Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Hasta La Vista Sklansky

So, I thought I would spin up three cheap tournaments this afternoon. I reckoned that Arnie's "Formula" probably wouldn't work online but I would play them as if they were live tournaments, for practice. So I start ducking and diving, laying down a few bluffs that I normally wouldn't, and so on. And how do you like these bananas :

Party $50, 5th/100 for $350. I busted with one of my own tried and tested allin bluffs, the steal reraise with 64s. Unfortunately the button had 99.

Pokerstars $20, 12th/835 for $110. This was Titmus' fault. Chip leader with 14 left. Within 10 minutes of idle conversation with the arch-bok, I had been raised off two pots and knocked out with KK against AQs.

Full Tilt $24, 2nd/450 for $1680. Kerching. I ground the guy down heads up and when he smashed it all in with me looking at AKs I thought it was a winner. Unfortunately he had 22 and it "held up". Then I started having connection problems and tried to end it quickly one way or the other. Successfully.

All in all though, $2000 and I wouldn't even have played them if it wasn't for the book (cost : $30 including postage). It's fair to say that I did suck out a few times, of course, and I had forgotten quite how badly people play at this level, but basically Arnie rules. With his early doors formula and my short stack stylings, we could be onto something. Hasta la vista, Sklansky. There's a new Governor now.

I think that Snyder's line is logically flawed. I can see where he's coming from, and I think that his recommendations might well work in practice, as the game stands at the moment, (and this, one might say, is all that matters), but I still think that the line is flawed.

It all starts with the premise, "as a skilled player".

Snyder seems to accept the reverse chip equity model if all players are equal.

However, if he says "you, as a skilled player, are different", then he needs to take the other three scenarios into account and state what the situation is for each of them.

a) you are a skilled player and you have a short stack
b) you are an unskilled player with a large stack
c) you are an unskilled player with a short stack.

Specifically, it's no use saying that, if you are a skilled player, your chips are worth more as part of a big stack, because this could be attributed to your skill as well as to the size of your stack.

What has to be shown is that the skilled player benefits more from having a big stack than he does a short stack. In other words, he has to show that the skilled player's advantage over the unskilled player is greater if both players have large stacks than it is if both players have small stacks.

Similarly, what is Snyder's line on unskilled players? Is it to their benefit to play tightly, because the reverse chip equity principle works MORE for them? Snyder does not address these points.

A second logical flaw is that he combines the "skilled player" line with the more significant point that having a large stack causes other players to play differently. This has nothing to do with your ability as a player. I could be a donkey, but if I've hit it lcuky and have a ginormous stack, then even skilled players are less likely to try to steal my big blind,

I think it's important to keep these two lines of thought separate, because the second argument relates to how other people react to your stack, whereas the first relates to how you use your stack.

I'm wary of any line that starts with "because you are a better than average player", because it could equally be argued that the first premise is irrelevant (the large stack) while the second premise (that you are a skilled player) is all that matters.

However, on the "a large stack feeds on itself" line (in other words, that other people react to it in a way that works to your advantage) I am in broad agreement. In sit'n'goes, I suspect that it's a significant factor that completely wipes out the "less is worth relatively more" line.

I think I am saying that's all that matters :-).

Yes, his reasoning is haphazard. In fact, there's another article on his website that contains many flaws along the lines of those you point out here. But I am sufficiently convinced to believe that starting off quickly and aggressively is at least only slightly worse than "normal" tight play in the early stages.

Furthermore, any EV disadvantage is probably offset by ancillary benefits that he never even mentions. I can think of at least three off the T of my H :

1) The time factor, in that if you play in a way which maintains your positive expectation from a tournament but decreases the average time spent playing it, that's good.

2) Playing more actively early on gives you a better chance of being paid off if you do find/hit a big hand when the blinds are still relatively small and

3) It's great fun (actually he does mention this in passing).

People do sometimes reach the right conclusions by the wrong route. The way I see it, reverse chip equity does exist but it is so small in the early and middle stages of tournaments as to be swamped by actual playing factors. Even when it is significant, as for example on the bubble in a Sit and Go, playing factors can also be very large and it's often wrong to make decisions based on RCE alone.

All in all, it's very striking to note how often Snyder reaches the same conclusions as Chen/Ankenman, in fact I might post about that at some point, and believe me their reasoning is rock-solid.

Ahh, the time factor.

I had meant to mention this, although it brings in the concept of opportunity cost and the metagame, which it might be wise to keep separate from Snyder's arguments.

But it's an important point. I tend to play tight in the early stages of the tournies I play online. This is because it is not my "money-making" game, and I like to watch TV, or read a book, for the first hour of the tournament.

In other words, it's a conscious tactic. If I were giving the tournament my entire attention (or, indeed, looking to have 'fun') then I might take the active line as well. I hadn't really thought about this, because there's "attention factor" as well as "time factor".

These are way outside Snyder's original points, so perhaps we could have a closer look at them in the New Year.

For me, after playing 1000 hands of limit and then relaxing with a small tourney, a coffee, some biscuits and a book/DVD, 'inactive' play early on is a plus. For someone focusing on the tournament, more active play would be a plus.

But what about the serious tournament player who is multi-tabling? Here it's tougher to decide. If he can get through hour 1 of a tournament paying it no attention at all, then he can play more tournaments simultaneously.

None of these lines have any relevance to b&m tournies in Vegas, so Snyder can't be blamed for not addressing them.

I've done okay in the tournaments that I've played in LV, but I suspect that this is down to the opponents being so bad. It's possible that I would do better following the Snyder formula, and I'm in no way dogmatic either way about this. I might give it a go in March.

BTW, speaking of time factors, I was thinking of playing a "deliberate alternate" strategy as well. Most of the rebuy and add-on tournies in LV let you sit down late. So, you wait until the rebuy period is about to end (well, you don't even turn up until then) and sit down, promptly rebuying and adding on. Time saved, one hour. Advantage lost? Probably nil.

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