Friday, July 28, 2006

Projection is a psychological mechinism where people project their own traits onto others.

When projecting you tend to see your own negative traits in the people you interact with. It's a common human behavior.

And it has a lot of implication for poker.

People who bluff too much tend to also call too much. They do it because they project. They know they bluff too much and the fear that other's do also. It's an important human trait to keep in mind when you're thinking about a thin value bet. If they tend to bluff to much, make that thin value bet every time.

Projection is a psychological mechinism where people project their own traits onto others.

When projecting you tend to see your own negative traits in the people you interact with. It's a common human behavior.

And it has a lot of implication for poker.

People who bluff too much tend to also call too much. They do it because they project. They know they bluff too much and the fear that other's do also. It's an important human trait to keep in mind when you're thinking about a thin value bet. If they tend to bluff to much, make that thin value bet every time.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Tonite I thought I'd try another one of those $10 5 handed sit and goes on WPEX. Even an idiot has a 40% chance of cashing in those things. So I figure I can cash at least 1 out of 3.

I started out lucky. I got the button first hand. Dealt a Q7s, it was folding to me. Blinds 10/15 and I made it 60. Blinds folded. So I started out ahead.

I think in the small buyin larger field events you get a lot of playrs who just want to gamble it up the first few hands. But I think that's not so in the small field events players tend to give up more easily in those first few hands.

It didn't do me any good. I busted in fifth place.

That's enough for tonite. I'll do it again tomorrow.

Spam and strategic thinking

Some clown finially started spamming the blog, so I've changed the default to moderation if you aren't a member. I'm not even sure what it requires to be a member, some kind of registration I guess. But if you intend to post comments, and I wish you would, go ahead and register.

I'm not going to delete comments that aren't spam. Agreeing with me, or even being nice to me, isn't a requirement for a comment to be approved and stay.

Here's some more comments on strategic thinking

Behavior and Attitude, Thinking and Action
Henry Mintzberg is a well known management theorist who has done a lot of research on strategic areas of business planning. Mintzberg maintains that we think in order to act; but we also act in order to think. This is consistent with the general theory from social psychology that our attitudes are derived from our actions, not the other way around.
During the play of a hand, there’s an information exchange. Our actions often determine the information we receive and this can be more important than having our actions determined by the information we receive. In poker part of strategy development is probing to test out opponent’s reaction. Our deciosns should be jointly determined by their value in explotation of information we have, and the value of gathering more information. It’s a constant balancing act..
Part of the purpose of your actions is to gather information so that you can focus future action more tightly on directly achieving your objecftives. Strategic behavior isn’t totally proactive, we do react to our opponents, but we do so in a planned way, we anticipate his actions and plan our reactions

Monday, July 17, 2006

Tit and Tat

Ed Miller wrote an interesting article on what he calls "Macro and Micro Poker".

He defines macro as a set of winning principles.

He defines micro as a process of optimazation within the framework defined by the macro principles.

Then he goes about explain that it's more important to think in macro terms than in micro terms.

Well, duh?

Of course it is. The macro terms is what defines the micro process. In his definition the macro is the model that the micro is going to optimize. Should you know what the model is before you try to optimize that model? Well, I guess so.

These aren't two seperate approaches that are to be contrasted. They're one in the same. The way he defines it the macro is the overall model and the micro is the computational details of getting an exact solution to the model. I recently wrote a couple of posts in my mathandpoker blog on the contrast between general mathematical ideas and computational math. Although not exactly the same as Miller's Micro and Macro distinction, it's similar.

And it's got the same kind of "duh" to it. Of course formulating the overall mathematical model is more important than finding an exact solution.

Interestingly enough though a lot of people don't agree with Miller and I about that. A lot of people think it's better to formulate a model that's easy to solve because it's important to be able to have that exact solution. I happen to think it's more important to formulate a model which captures the essence of the situation than it is to be able to solve it.

This is starting to get more philisophical on the topic of math modeling than I intended for this blog. I'd started out this post intending to go in an entirely different direction. I had intended to actually say something specific about no limit hold'em. Maybe I'll pick up on that other direction some other day.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Strategic Thinking

Strategic thinking is smart thinking. In any sort of competitive endeavor, and poker is a competitive endeavor, you start with formulating an objective. In poker this objective is to win money. Then you develop a strategy. A strategy is a path that will lead you to that objective. But, the path isn’t going to be a straight road. It’s going to be bumpy and will have some sharp turns. You’ll have opponents who’ll be building their own road and sometimes removing the materials from your road to use in building theirs.

Throughout most of this book I’ll be assuming that the objective is to win money. But, it’s important to recognize that’s not the objective of many players. They often think that’s their objective, but the reality is that what they really want to do is not be the first one to bust out of a tournament, to finish in the money in a tournament (which isn’t the same thing as making money), or to make their money last all night, or to not look foolish, or to win enough to pay the rent, of whatever. If you can recognize these kinds of non-functional objectives in your opponents then you can profit from exploitation of that.

Before you plot a path to an objective you have to consider both the strengths and weaknesses of your opponents. That’s strategic thinking. They’ll be using their strengths to try to block your path to your objective, but you can use their weaknesses to find a shortcut to your objectives.

Strategic thinking is proactive thinking, not reactive. You will react. But, your reactions are planned. You can use strategic thinking to anticipate problems and solve them before they happen, examining the pros and cons of various moves in order to identify the best path to success. You have to anticipate their reactions to each of your actions or potential actions and plan your response.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Short handed play

I made some comments recently in a thread on short handed poker games that I think are worthwhile. Bascially I'm suggesting that you might need to adjust to the change in the way other players behave but you don't need to adjust to the number of chairs at the table.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Big Hand of the Night.

I was playing in a 1/2 Blind NL game at Cherokee, Tulsa last night. It's a $200 max buyin game. We were 6 handed when this hand came up. The three relevant players were Seat 1, Seat 3, and Seat 5.

I was seat 5, the small blind. I had about $1,000 in chips.

Seat 1 had been in the game about an hour. We had gotten down to 6 handed and he and 2 other players came from a broken table to fill us back up. He brought a lot of chips with him. He seemed to be somewhat tight and tended to overplay marginally strong hands at times. But basically a straightforward player. He had about $950 in chips.

Set 3 had been in the game a while. He had bought in for $100 and had gone busted and rebought 3 times that I know of for sure. He'd recently won a couple of big pots and had a little over $300. He was very erratic, overplayed almost every hand he played, and he played a lot of them. Bet too much, called to much, chased too much. When he made a large overbet he wasn't bluffing, and it kind amazed me how many calls he'd get from people who just assumed that since he was usally weak that he must be weak when he was betting $150 into a $60 pot.

Anyway, Seat 1 was UTG and opened for $12. I took that to mean he had some kind of a hand. Probably in the range JJ-AA or AQ, AK. Maybe AJs but probably not AJo. He had a fairly tight range for that kind of opening, I'd seen him limp with AJo, 88, that sort of thing.

Seat 3 made it $25. That didn't mean much. Might be a strong hand, might be 8c9c. Probably not Td3d but I couldn't rule that out entirely.

I had QQ.

I wasn't sure what to do here. I was somewhat worried about what Seat 1 might have. If I did something really silly like make it $100, then what would I do if Seat 1 made it $400? But I sure don't want to throw this hand away. So I called.

Seat 1 made it $75. Seat 3 called.

Now I'm 99% sure that Seat 1 has AA. But we have $175 in the pot already, and he has over $800 in his stack and I have that covered, plus the stack of Seat 3. I called, pretty much just intending to give it up if I didn't flop a set.

The flop comes Q34. All diamonds. How do I play this?

Seat 1 does not have a flush. I know that. He as a pair. It might not be AA, it might be KK, but it's a pair. If he has Ad then it doesn't matter what I do. But if he doesn't have Ad I don't want him to worry about me having flopped a flush just yet. I'm not sure about Seat3 but at this point I don't care what he has. I'm looking to get the whole stack of Seat 1 into the pot.

I check.

Seat 1 goes all in.

I couldn't believe it. The pot has $225 in it and he bets over $800. And I know he doesn't have a flush. I just know it, I have no doubt about it.

Seat 3 calls his last $240. Of course I call.

Turn is 7d, River is Kc.

Seat 3 has 8h8d. Seat 1 had AcAs.

Seat 3 has a flush and takes down the main pot, about $950. My 3 queens takes the side pot, about $1,300.

I might be off $100 or so here or there in this story, most of the chips didn't actually get counted, just stacked off.

Thoughts? Observations?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Should you call with pocket sevens?

A player in mid-position or so pushes all in preflop. You're in the big blind and it's folded around to you. You have two sevens. It's just you and the all in player. What should you do?

It depends on a lot of things.

How big is your stack in comparison to the blinds? It it's pretty small then you should tend to call.

What stage of the tournament are you in? In the later stages you need to balance the amount at risk and the win potential by discounting the value of the win. But you should also add some value for the potential of busting out a player right now. It's not immediately clear to me that this won't be a wash, but I'm not sure.

How much of your stack will you be risking if you call? If it's small, then you should of course tend to call. If it's a large part of your stack (or all of it) then you might want to give it some more thought.

And what I think is most important --

What is the range of hands your opponent would have pushed in with? The tighter this range is the bigger a dog you are, and the better pot odds you need to even think about calling.

I did some simulations with Poker Stove of 77 versus various distributions of opponents hands. Here's the result.

If he has a pair of Jacks or better, or AQ or better, or KQs, then your 77 is a 3/2 dog.

If he has a pair of 5's or better, AQo or AKo, or ATs or better, KJs or KQs or KQo then you're a little better off, only a 56/44 dog.

If he's fairly desperate, pushing with any pair or any two broadway cards, then your 77 is acually a slight favorite, 51/49

Besides giving you a little insight into how to decide what to do with a pair of sevens against an all in player, I think these numbers illustrate a much broader point -- it's really important to give a lot of thought into the question of what range of hands the other guy has before you make any playing decision with any hand.

Just in the example the difference between a fairly tight opponent and a fairly desperate opponent is the difference between you being a 60/40 dog or being a 51/49 favorite.

Of course, if he's completly nuts and would have done that with any two cards you're about a 66/44 favorite with those two sevens.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Complete Book of Hold 'Em Poker is available from most booksellers.

Or you can buy an Ebook edition from here for $6.25. It's in a manuscript format, in Word, readable by the current edition of Microsoft Word. It will be emailed to you zipped.

Included is the manuscript edition of the original book and some in-progress chapters of a second edition which will expand on a number of topics that the first edition didn't spend a lot of time on --

New material on topics such as on-line poker, no-limit poker, tournaments, playing the river, etc will be in the second edition. Some of that (not all, I'm still working on it) is included in this offer.

Click below to pay with PayPal, or send the money to userid garycarson at PokerStars. Email me if you pay via PokerStars.

If you get a message after clicking the button saying that your browser doesn't support cookies then just go directly to and send the money to

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A straddle

This is a hand I played at the Cherokee Casino in Tulsa the other day.

I got there early in the afternoon on a weekday and they didn't have much going on, they had a seat in a 4/8 limit and a list for 1/2 NL. I took the seat and got on the list.

I bought into the 4/8 for $100 and won a little before they started another 1/2 game, so I brought about $140 with me. I don't remember what the max buyin is for the 1/2, they do have a max, I think it's $200. I just played with what I had.

I pissed away some chips on various hands that didn't go anywhere and I was down to $66 and was going to be UTG. I decided to buy more chips when the button got to me and I put out a $4 straddle on a whim.

I was dealt a Kd6d. There were 3 limpers, one early position limper, the button, and the small blind. They didn't seem real excited so I went ahead and gave stealing it a shot -- I raised $16. It almost worked, only the early position limper called.

It was a pretty nice flop for me. 6h 6c 4d. I figured this flop must look like it missed me so I went all in for my remaining $46. I got called by a pocket pair of Kings. No King came.

The lesson here is that slowplay kills.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I got a question the other day about bet size. If the standard opening raise is four big blinds how do you ajdust a raise when there's been one or two limpers?

Standard size is a a pot size raise, not four times the big blind. And an opening raise is in addition to the call.

Four times the big blind is a pot size raise if you're first in (the standard is to count the SB as a full bet, that's what's done in most PL games in B/M games).

So if there is one limper the pot is 1 + 1 (the blinds) + 1 (the limper) + 1 (your call) = a 4bb raise on top of your call.

I like to go ahead and overbet slighly preflop because no matter how strong my hand is I really don't like a cold call behind me. If betting enough to drive out cold callers behind me also tends to get the blinds and the limpers to fold my response isn't to make future raises lower but to lower my standards slighly for raising.

Just keep raising more and more until they start calling.

As for adjusting your raise to account for the strength of your hand I like Chris Ferguson's suggestion -- raise more when position makes your hand stronger, less when position makes your hand weaker.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Another comment on that Sklansky/Miller article.

Previously I discussed an example they give where they recommend a check/raise bluff on the river as being more effective than a straight out bluff. While it's true that a check/raise bluff is more often effective (it shows more strength) it also puts more money at risk and it's not clear it's the better choice. The example they use to "prove" the effectiveness seems very contrived.

But, there was something else about their example that bothered me. They missed a chance to pick up the pot on the turn.

Here's the hand. You have 5s 4s in the big blind and get a free look at a flop of Qs 9s 2h. It's you, the small blind, and a mid-position limper.

The small blind checks and you bet your flush draw, betting 30 into a $90 pot. The limper calls.

Now I think it gets interesting. An Ac hits the turn. Not only does this add 3 outs to your hand, it's likely a scare card for the limper. Few players will limp from mid position with a hand that has an Ace. Some will, but for the most part hands with an Ace are either brought in with a raise or are folded. So, it's unlikely the limper has an Ace, and if you doesn't he'll fear you do. I think you should bet here, your hand got better both with the additional outs and with the scare card value of the turn card. Sklansky and Miller suggest a check without any explanation.

Any comments? Anybody agree with me? Disagree with me?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

A set v.three of a kind.

The terminology for having trips with two in your hand and one on the board is "set". For example (55) 9 5 2.

If you have trips with a pair on board you don't have a set, you do have three of a kind. For example (56) 9 5 5.

This isn't some artifical distinction based on terminology. Theres a real difference, the set is much, much stronger, and not just because it's hidden.

Say you have 55 with a flop of K 9 5

How many hands beat you?

Compare that to a hand of 54 with a flop of K 5 5

How many hands beat you now?