everything in unison, following a rythm. It works. Trust me on this.


Bodog and bloggers

Bodog is a strong supporter of poker bloggers. They advertise heavily on blog sites, paying monthly ad rates to even very low volume blogs (not high rates, but anything is appreciated by a blogger).

For a while they were running weekly small buyin tournaments for bloggers with a little added money. I played in a couple of them, they tended to have a tough field, but I always enjoyed them. I didn't play in all of them because often I'd be busy -- you know taking a nap or something. But I played in some. I even promoted it some.

Well, they've changed things a little. They're still having them but now the added money is to some leader board nonsense. Whoever ends up with the most points after X months gets a free entry to the WSOP, or something like that. Some bloggers think that's just great. I don't.

I won't be playing in those events any more. The way they've structured it now I'm the one that is subsidizing the other players if I'm probably not going to play in every event. I don't need that.


Someone pointed out to me that the added money in the Bodog Blogger events is still there, they've just added even more money to the leader board winners. So, I'm not worse of than before, I'm at least the same in terms of expected value.

But that doesn't matter to me. I have no problem with cutting of my nose to spite my face. They're adding extra money and giving it to someone other than me (to those who play every week). So to hell with them.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The purpose of government

It seems that Lou Krieger thinks the purpose of government is to confiscate money.
According to the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative, a new tax revenue
analysis announced by Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA), pictured left,
estimates that regulating Internet gambling would generate between $8.7 billion
to $42.8 billion in federal revenues over its first ten years. The findings of
the analysis, prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers, were provided to all Members
of Congress by McDermott earlier this week.

Why does the government need the money? Why, to pay PricewaterhouseCoupers to do more studies for them, of course.