Wednesday, April 30, 2008


April Wrap And Other Stuff

Well, April was a poor effort on my part. Only 40 hours, 72 tournaments for $18K total buyins . Woeful ! On the upside, I cleared $62K lol. Two reasons for the low volume, one I have recognised that "winner's tilt" is something that affects me (hard life) and so after a really big score I'm better off taking some time out rather than doing $3K here and there without really thinking about it. Two, after coming through my heat in the Party Poker WPO IV thing last Friday (report here), I thought it would be better to have a break from online, partly to avoid late nights and be fully rested up for the semi tomorrow (and hopefully the final on Friday of course), because the heat was a bit draining. Partly as well because online tournaments are subtlely different from live and I think it's best to be in one mode or the other as much as possible.

This last point leads me onto my "other stuff". At the tail end of the Monte Carlo thread on 2+2, some interesting conjecture came up. Stealthmunk stated that he thinks that big cash players like durrr and stinger (who isn't 21 yet and hasn't played any live tournaments at all) have a better expectation in live tournaments than most of the 2+2 MTT grinders (shaniac and shaundeeb were given as examples but I think it could have been any of about 20-30 people). Challenges were posted and stealthmunk basically offered to crossbook at 2:1 [1]. Now I wouldn't go as far as 2:1, but on the whole I take stealthmunk's side of this. Playing 30BBs or less in a tournament isn't teh rocket science, as hard as some live pros make it look, and with the good information out there (like Kill Everyone), I'm sure smart guys like durrr, stinger etc. can pick that up in no time. On top of that, they're going to be much better with a deep stack, no doubt. The reason I don't go as far as 2:1 is that in most tournaments you aren't deep stacked for long enough to make that big a difference. The other subtle point is that when you're playing online MTTs most of the time, it's easy to sort of carry your online style of play into live, where it's still effective but perhaps not as effective as other styles might be. It's like the unexploitable (online) vs exploitative (live) dilemma. A lot of the time in live play you can play in a manner that would be exploitable by a good player but this isn't a problem because your opponents suck [2], and in practice you want to be exploiting them. So what I'm saying is that cash players might actually have an advantage because they're not playing online MTTs all the time.

Carrying on with this theme, Gus Hansen's "Every Hand Revealed" arrived this week and I have devoured it eagerly. It is an absolutely fascinating book. I wasn't planning to play many NL tournaments at the WSOP this summer but now I'm tempted to play a few in the style of Gus. It would be a lot of fun if nothing else. Out of laziness here's the brief review I posted on 2+2 a couple of days ago :

I found it a fascinating read. Gus plays quite differently from the conventionally accepted style. In particular, he defends his blinds a hell of a lot, and also bets into the raiser very frequently. His continuation bet frequency is high ; at one point he talks about keeping it down to "only 80%" for metagame reasons !

It's very interesting how you can approach this book in two completely different ways. One : how to play like Gus. As above, pretty much. I also noted while working through it that Gus practically never makes the big bluff. Semi-bluffs, the odd double barrel, but no total air all-ins. Gus confirms this in his afterword.

Two : how to play against Gus. Reading this book reinforced my own idea of how to play against small-ballers like Gus, Hellmuth, Negreanu, etc. Four words : Re. Raise. Pre. Flop. Three things these guys are trying to achieve with frequent small opens : gain the initiative ; keep the pot relatively small pre-flop ; narrow opponent's range according to whether (and how) he calls or reraises. Deny them all of these by simply reraising with all your best 15-25% of hands (depending on position) and folding the rest. And make it a proper 3-bet, at least 3x. If they four-bet, or call and bet into you on the flop, do your best. If they call/check, auto-continuation bet.

Similarly if you open and one of these guys calls, I would tend to auto-continuation bet the flop, and check the turn where appropriate. Check-raising the turn OOP is a powerful weapon. If you keep your line as consistent and unexploitable as possible for as long as possible, it cuts down their ability to read your hand. I was surprised how often Gus simply checks and gives up when he misses (after calling pre-flop). In part he can do this because many opponents check behind and allow him to take it later.

In the end I found myself agreeing with some of the friends Gus quoted, saying why the hell would you give anyone all this information as to how you play. Approached in the right way, this book is basically a primer in how to play against Gus and similar opponents. Given this, if you're playing the WSOP this summer, I think it's a must read. Even like durrrr and westmenlo, etc, would find it worth $20 for a look inside Gus's head ! All in all, strongly recommended.

[1] This means that stealthmunk would pick, for example, durrr and the other bettor would pick say shaniac. Some percentage X is agreed. If shaniac cashes, stealthmunk pays opponent 2X x shaniac's cash, conversely if durrr cashes, opponent pays stealthmunk X x durrr's cash.

[2] If you're playing a live tournament and your opponents don't suck, you probably shouldn't be playing at all.

Friday, April 11, 2008


Harrington On Volatility

The Harrington cash books arrived this week and having skimmed through them they are a bit underwhelming TBH. Definitely worth buying, don't get me wrong, I've always said that a book with any useful information in it at all is going to be worthwhile providing you're good enough to sift what's useful from what's not and what's downright unhelpful. But a lot of the specific hand advice isn't really new to me because I've picked most of it up through watching training videos online.

My favourite parts of the books are the more general discussions. There's an excellent interview with Bobby Hoff, and some interesting thoughts on the loose-aggressive style. During that section, if I may take the liberty to quote directly, Dan says :

"Most people, in any endeavour that blends skill with some sort of randomizing agent .. that causes huge volatility, want to somehow extract the skill and its rewards, and leave the volatility behind"

and then "Courting volatility is inherently profitable. The more volatility you can endure, the higher your expected return in a skill/chance arena ... In poker, the volatility is extreme, and many, if not most, players are willing to pay a little bit to reduce it. At any table, the long-term collectors of this 'volatility tax' are the loose-aggressive players".

All spot on, but what I think is most interesting is that this advice would have been even better placed in the tournament books, which tend too much to the passive for my liking. The dichotomy (ooh) in tournaments is that it helps a lot to consider, and try to reduce, volatility when you choose which tournaments to play in, but, once you're in a tournament, you should be embracing a lot of high-volatility situations when you are liable to profit at the expense of opponents who are trying to avoid risk.

Anyway here's me courting volatility to good effect last Sunday :

Ship it for $64K. And a nice piece in the PartyPoker blog :

Spider's the $300K Man

I'm glad I made someone's job easier there :-). It would have been hard work thinking up that many puns for "eposss" or "salue1111".

So that sets me up nicely for the WSOP which I'm really looking forward to now. Before that I'll have this TV thing at the end of the month, which I've slightly cooled on, but what the hell, I'm in it now, it should be good experience if nothing else ; I'm just going to play my game and if Greekfish & co don't like it that's not going to lose me any sleep. "He's certainly courting volatility with that play Jesse". I don't think.

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