Sunday, January 27, 2008


Things What I Have Learned (3)

I could simply say that I'm finally learning when to put a hand down, but it's a little more subtle than that. After five months of consistent high volume, or high for me anyway, I'm finally recognising the betting sizings and patterns that indicate a very strong hand. Usually Aces pre-flop or the nuts (or at least a set) post-flop. In December I started hearing the alarm bells at the right times and putting my chips in anyway ; now, I'm finally beating my curiosity and/or subconscious desire to say "Look, I ran into Aces again, see how unlucky I am" and just folding.

The real light bulb moment was watching a video by Adanthar where he basically says "There, that's Aces. You should fold Queens here, and probably Kings". OK he's made the video after the tournament has taken place, but even so, having seen a couple of his vids, I trust him enough not to be using the results to make his point. After that, I trawled through a good few hand playbacks on PokerXFactor, basically stopping the action where I thought I saw one of these monster hand patterns and then looking at the result. And it was just incredible how often the tell was correct.

Unfortunately, what I'm not going to do is tell you what the patterns are. The last thing I need is anyone deliberately replicating these against me as a bluff :-). It's not that hard to work them out though. While they're not 100% reliable, they're generally good enough to make you put down your AK pre-flop or your top pair on the flop. If you see anyone making one of these plays without a big hand, you have to note it down immediately ; don't wait until they do it to you, because of course there are a few people around who just do stupid things for no reason. As long as you keep your eyes open you shouldn't mis-read too many of these, because after all, monster hands are quite hard to come by. If someone is making these plays with sub-monster holdings, they'll be doing it a lot more often, and the chances are you'll see them do it to someone else and fold later in the hand or show down some crap, at which point you just make your note.

So anyway, for example, in the Full Tilt $240 tonight I've extracted myself from three hands that I could easily have gone broke on last month : JJ against QQ where previously I might well have smashed all-in pre ; TT with only 9 big blinds against QQ and AA in front of me ; and AK on an Ace high board when there wasn't a showdown but the guy claimed a set afterwards and I certainly believed him. Too often in the past I've used the size of the pot as an excuse to call people down "to be unexploitable" but when people are telegraphing their hands it's your chance to exploit them. Take it.

Hi Andy,
That's something I previously
noticed about your strategy, that
there were times when worrying
about your own exploitability leads
to a big loss on the current hand
(or a statistical problem with how
this kind of hand will go).
I think maybe your "keep an eye
on people and take notes" approach
has an exploitable hole in it, but
it's much smaller than the old one.
This "hole" I perceive is that
a very clever opponent might be
able to deceive you into thinking
they bluff too often, leading you
to not laydown when you should,
or that they don't bluff at all
on those patterns, such that you
do laydown to the big bluff. This
relates to a previous comment I
made about "cards and chips only",
expanded to include the fact that
there is a correct proportion of
times when one should be bluffing.
Ankeny puts it that if you bluff
the right proportion, then your
opponent can't decide whether to
call or lay down, since over time
both decisions will cost them the
same amount.
-John Lupien
he he, i'm you in december. i think i suffer more from the look how unlucky i am syndrome. nice post
Hi Andy,
I assume that's you responding
above, I'll reply as if that's the
I like your response, "look how
lucky/unlucky I am" is really the
kind of feeling that happens during
play, and it is very hard not to
respond to that feeling by playing
differently. However, your analysis
is either good or bad, but you won't
find that out by changing strategies
from something supported by
the analysis to something that
feels better. Obvious that you
already know that, sorry to be
boring and pedantic about it.
The comment paraphrasing
Ankeny relates to how you can
guarantee an optimal-or-better
income from the situation of
making your opponent decide whether
to fold or call. The optimal
condition assumes your opponent
is using an optimal strategy -
if they don't and you do, you
should experience better-than-
optimal results over time.
From the bettor's point of view,
the bluff bets are a kind of
insurance premium, paid out so that
the real bets will be called more
If you have a very high level
of confidence that the opponent
is playing non-optimally in a
particular direction (i.e. never
bluffing, not bluffing often
enough) then you can improve your
cash flow by adapting to that
(never calling without nuts, etc)
but only at the risk of higher
variance and loss of guarantee-able
returns when your assessment of
the opponent turns out to be wrong.
I don't think there is really
a "right answer" here, and I
strongly suspect that the general
level of play is sufficiently
poor that you can normally improve
your profits greatly by non-optimal
play of the right type, but when
you come up against a more clever
population of opponents that all
tends to break down. I'm still
working on the analysis, but the
general trends of my results seem
to support this.
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