Thursday, August 30, 2007


Book Report

Professional No-Limit Hold-Em Vol. 1 (Flynn/Mehta/Miller)

I really liked this book. A lot. They framework they set up here is totally in tune with the way I like to think about poker. In brief, you try to set up the right kind of pre-flop pot size for your hand. Of course in the past I was aware that you don't want to put more than 5% of your stack in pre-flop with suited connectors, that's fairly obvious. What I didn't realise was how bad it is to put in exactly 3-5% of your stack with a "big pair" hand, meaning a hand that's most likely going to flop top pair or an overpair without too much prospect of further improvement. Routinely raising to 3 BBs with these hands is just asking for trouble with a certain stack size, which is around 100 BB - coincidentally the stack size that you would commonly buy in for in a NL cash game, and often your starting stack for at least some part of the early stages of big buy-in tournaments.

So I've been playing some rinky-dink NL cash games ($100 buyin on Full Tilt) and I have never felt so comfortable with this kind of stack. I've also made $400, which is of course almost irrelevant over the small sample size but it does pay for the book :-). Of course the book is aimed at cash games but I am sure that this approach will help me a lot in bigger live tournaments, like the one in Luton I botched so terribly this month. Just one more point, Pete B didn't seem to like the book at all on his blog, so I welcome any comment from him, either here or when I catch up with him at the weekend.

Sit 'n Go Strategy (Moshman)

There's nothing earth-shatteringly new in this one, it's just one of those books that gave me a sore neck from agreeing with it (with occasional differences regarding flop play which may just be stylistic). It's by far the best exposition of short-stack play I've read, and of course that can be applied to MTTs just as well as single tables. There are a few points in there that I've made on this blog (playing the micro-stack, not raising into short-stacked big blinds) and now seen in print for the first time. He could have gone a bit further with it, but in the event I'm glad he didn't. This is already #11 on the bestselling list of poker books on Amazon [1] and every player who gets clued up by this book is going to be one less weak-passive spot to exploit, albeit I'm not spending much time playing SNGs now.

Your Worst Poker Enemy (Schoonmaker)

Readable and provided a couple of useful snippets, like pre-identifying the things that annoy you so that you can be more self-aware when it's happening. Triggers, that's the word. My own tend to be slow play (I mean physically slow, not checking the nuts) and table coaches FWIW. Worth reading but not a "must have".

What strikes me from the first two books is really the quality of the better books that are out there now. For sure there's a lot of dross as well, but the best ones are just so good compared to the works of, say, Cloutier and Hellmuth that it's embarrassing. Even Harrington (currently #s 1, 5 and 6 on Amazon) I think is left behind in terms of big-stack play (PNLHE 1) and short-stack play (SNGS). I personally think that cash games and SNGs will continue to toughen up as they have been over the last year or two, whereas MTTs won't. If anything I think a lot of the play in MTTs is even worse than it was in 2005 (possibly excepting special cases like the bigger Stars tournaments). Both the promise of the potential big win and the buzz when it happens keep bad players in the game longer. Donkaments they certainly are, and anyone who is happy to celebrate that fact should still be LOL-ing all the way to the bank for a while yet.

[1] I expect this is measured by sales over a short recent period rather than total cumulative sales, but even so.

Update : The Paper muses on a similar theme here. Via Hugo's blog roundup at Pokerverdict.

Serendipitously, the first two are a bundle on Amazon...
Oh the slooooow players, yes! I bet that ranks as the top bugbear of a whole load of players. The ones who timeout in early position when they've flopped the mortal nuts, hoping for some dimwit to think they've been disconnected and bet into them. The ones who take ten seconds over every decision, thus avoiding "tells". And the ones who pause meaningfully when they've hit bottom pair with 82o and hope they can manufacture a checkdown to showdown.

Scum all of them, and they put me on tilt so easily. Man I am such a poor poker player!
For sarcasm to work, you have to be sure you understand what your target was saying. I was referring to live play. So, try again. Or better still, don't bother.

I'd take your advice only I'm mildly horrified that you thought I was being sarcastic. Horrified because I enjoy reading your blog, so apologies for any unintended offence caused.

Anyway you're right I didn't realise you were talking about live play.
Heh, sorry, I'm terrible at sarcasm - both doing it and recognizing it :-). No offence taken.

Here's a little poser on stack sizes for you. How large a stack do you need to avoid getting felted with AA against a flopped set? Let's assume you raised to 3 BBs, got one caller of average tightness/aggressiveness, and are out of position, and that the flop is unremarkable.

Intuitively I feel that going broke with 20 BBs is unavoidable while stacking off 100 BBs is excessive but narrowing this gap is the challenge. Do these books answer this question, either directly or indirectly?

Heh, PNLHE1 is pretty much based around this question ! That's the line they take. It depends on various things (position, pre-flop action, opponent tendencies). In the situation you describe, I would think about 7-8 times the preflop pot, which would be around 50 BB ?

I think my problem is that I switch off and use this as an excuse to stop thinking post-flop, even when I get min-raised which appears to be the touch of death in online NL cash. I've given my $400 back, but I do think I've learned a fair bit.

I read PNLHE and on first reading was very disappointed indeed. I felt that all the SPR gumpf was meant to sound like the cash equivalent of tournament M. Actually it's a bit of a waste of time, merely a gimmick or buzz word to sell the book imho.

I raise almost every hand I intend to play and don't object to varying bet sizing at all. I think though that cunningly adjusting SPR in the manner suggested will actually just let my opponent know when I have suited connectors and when I have aces.

Sure, you can randomise this adjustment to make it harder to read, but if a big raise usually - apart from one in every five for example - means a big hand it is still pretty exploitable.

I would agree that one reading is not enough to dismiss all the concepts they discuss, but the patronising and overly repetitive tone makes a second reading currently unappealing.

Getting stacked by a set is a tough thing to avoid with an overpair, but I think there are two main defences for this.

Firstly, analyse the texture of the board and combine that assessment with specific knowledge of your opponent; escape is then sometimes possible. As these hand reading skills and experience takes time to develop I'd advise buying in short at first to reduce the hit of such occurances.

I think it's impossible to get away every time, but remember you will also be the stacker rather than stackee your fair share of the time. If you can get more of your foe's stack on average and get away more often you will end up way ahead.


As you discovered with your experiences with AK, having an easy decision does not necessarily make it the right decision.

I was trying to think of an analogy, and it struck me that it's not dissimilar to these "rebranding" campaigns that you get.

The conversation in the boardroom goes something like:

"Look, there's three possibilities. Either we aren't getting our message across properly, or our product is shit, or our staff are shit. If it's either of the last two, there's nothing that we can do about it short-term, so let's assume the former."

Which is why you get rebranding campaigns rather than strategic moves that address a company's funadmental problems (crap product, crap staff).

This is recreated in the short-stack situation.

"If I had a big stack, I'd have a difficult decision here. But I don't, I've only got a small proportion of my original stack left, so my decision is forced".

It doesn't make it any more likely that you are ahead with your AK. What changes is the reward to risk ratio.

Unfortunately, opponents aren't stupid. They are quite likely to change the proportion of the time that they bluff against a "forced" call than they are against a player with a difficult decision.

On the getting stacked off with an overpair. Best is to have specific knowledge of your opponent. But also helpful is your experience of the site. If people are folding to your continuation bet more than 90% of the time, then it's reasonable to assume that a check-raise on a rag flop is usually not a bluff. If you get stacked off, its serves you right.

But if on this particular site they are check-raising you on that kind of flop 50% of the time, then you are going to make money in the long run by going to a showdown with your overpair. Some of the time your opponent will have his set, but it's quite acceptable to get stacked off here.

So: 1) Player's tendency but, if no info available:
2) Style on site at that time of day.

Thanks for sharing.
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