Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Break Out Of The Mould

It's always strange how an issue seems to pop up in two or three places simultaneously. A kind of synchronicity. No doubt this is just a perceptual trick the brain plays on itself, but anyway. Yesterday I was commenting on Pete B's blog, under the post titled 'Equity'. I was basically agreeing with Pete that the "reverse chip equity" factor in poker tournaments is usually overstated by its adherents. Then just now I was having a flick through Arnold Snyder's website when I read this :

Reverse Chip Value Theory for Poker Tournaments : Good Math, Bad Logic.

Ooh, and this one :

The Implied Discount: New Insights Into Optimal Poker Tournament Strategy.

The first one is pretty long, and I admit I skimmed bits of it, but if you're interested it's worth taking the time. I don't agree with everything Snyder says but, on balance, I think he has much the best of this and is more or less right. I have criticised Sklansky's "good bet today or better bet tomorrow" example in TPFAP before (god knows where, I used to get around). Similarly even at the very start I thought that Malmuth's tournament advice in Gambling Theory And Other Topics, which he based entirely on reverse chip theory, was dodgy. Now I reckon it's horrible, and potentially very costly.

I might as well round up what I was going to say about the Snyder book as a whole. "Break Out Of The Mould" is one of the chapter titles BTW. Another example of synchronicity, I was just talking to Frode about this on IM, although seeing as I brought up the subject it's not all that spooky. Frode said -

"What I find fascinating about a lot of these books is that they all seem to give you a recipe of how to play the world series. While most people really need a way to beat the 100 rebuy in the Sportsman or the 300 freezeout during the festivals."

Spot on, and this is what Snyder gives you in the book. In fact, he clearly states "If you try to use these strategies in a $10K tournament, you're on your own". This is all designed to work in the daily tournaments you find in Caesar's, The Orleans, The Venetain, etc., and similar all around the world. Even Luton and Gutshot :-). On reflection, I think there's a great deal of merit to many of his ideas and I will be trying them out on my trip.

On the downside, while his heart is in the right place regarding short stack play, the execution does lack a little. In fact, he recommends calling all-in from any position with some very weak hands when under 10BBs, which is flat-out wrong. He under-estimates the effect of position on short-stack play, particularly the number of players still to act. To digress slightly, as a general principle, if you would move in on the button with 10 BBs with a particular set of hands, you should move in with the same set of hands with four players behind you and 5 BBs (if it is passed to you in each case). It's the stack size multiplied by the number of players behind you that determines how many hands you move in with. Almost every strategy I have read fails to realise this, with the exception of Sklansky's in the No-Limit Theory And Practice book. Seeing as you're here, the best stuff is in this blog :-).

I was concerned that maybe a sizeable proportion of players were already onto this stuff, but perhaps I read too much from the small sample of intelligent bloggers that I actually keep up with. No doubt there are hundreds of goons out there blogging away about how they finally found AK and some donk raiser knocked them out with 97s. It's just that if I ever do stumble across one, he doesn't make the cut onto my Favourites list.

For a while I thought that the best days of live tournaments were behind us. Just imagine playing 10 or 15 years ago knowing what we know today. Arglglglglglgl. However, it's very hard to just read this stuff and do it. Most of us, myself included, have to assimilate it through experience over a long period of time. We can't all be Brandi Hawbaker [1], with 7 tournaments behind us, blithely planning how to spend the third million that we'll make from our $12K WPT bankroll. Now sadly reduced to $43, a toaster and some Bebe tops, whatever they are. I can't wait to get out there and do it (poker that is ... no that's worse, I'll just shut up) on this trip, but I must remember that it won't happen overnight, and that bitch goddess variance rules over all in the short term !

[1] Thank Christ

"Now sadly reduced to $43, a toaster and some Bebe tops, whatever they are."

You bastard, next time put a spoiler warning, i'm only up to page 86, no mention of the toaster yet!
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