Thursday, April 30, 2009


Post Post Match Analysis

Thanks for all the comments on the post below, it seems there are more people lurking on here than I thought :-). Keith also started a thread about it on blondepoker which I was directed to just now, and thanks again for the nice things people said on there. In addition to Flushy below, a couple of people on blonde suggested "click 4-betting" as I believe the kids call it. One commenter said click 4-betting only turns my hand into a bluff if I'm a nit, to which I would say, hello I'm Andy and I play 13/9 :-) [1]

Maybe if I play a few more 100 rebuys I'll have a better idea of the dynamic, for now I freely concede that I could be quite out of touch as to what peoples' ranges actually are in these situations. On reflection I'll change my final recommendation slightly, and say that with [KK-JJ] you can probably mix 50/50 calls and jams. Or in other words, after all that, it doesn't really matter what you do with Jacks. Math is idiotic indeed ...

[1] Or in other words yes, I'm a nit

Update : Tonight I final tabled the 100 rebuy (coughturbocough). At one point someone 3-bet my UTG raise with about the same stacks and I was all set to shove it in his eye when a short stack called behind, so I bailed out. 3-bettor had KTo :-). Soon afterwards the same situation came up on Betfair, I jammed my 77 and ran smack into Aces. Doh !! Against good players ! Not Betfair donks !

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Post Match Analysis

An interesting hand came up in the $100 Rebuy on Pokerstars last night. I thought I'd lay out my "post hand analysis" here as an example of how to go about this. Playing 800-1600/150, the table is 7-handed and we're fairly close to the bubble. I have 75K under the gun and raise to 4200 with JJ. It's passed to the cut-off, an aggressive "ranked" player, who makes it 10600 out of his 84K, and it's folded back to me.

If I look at the stack sizes, it may be barely possible to 4-bet to something like 25K and fold to an all-in, but that's turning my hand into a bluff and I think it's a poor option (mainly because I'll end up folding when he jams AK). So the remaining options are to commit, call or even fold. Folding obviously has an EV of zero from this point.

Let's look at committing. A good starting point is to assume that your opponent will play "perfectly" and this gives you the minimum EV of the play. If I jam 70K we assume that he calls AA-JJ [1] and folds all underpairs - which sounds reasonable. If he has 2 overcards then it's not a big deal whatever he does, because he can call 64K to win 87K, so he needs to be about 42% to make the call, and AKo v JJ is 43%. I'll simply assume he calls AK and folds any other unpaired hand. So if he calls it'll be JJ v [AK, JJ+] for 153K, we'll be 36.5% to win for pot equity of 56K and overall equity at my decision point of -15K. If he folds I'll take down the 18K pot. So I can see that if he folds 50% of the time, the play will be +EV to the tune of 1.5K. [AK, JJ] is less than 3% of his total hands (when I have JJ) so if he's even 3-betting me with 6% of hands (whether the other 3% are TT, 99, AQ etc. or other semi-bluffing hands doesn't really matter) then jamming > folding. With this player and the bubble dynamic (I had been fairly active with open-raises) my judgement is that this is clearly the case and so jam > fold.

If I call it becomes more complicated, but I can still make some assumptions and estimates, and see where that goes. 12% of the time I flop a set, and then it's a question of how much I can make with the hand. Almost certainly one more bet (by check-raising), which should be at least 15K. But I won't always stack him, and don't forget I won't always win even if we get the chips in (for example v AA on the flop he'll still have 10% equity). Say on average I make another 25K off a set. That doesn't sound much but remember I'm out of position against a good player, that's not a great spot to get paid. About half the rest of the time (44%) I flop an overpair [2], and once again it's time for some guesswork. If he does have [QQ-AA] it's going in and I'll be in bad shape ; with 10% chance to suck out the EV of that is around -55K. If he doesn't, again it's a bit nebulous but I might pick up about 20K on average. Remember that a flop like T93 looks good but it's really not that great - what can he pay me off with ? TT and 99 got there and any other underpair can't stack off. Finally, if an overcard comes I'll probably have to just give up. Trying to check-call on say a Q high flop sounds dodgy, without working it out exhaustively. So that gives us the following :

12% flop set, EV +42K (the 17K in the pot when I make the pre-flop call plus 25K more)
11% [3] flop overpair but up against QQ-AA, EV -55K
33% flop overpair which is good, EV +37K
44% flop underpair, EV -6K

Total weighted EV = +8.5K.

What If ?

In the event I did call with the intention of getting it in if I flopped an overpair or a set and giving up if I didn't, and given the assumptions above that looks like the correct play (in the actual hand an Ace flopped and I check-folded the turn after the flop was checked). However, now I've done the hard work, I can learn a lot more by asking a few "what if" questions (skipping the working for these) :

What if he's 3-betting with say 75% semi-bluff hands and 25% [AA-JJ, AK], which could well be the case ? Jamming pre-flop now has an EV of .75*(+18) + .25*(-15) = +10K. Call and see the flop has an EV of +13K.

What if I start with 100K instead of 75K, is jamming still an option ? In this case, he needs to fold 55% of his hands so (perhaps surprisingly) it probably is.

What if I have a smaller pair ? According to my assumptions, if I'm jamming, then 22 is not much worse than JJ ! I can add JJ to his calling range, and 22 is 51% against AK rather than 56% (JJ). But even so, insta-4-bet-jamming 22 is profitable if he folds 55% of his hands. With TT he has to fold 53% of his hands. So with this kind of stack (40-50 BBs) I should open-raise more small pairs with the intention of 4-bet jamming, but only against the right 3-bettor !

What if I have a bigger pair ? Hard to quantify but just calling with AA/KK in particular could be very profitable indeed ; he's liable to put me on a hand more like TT/JJ and by the time he finds out the bad news a lot of chips could be in the middle.

What if I have other unpaired hands ? Well AK just jam ldo, AQs is about as good as 22-88 and all the other suited hands a little less good ; they're close and it really depends very much on his call/fold ratio of hands when I jam.

What if I have some crap ? Can I 4-bet bluff to 25K ? Possibly. The mantra on 2+2 is "never put 1/3 of your chips in pre and then fold", and it's certainly not something you want to do habitually so that it's exploitable, but as a one-off against this kind of player it's an option. It does look pretty strong. I would prefer to have about 15K more chips back just so I can raise a bit bigger ; even making it 25K here leaves almost exactly one pot sized bet for the flop, and the raise is small enough so he can just call it, which would be awkward. I was watching a replay of the 10K SCOOP final that Jude Ainsworth won and there was a certain amount of this kind of thing going on, which was interesting.

What if he outplays me on the flop ? Primarily by not putting any more money in when JJ is good. Now the EV of calling pre goes way down. If he plays perfectly [4] the EV of calling drops to about +2K, if he's 50% semi-bluffing pre (cf +8.5K), and about +6K if it's 25/75 (cf +13K). The better he plays post-flop, the more I should lean towards jamming rather than calling pre (fairly obvious really).

What if he's not a good player but an egg ? Two things. Firstly his pre-flop range is going to be much tighter. If he's an egg with weak-tight stats, he's pretty much never re-raising with TT or worse [5]. Now jamming is just a spew, but calling for set value alone becomes the best option, because he's a) more likely to have an overpair on the flop and b) he's an egg so will pay off more. And of course we can call with any lower pair for set value just as profitably. I need to have the discipline to let it go when I flop an overpair though, which is easier said than done !

What if I'm in position ? If the reraise comes out of the blinds, it's hard to quantify but it's clear enough that this makes calling pre-flop better. I can make more money when I flop a set, or an overpair that's good, and I have a better (albeit still quite small) chance of getting to showdown with JJ if an overcard flops.

What if he does call with TT/99 ? Sounds unlikely but if he views me as a LAG it could be possible. If he also calls with just TT, the EV of jamming increases by up to 5K (in the case where he calls/folds 50/50 pre). Of course this makes jamming a small pair much less attractive. This might come into play if there's some history between me and the particular villain.

If two options are close, which one is lower variance ? If he's 75% semi-bluffing/25% [AK, JJ] then if I jam, I'll be knocked out of the tournament 16% of the time. If I just call, I'm only knocked out if I flop an overpair/set and lose which I reckon is about 10-12% of the time. So calling pre-flop looks like the lower variance play (not really a surprise). Note however that in some circumstances, for example if this is the last tournament of the night that I'm still in, I might actually choose the higher variance play if EV is close !

How Do I Like His Play ?

In a vacuum, he's putting in 10.5K to win 7K, so if I fold at least 40% of the time, it's immediately profitable. That's going to depend how wide my opening range is. Under the gun, even though it's bubble time and I'm playing fairly aggressively, it's not that wide. I think he probably has to find some more equity post flop. What I don't like is that he's pretty much giving me set odds by only making it 6500 more, with 80K "to be won". I like this play a lot more if the reraise is closer to 10% of (remaining stack + pot), so he'd have to make it about 12K with these stacks ; or the raise to 10500 would be good if starting stacks were about 60 rather than 75. The other good thing about the bigger raise is that it pretty much removes 4-bet/fold as a bluff from my options. Of course the downside is that the bigger raise makes 4-bet jamming more attractive.

We can also see that a mix of 25% value/75% semi-bluff (folding the 75% to a jam) makes jamming any pair clearly good for me (the initial raiser). To make this 50-50 I think a semi-bluffing range of [AQ(s), KQ(s), AJs-QJs] is not bad ; remember that these hands only come into play when I call, and I'm mostly going to call with middle pairs like JJ/TT. Of course the play has metagame advantages because now he can get more action when I 3-bet AA/KK. Again note that I can screw this play up most effectively if I just call AA/KK as the initial raiser.


So all in all, we can learn quite a lot from this, hopefully. The "vacuum" play looks something like jam [AK, QQ], call [AA, KK, JJ], jam [AQs, TT-22, maybe some suited broadway] against a LAG opponent most of the time, and call [TT-22] for set value against an egg.

I should do this kind of analysis more often, and I'll put it up on this blog where appropriate. One final point, take a look at how small the equity differences are compared to stacks and pot. We're playing 75K for potentially a 150K pot, and we're talking about differences in equity of around 5K from play to play, and that's going to vary quite a bit according to how accurate (or not) my assumptions are. So don't sweat the close ones, especially if you jam and he turns over AA !

[1] It makes little difference whether we add JJ to that range or not because there's only one combination of it, and the equity is split in that case anyway. We'll put it in there just for completeness.

[2] At one point I worked out how likely various pairs were to be an overpair on the flop, and that's the number for JJ IIRC.

[3] Assuming here that his hand range is 25% AA-QQ, 25% AK, 50% something else.

[4] But still assuming he pays off with an overpair if I flop a set. He isn't a superuser !

[5] And even AK is weighted lower because weaker players usually make a bigger 3-bet with AK

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Almost Enough

When Henry Ford, who was (in real terms and all that stuff) richer than Bill Gates at the time, was asked how much money he needed, he said "Just a little more". And it is hard to stop. But nights like last night certainly help. After feeling really good all week (physically), last night I found myself propping my eyes open with toothpicks at 1am, trying to get out of it in the 100 rebuy on iPoker. And I was playing so badly. In the end of course I donked out 12th for a loss of $4 on the tournament and, more appositely, $2K plus on the evening. Then I couldn't sleep and felt like shit for half the day today.

I'm not going to make any definitive statements as to stopping this or playing that instead, but I am going to cut the poker down over the summer. I really haven't been playing well this year but have still made decent money somehow [1]. It might be a good idea to cut out grinding the workaday tournaments that go on till 3am for a while at least, before I do it all back. What I said here is pretty good for a start, I may try 6-max PLO rather than NL cash but whatever. Working on my golf game for a few months instead isn't going to send me broke.

[1] No wait, LOL donkaments, that's how.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Sick In The Head (1)

The title refers to one of my favourite pieces of online chat, received by the Camel after his opponent made a mystifying all-in call on the flop only to go runner-runner ftw. It seems like a good fit for the post(s) I'm going to make though.

Here's an interesting thread on 2+2 : Negreanu bashes Hellmuth on radio. Negreanu, apparently [1], lays into Hellmuth for "not being good enough to play with" Ivey, Antonius, Durrr etc. Now, anyone who's seen the excellent current series of HSP [2] will spot an immediate degree of irony. My initial psychological read was that this was a clear case of projection, and I was going to leave it at that.

Obviously though, being 2+2 and in particlar NVG, words were said and someone made an offhand comment about how they didn't think DN could beat 10-20 online. Up popped the man himself to immediately throw down a challenge, oh I bet I could beat it, let's play this many hands for this amount of bet.

Also as usual, there followed a lot of back and forth about what the terms should be. I don't think DN came out of that very well with his insistence on 1-tabling, I basically agree with this post FWIW, but that's not really the point I'm focussing on here. The real point is that Phil Hellmuth is a sick man, and not the good kind of sick. Here is a man who is totally running on ego. Totally. It's not so much that he thinks he's better than he is ; it's that he can't take the slightest (even implied) criticism without feeling obliged to attack his "enemy", start reeling off all his achievements, etc. etc. His uncontrollable ego is the source of all the self-aggrandising comments he makes.

These are the comments that Negreanu is "bashing" him for, but the great irony is that as soon as DN feels under threat he reacts in almost exactly the same way, and the cause of this reaction is the very same as the cause of Hellmuth's. E. G. O. I don't mean to single these two guys out but the thread in question, with DN's own comments, is a fantastic example of how this all works. You watch any of these TV programmes and they'll be rife with this kind of thing, riddled with it, and particularly among the American "live elite" who are so rattled by Durrr basically coming in and owning them out of nowhere. And by no means is this restricted to the top players ; it was very noticeable in Dublin in particular how many players of all abilities were so wrapped up in their egos.

I still have a way to go myself (and anyway, saying "I'm the best at having no ego" would be more super-lol than anything above) [3], but seeing the problem is the first step, and it's a very big step.

[1] I know I should listen to the actual interview. But I can't be arsed.

[2] Up until this week's where the new line-up really sucks.

[3] IIRC Matusow said something like this once although my memory could be playing tricks there.

Update : I'm sure some of you have spotted the inconsistency of me saying I was coming off 2+2 and then referencing 2+2 threads in the next two posts ! Well, I thought I could stay on it without getting involved in discussions in the sort of "proving I'm right" style. But in fact I couldn't, so this time I am going to drop off it for a week or two at least. Probably :-)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Live Tournaments - They'll Never Catch On

I'm glad to be back at home after spending most of 5 weeks away (and the rest with no kitchen and a front room full of boxes). I enjoyed Day 1 in Dublin a lot, but that was almost entirely because I was at a congenial table, I was able to chat to Barny Boatman all day and there were quite a few other pros on the table, so the game kept moving and douchery was at a minimum, except for one pathetic stall job on the last hand to avoid taking the blind.

The Day 2 lineup was almost a polar opposite. One guy talking crap to himself, everyone else pretty much silent, and all too much Hollywooding and posturing. All these signs pointed to better value of course, but I failed to get a resteal through and lost the 40-60, gg. I didn't play the E1500 and an hour into the charity event I was almost glad to bust on a flip.

Every year it's more necessary for someone to stand up with a microphone at the start of these events and say "The TV table's over there. The rest of you are not on TV. So stop acting like you are and get on with the fucking game". Tillllllllllt. Considering the fight, flight or freeze options, I'm going with flight I think. I have very little desire to play live MTTs now and going to the WSOP looks like a 20-1 shot at least. I can just about cope with live poker on a good table where you can talk to people and keep the game moving along, but once the sunglasses/baseball cap/30 seconds to fold every hand crowd roll in I'm almost grinding my teeth.

The overwhelming majority of live tournament players are sick - but not the good kind of sick. Poker has a way of bringing out the worst in peoples' egos, and frankly as a race we're sick enough as it is in that sense without poker making it worse ! I shall expand on this in due course :-)

Update : The guy who stalled the last hand of the day has started a thread about it on 2+2. It will be interesting to see where that goes.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Made Day 2 !!!!1!1!11

In the Irish Open that is. For the first time in a while in a decent live comp. I'm pretty much freerolling after a hand in I think level 2 where I limped UTG with 44, caused a limpfest, flopped a set, and then my opponent turned a straight but let me off for about 2K. It was strange because he played well after that ; when I spoke to him briefly at the end of the day he immediately said that he had played that hand quite badly. After having to fold QQ on a T high board on the river (his line was a super-weird flop raise, turn check behind, river raise) I was down to 6K.

After that though I never showed a hand as I chipped up without running into anything big enough to call me, and from a high point of 16K I ended the day with 12.5, blinds will be 400/800-50 today. 15BBs, right in the sweet spot :-). It was another fun day, albeit a fairly tough table in regards to the standard of play. Today we'll be gambling LDO, and if we catch a double up or two then it's game on. If I'm really lucky I'll make it to the TV table, then I'm bound to run good. You should be able to find a live stream somewhere via

Update : Busto within the first level today, I squeezed with 88 to move up to 17, then shortly afterwards I tried a re-steal against the same initial raiser, and he called me with A9. Good call, wrong man for me to try it against :-). I was still super-live with Q6s but somehow didn't get there.

I've also decided to come off 2+2 for a while, see if I prefer that, I expect I will, inasmuch as I care at all about anything on there now the ratio of annoyance : amusement is about 4:1 (or maybe 9:2), I mean really, I don't care about 99.9 percent of the people on there and should pay more attention to myself and my friends, which is hopefully what I'm going to do (similar thoughts apply to QPR and football but that's hardly on topic in this blog !).

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


Asking The Wrong Question

Moderately interesting thread on 2+2 here :

What can the Bellagio do to get their tourney players back

Basically the Bellagio has had puffballs blowing through it for the prelims to the WPT 25K at the end of the month. A $5K event attracted 27 runners and paid 3 places. Obviously there are a lot of contributory factors to this, the economy LDO, and it's not really any concern of mine anyway. Unfortunately the guy who started this thread is the majorly tiltworthy Chainsaw.

If I ever do call myself the King of the Nits, it can only ever be a joke because this guy is the fucking Sith Lord Emperor of the Nits in Perpetuity throughout the Universe. He's that guy who's always bending the TD's ear for more levels, smaller antes and longer rounds, all for "the good of the game", or in actuality to give him more time to sit there waiting for Aces.

In the end I cracked and had to wade in, although as you can see I did make an effort not to be too personal. I soon regretted this as another 2+2 nemesis of mine, Todd Terry, soon had me up in front of the beak for the admittedly vague statement "winning players prefer to play online irrespective of structure". If I had inserted the crucial word "should" it would have been much closer to what I meant, so fair enough I suppose, but really, if anyone can't beat online tournaments for more than they beat live, per hour, then they're doing it wrong (online that is).

Which is all by the by. As Chainsaw & co are actually at the Bellagio and I'm not, I am forced to concede that they are more entitled to talk about changing structures and whatnot. The point I really want to make is that the thread is totally asking the wrong question. Have another look. He's basically saying "How can we make things change so that everything is back the way it was before ?". A much better question would be "How should I adapt to the current changes ?", and indeed, teaching a man to fish rather than giving him a fish to eat, "How should I adapt to all changes in the poker environment on an ongoing basis ?".

And those are questions we can't answer in one line. Except in a negative sense. In that one wrong way to adapt is by stalling on the bubble in online tournaments. You can take the nit out of the Bellagio ...

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


March Round-Up

Well March was a bit of a write-off in the end, as expected. I dropped £3500 in the Vic (sample size 4 tournaments) and $5500 online (sample size a barely more significant 45 tournaments). As I mentioned below, the live tournaments were surprisingly enjoyable [1], albeit not the value they used to be. At one point on my immediate left (in the PLO8) I had Messrs Shoreman, Sunar, Parker and Wernick. On the plus side, I made £120 playing cash. That should iron out those tournament swings !

No change to the plan going forward. Play when I feel like it. That means saying No to "I'm going out tomorrow, so I should play tonight" and equally No to "well I'm definitely playing tomorrow so I should give it a miss today". I can change that plan if I need money. Right now I don't, even after spending it like a teenage Arab for two weeks. Which I should do more often. As for the WSOP, when the time comes, if I want to go, I'll jump on a plane. Till then I won't play any satellites. Unless I want to. EZ life.

Of course we can only take such a hedonistic position if we're playing entirely off our own shilling, so I will be off to Dublin on a jolly next week for the Irish Open. I think I can handle the imposition though :-)

[1] Not an April Fool. Who could compete with Newcastle United anyway ?

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