Sunday, June 25, 2006


Vegas Baby, Yeah !

My flight out is on the 30th (rather carelessly scheduled on World Cup QF day, although not England's game if they make it) but I'll probably be off-line from tomorrow till I arrive.

Now of course I can stay for the duration, up to 90 days in theory. I wonder if I should tell customs that I've retired ? Probably best to follow the usual plan, name rank serial number and speak only when spoken to. I can see myself playing a few tournaments at the Orleans for the first couple of weeks, along with single tables at the Rio. I won't be playing the insane 2000 runner NL events. I'm tempted by the 7 card Hi Lo if I'm still there by then, but that's about it. In fact I'm likely to play relatively few NL tournaments ; I'm moving away from them online and I'd rather have more freedom as to coming and going.

Personally I simply have to accept that when Mike Paulle, for example, says "The World Series is all about Aaron Kanter and Tiffany Williamson", he's right, whether I like it or not. This is what it has become. A crazy mixture of lottery, reality TV and poker. If I just chill out, play what and when it suits me, and smile to myself when the hype picks up, thinking back to "Fooled By Randomness" (which I reread yesterday in a timely fashion) ; I can have a good time. And if and when I don't, I can come back. Everyone's a winner !

Saturday, June 24, 2006


Down But Not Out

An interesting situation came up in a speed tournament a couple of days ago. In fact this crops up repeatedly in the speed format ; it's interesting how the large majority of players mis-handle it. I had just lost a hand and I was down to about 9000 under the gun, with blinds 4000-8000. I pick up something decent but not spectacular, can't remember what exactly, maybe something like K8. Definitely above average. Conventional wisdom states that as this is a better hand than you are likely to find in the BB, you should play it. Conventional wisdom is, as ever, bollocks.

It's not that I have a poor expectation with this hand, although it's also not great. If I play, I should call [1]. Either someone will raise with a real hand or it will come round to the blinds. Maybe one of them will raise, maybe not. Most likely I'll be heads up against a better hand getting 5/2 or so, or three way against two random hands. EV is probably small but positive.

The problem is that if I win this hand, I'll have 24-28K, which sounds great. But I will immediately have to post 8K of it in the blind. I might have to forfeit this entirely, or call knowing that I'm an underdog because that's slightly preferable to folding, but almost as bad. You might say, well you're still better off than before, but what has happened here is that I had a 1 in 3 chance of trebling up into this situation and then immediately losing 4-6K of EV on the next hand because I have to post.

Instead, I passed the K8 and took the blind. A geezer with about 20K raised, and I called for the scratch with 96. He had KJ and won the hand. Here, I had an automatic call and the typical scenario would be that I have a 1 in 3 chance to double up to 20K counting the small blind, that is my EV from the start of the hand is -1.5K or so. And sometimes I'll pick up a hand that's better than 1 in 3.

Notice also how the geezer's raise has hardly helped him at all. Best case, he will be heads up with me as a 60% favourite against my random hand (if that). Instead of the 12K that an unchallenged raise will otherwise take down, his EV is only about 4K. And that's if no one else finds a hand to call him with - as he's unlikely to be called by a worse hand for any significant chips.

To summarise, if you're down below 2 Big Blinds or so, think about letting even the better hands go UTG and just take the blind. And if the big blind is committed to calling, tighten up on your all-in raises.

[1] Because putting in an extra 1000 now isn't going to make any difference. If you just call, and check down unless you hit a monster, anyone who wants to put you all in must bet at least 8K and now there's a chance this will make other players fold. If you put it all in pre-flop they have the option of just checking you down.


Half-Yearly Report

I'll come on to Vegas in the next post ; for now let's just see where we are on the year to date.

Sit and Goes : + $6,800. Mostly in Jan/Feb when I ended up playing too many and burning out on them.

Standard MTTs : - $1,800. Not running very good this year ; then again, this leads me to think that I was running good last year, especially on Betfair. I'll talk about my game selection in an upcoming post too.

Speed MTTs : + $5,700. Yee ha ! Who would have thought you could make decent money just by clicking "Fold" and "Allin". I think I've probably been running hot here, but maybe not that much ; these are definitely an earner.

WSOP Spunkage : - $950. I was happy enough to spin $1000 provided there was a decent overlay. I didn't even come close to winning a seat though.

Overall : + $9,750. That's acceptable in my spare time. Now I'm off work, if I can play more of the better games in the second half of the year, another $15,000 is a reasonable target, although of course it depends what happens in Vegas.

Monday, June 12, 2006


Bigger Fish To Fry

When I was a kid, I had a poster on my wall. You might remember the one, there's a line of fish. At one end there's a really small fish. Then there's a slightly bigger fish about to eat the small one. And a bigger still fish about to eat the second one. And so on up to an uber-fish at the end that's going to eat everyone. The caption said "There's no such thing as a free lunch". Even at nine years old I thought "well, there is for the biggest one".

Reading through the blog I was talking about at the weekend, an image of this poster popped into my head. As I was saying, the point is that when you have a large group of "book players" playing in a predictable style, a style that's winning against the little fish, then the better player still, the uber-fish, can actually make more money off the book players than he can off the players at the very bottom of the food chain.

I think this is very clearly shown by the discussion I had with the guy who advocated "thou shalt always continuation raise". For a moderately winning book player, or 2+2er if you like, that might well be the right thing to do most of the time, against the kind of players who regularly call a raise pre-flop with sub-standard holdings. What I was trying to say is that if you take it to a higher level, then you are exploiting the "must continuation bet" mindset and part of that exploitation is not doing it yourself so much.

I also have to go back to the play I'm always banging on about on here, flat calling a raiser in position with a big pair. If the raiser is a bottom-feeding loser who will call a big reraise with 55 or KQ, then yes, just calling with Kings is probably giving up a bit compared to moving in. However, it's making a lot more against the book player who uses his hand-reading "skills" to assume that because you just called you don't have a big hand, whether that book player is the original raiser or someone round the back who's read about squeeze reraising.

Books can only take you so far. Even the best ones, like Harrington, Rodman and Gordon. There's only one book I've ever read that tells you about playing like an uber-fish [1] and that's John Fox. But most books are still worth reading at least once, even the bad ones. Perhaps especially the bad ones. Because you're reading them and thinking "how can I exploit someone who plays like this ?". Particularly someone who's not that bright and will half-understand the concepts and try to apply them too rigidly.

At the end of the day, you can study and practice all you like but playing the same way as half the field is only going to make you so much. Step out of the box. Be the uber-fish.

[1] I have very carefully said "about playing like" and not "how to play like". This is the whole point, a book can't tell you how to do it. But this one tells you about how he does it. The fact that it's set in the world of draw poker is neither here nor there. It's how you think about exploiting other players.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


Trying Too Hard

When you've been playing a while, you think you've seen it all when it comes how badly people are capable of playing. Yesterday, though, I saw a bone-chillingly bad play that I can still hardly believe in the cold light of day. Speed tournament, 22 left, paying 18, though first prize is of course about 20x 10th through 18th. Obviously this is going to be an awful bubble fold but you won't believe how awful. Blinds 2K-4K (or might have been 3-6). Passed to the button with 23K, he puts 13K in. You would think he would just move in but people do this for some reason. The small blind does move in, he has the button covered. Big blind passes and hero goes into the tank. Surely not. Come on, he can't raise to 13K and then pass his last 10K getting 4/1. Oh yes he can !

What was he thinking ? Really, that's not a rhetorical question. It's useful to try to work out why people do the things they do, in order to predict what they (and others like them) will do in the future. Over the last few days I have been reading through Matt Maroon's blog. Matt could well be the most hated person in Internet Poker, and in fact Felicia crowned him as "Most Unpopular Blogger" at least once. I know we'd like to think that Lord Miros holds this title but, face it, he's too damn lazy to be the most anything. Matt backs up his considerable capability to enrage the "sewing circle" of bloggers and 2+2ers with a prodigious workrate, which is why it's taking me days to go through his archives :-)

Hated or not, he clearly knows what he's talking about. And one of his main themes is that when bad players try to play well they become even worse. Anyone who has ever frequented a "strategy" forum for any time knows how the stupidest posters of all are the ones who get poker advice soundbites stuck in their head and try to apply them in every situation. "You should only go broke with Aces". "You can't win the tournament in the first hour but you can lose it". Blah de fucking blah, on and on trying to rationalise their own cowardice. One can only assume that our hero's record is stuck on raising 3 x the big blind because "that's the right amount" and saving chips around the bubble so he can "make the money first and then try to win the tournament". The beauty of it though is that someone chugging beers and playing for a laugh who would just go "an Ace, fuck it, all in" is in fact playing much, much better.

A corollary of this that's also a theme of Matt's blog is that when you really understand how a game works, the "book" players are in many ways the most exploitable of all, and that's something I might come on to later this week. As for the hero, he made the money, but of course he didn't make the final. Still, "you can't go broke making a profit", right ?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Last Call For T-shirts

The Get It Quietly Range

Well, last chance before Vegas. Come on, how could you possibly sit opposite Phil Ivey without wearing a "Different Gravy" T-shirt ? Or TJ Cloutier without offering him your "Don't Worry, I'll Get Out Of It On The Dice" for $100 ? Do it now. The shirts are sent out from Germany and they take a few days to arrive at the best of times ; right now I believe they have some kind of association football tournament starting soon, so best to book early. If you'd like a particular design or text in a different colour, style or shirt then just Email me and I can sort it in an instant.

Finally a quick word about my motivation here ; I think these are funny, and I'd get a kick out of seeing other people wearing my ideas on their shirt. That's it. I'm not out to be a billionaire T-shirt mogul. I read an article the other day where the guy said "I feel that I’m slowly but surely shifting from being a pure professional poker player to more of a poker business man.", as if that was a step upwards. Each to their own, but that's not what I'm trying to do, here or anywhere else.

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