Sunday, July 29, 2007


A comment on a recent post asked what a freeroll is.

A freeroll is a situation where, depending on the outcome of some future event, you might win some money but you have no money at risk.

A freeroll tournament is an event with no buyin requirements that pays cash prizes.

You might be freerolling on the turn if you and another player have the nut straight, but you also have a flush draw (if you don't make the flush you get your money back).

The freerolling reference I made in the previous post meant in a loose sort of sense. When some opponent is playing like an idiot you're freerolling in the sense that you're chances of a large win are much better than you'd thought they would be when you sat down. Using the strict definitino of the term it's not really freerolling.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Do you have to double the big blind after the turn?

That was the search term in a google search that landed someone on this blog recently. I doubt that they found the answer to the question her, but I'll try to answer it now.

In no limit poker the minimim bet at each betting round is usually the amount of the big blind. It does not increase on the turn.

But --- some online sites do have software that changes the minimum to twice the big blind on the turn. That happens because they based their software design on an initial design for limit games, not because of a general poker rule.

In some poker rooms a straddle might complicate things somewhat. Depending on local rules the minimum bet might be the amount of the straddle at each round, or it might be the amount of the straddle preflop then the amount of the big blind thereafter. But the minimum won't double on the turn.


Friday, July 27, 2007

Winning v. Losing

“I’d rather win a small pot than lose a big one is a common popular truth you’ll hear poker players mumbling. Well, being a popular truth doesn’t make it a useful truth, or even a real truth when talking about a poker game. How about winning a big pot? Since when is that not an option in the poker world?

There are more than two options in the real world of poker games. People will use that incomplete proverb to justify all sorts of weak and timid play, and even to justify overly aggressive play. It might protect them from losing big pots but they aren’t likely to go home with any money if they don’t win some big ones. Avoiding the big pots is not a winning poker strategy. Winning the big pots is the poker goal to strive for. Just don’t even worry about the small ones.

The reality is that I often don’t care at all who wins the small pots. Small pots don’t have much effect on my bottom line at all. A lot of small pots might, but not one or two of them.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I'm Leaving (in a huff)

I've been playing 1c/2c blind PLO on Ultimate Bet the last few days. I have some left over bonus bucks from long ago on the site (they're hard to work off, but never expire) and since I don't know how to make a deposit anymore it's just been sitting there. Then I won $2 in a freeroll so I can play some cash games and work off those bonus bucks.

I was playing for a few minutes this morning while I was having coffee and one player said to another "You act like you're playing a freeroll, I'm going to another table".

I always thought that if someone at the table was playing like they were in a freeroll that I was actually freerolling. But, what the hell do I know? I can't even figure out how to make a deposit.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Reacting to bad luck

My impression of the popular conception of the best way to react to a short run of bad luck at the table is to tighten up and hunker down. The thinking being that other players get used to seeing you lose so they'll both take more shots at you and will call you more often. So you want to make sure you only get involved when you have some extra strength to withstand that.

Random Shuffle has a slightly different take on that popular wisdom.
This advice may seem paradoxical, but when you've been running bad in No-Limit Hold'em, try raising more. And I mean more in both senses: (a) raise more often and call less often; and (b) make your raises (and bets) larger.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't tighten up and play fewer hands, you probably should. But it does mean you shouldn't hunker down.

I think that's closer to a good way to think of things than what popular wisdom seems to be on the subject.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

When your top pair is beat

Some players seem to think the only real poker tactic is deception. Their whole game is built around that one tactical ploy. You can save yourself a lot of money by early identification of players whose entire arsenal of poker tactics is built on that singular idea of deception.

I was playing some 1/2 blind no limit last night. The game had a capped buy in of $200.

I'm on the big blind with a Kd 8d, there are 3 limpers and the small blind in the pot and I check preflop.

The flop is a 346, with 2 hearts and a diamond.

Everybody checks.

The turn is 8c. The small blind checks.

I bet $10. One caller. Then the mid-position limper makes it $30. The late position limper folds, as does the small blind.

It's my turn.

What does he have? Is my hand any good? If I'm not best how many outs do I have.

I thought I was drawing dead. What hand could he possibly have that he would've played from mid-position, checked that flop, then raised the turn?

In answering those questions we need to start with what I know about the player. I didn't really know much. I'd just recently arrived at the table and hadn't seen anything noticeable occur in any of the hands I'd watched so far. But this is a live game. I could look at the guy. Stereotypes can be helpful, and this guy fit one poker player stereotype that you don't often see discussed. He looked like a farmer.

He was in his 50's or 60's, wearing a feed store ball cap, tanned, weathered face, and large, rough hands. Casual clothes, neat but not pressed. I've seen that type in cardrooms around Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, and even Reno. They generally fall into one of two categories, a wild gambler type or a steady but loose and tricky type.

The first type often gets out of line and overvalues his hand and situation. The second type seldom overvalues his hand and seldom gets out of line for more than a minimum bet.

I'm not able to tell which type of farmer I'm looking at by just looking, but the way this hand played out gave a strong clue as to what kind of player he is. If he'd have hit any part of that flop at all you would not have checked the flop, with something like an 86 or even 84 or just a flush draw he'd have bet the flop, pushing the boundaries of his marginal hand. Neither type is likely to raise me on the turn unless they can beat top pair or have a strong draw to beat it.

With a player left behind him the steady but tricky type of farmer would be very likely to have checked that flop with a 75 however.

That's what I put him on. Exactly a 75. I thought I was drawing dead with my top pair. I folded. That early position limper called his raise then called another $40 when a blank face card hit the river. The farmer had flopped the nuts, just as I'd concluded after his turn raise.

I don't think my laydown was particularly special, it's almost never a good idea to call a turn raise with just a pair, but I decided to blog about it because I think my read of that player is a good example of how to combine thoughts about stereotypes and the particular beating pattern of a hand.

This sort of thing is one way that poker math relates to poker psychology. There are separate things but the complementary aspect of the two is more important than either individual view. Poker math and poker psychology serve each other, and you can't really meaningfully apply either of the two approaches without incorporation of the other. The psychology comes in when identifying the stereotype. The mathematics comes in when comparing the betting pattern two the two different possible interpretation of player stereotype of the middle-aged, tractor driving, farmer.

Update: I corrected a minor typo

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

A PLO laydown

I have 6422 double suited in the small blind in an online PLO game.

There's an early position raise, a late position call, I call, the big blind calls.

The flop is T66. I bet. The big blind raises. The original opener re-raises. The late position player folds.

Now what?

I can't imagine how my hand could possibly be any good. So I fold. The big blind goes all in, the opener calls.

I'd have ended up with 6's full of 2's. But that's not important.

The big blind had a single T, and not much else. He'd raised with JT88 on that flop.

The other guy, the opener who won the pot, had KKxx.

OK. This is going to be fun.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

More on overplaying a pair revisited.

Someone on rgp made a comment about an old post from here about my overplaying JJ when it flopped 3 smaller cards.

In that post I raised after this
The flop is 742, all black, my jacks are red. My caller bets into me, bets $10.
and concluded afterwards that it was a mistake based on my read that the guy likely had either a flush draw or a set or two pair, with some possibilty he had a straight draw.

Here's the relevant part of the rgp comment (it's from one of the rgp posters who often misses the point)
> when you think it's a mistake to get a whole bunch of money in with the
> 2:1 best of it. I think you need to re-read theory of poker and
> understand what a mistake is, because that ain't it. You've got a
> ridiculous case of playing results rather than expectations if you think
> that was a bad play.

Of course the mistake he's making is exactly the estimation mistake I talked about earlier today at I wrote that post a few hours before the rgp comment.

He's thinking of himself as a 2-1 favorite with the overpair when that's not his edge, that's the best edge he might have, not the expected edge. But he uses that as if it's an expected value.

Strippers do the same thing when they tell you they make $1,100 a night. That's not their average earnings, that's how much they made on the best night they ever had.

In the follow up on that rgp thread I suggested the commenter was being results oriented, because he made the 2-1 comment after learning what the guy actually had. But, even that's not right, because the evil opponent actually had a pair, a back door straight draw, and a flush draw. The way the cards actually lay I was a 48/52 dog, not a 2/1 favorite.

If the guy actually had the range of hands I put him on then I was ahead, but not as much as the commentator thinks. I'm not going to bother trying to compute my actual odds because they aren't important.

The point of that post is that in nolimit probably being ahead isn't good enough to raise. That's because when you make the pot bigger you're creating a situation where those times you're behind the pot is likely to get a lot bigger, something you don't really want.

In that hand in my previous post, if the guy had moved allin after my raise I'd have the worst of it, even though I was right to call on the flop even being behind because I wasn't so far behind that I wasn't getting pot odds for a call.

In no-limit, when you're probably ahead on the flop, but if you're not ahead you're in real bad shape, it's not a good idea to get too busy. I'll close with the observation that if I'd had Jc then with the cards he had I'm ahead 52/48 against his pair and flush draw rather than being behind 48/52. Having that club both takes away one of his outs plus gives me a re-draw, tipping the balance.

But I didn't have Jc and I overplayed that pocket pair, costing me more money than it should have.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

A Chapter from Another Book that Doesn't impress me

Twoplustwo has book coming out some time or other on sit-and-goes, or one table satellites. The title says sit-and-goes and also says one table tournaments. -There's a difference between sit-n-goes and satellites in the payout structure. The title just doesn't make it clear.

Again, twoplustwo magazine has a sample chapter. Again, I'm not impressed.

If anybody wants to read it and comment on it I'll probably have something to say, but otherwise, I find it so confusing and incomplete that I'm just not in a mood to get into it right now. It looks pretty bad to me.

Maybe I just need to take more naps.

Update: What I don't like about the book?

1. To start with the title is confusing. I'm not sure what the book is about. One table sit-n-goes or one table satellites? Doe's he deal with different payout structures? I don't know, and if he's going that have a long title with a long sub-title it just seems like he could tell me that.

But that's not a big deal. My hold'em book gets a lot of grief from people who don't like the title and I don't really want to be one of those people.

But the second thing is really more substantive.

His start in the chapter is
Before discussing the crucial re-steal play of next section, we must learn how to classify a raise. When someone makes a raise during mid-blind play, his motive may be broken down into two components:

1. Desire to steal the blinds.

2. Wanting value on a superior holding.

Huh? I'm not sure what mid-blind play means, I guess it means the blinds are above the starting levels, but he never says.

But his two component list is very incomplete, very superficial, enough so to just make it wrong. There's lot's of other reasons someone might make a raise, even if he's only talking about pre-flop raises (which he doesn't say).

I guess he intends to talk about things within a very limited context and I'm supposed to figure out what that context is. I'm not a fan of that approach.

3. He somewhat clarifies things in his next section where he gives 4 situational examples in a Q/A format where he asks the reader to classify each as a steal or a value raise. Each of the 4 is a situation where the raiser is the opener pre-flop. So, although he never says, it appears he's going to treat someone who raises after a limper separately somewhere else.

That's fine, someone raising limpers is a different situation than someone opening with a raise. But when you don't tell me what the hell you're talking about, when you leave it up to me to pick up the bread crumb clues to figure out what the topic is, then I'm not going to be happy.

4. Then he goes through a bunch of structured examples of when you might want to conclude on opening raise is a steal attempt and try to re-steal. I don't really like the format of these examples, but they're okay, and I really have no complaint about them.

5. Until he gets to the end, that is. This illustrates what's really wrong with the whole chapter. He says.
There is a key restealing principle in this hand:

You should be much more inclined to resteal against a stealer and a caller(s) than against a single stealer.

This is because the pot grows enormously with each extra caller, yet no more strength has been shown. Sure, a tricky player might sometimes smooth-call a pre-flop raise with aces or kings. But in general, a second player who stays in the pot is showing weakness by not reraising, and you should attack this weakness when the pot is large and your hand has decent showdown potential.

That's just flat out wrong. It's very important to think about what kinds of players these are and what they think about you in this situation. That's one of the keys he just ignores in the whole chapter.

If you have an image of being an aggressive player with FPS (and his focus on re-stealing in this chapter suggests that might be the case), then you'll get called by that limper (who isn't bluffing, even if he's weak) hoping to hit a flop and check call you to the felt.

There are nuances to everything that he just ignores. It's a very hack oriented, formulaic approach to the game. Against weak opposition in small buy in sit and goes online it might work. But it's not a general approach that's going to really win a lot of money.

I think mostly I'm not impressed because that lead material is just flat out wrong unless you know he's talking about a very specific situation that he never clearly identifies. That kind of sloppiness in writing always suggests to me a sloppiness in thinking.

The thing that really bothers me about the presentation style has nothing to do with nolimit poker and is just more generally about the style of presentation of poker analysis. I talk about that elsewhere.


A sample chapter

Here's a chapter from an upcoming book on nolimit holdem poker

The chapter is on twoplustwo magazine, and they only keep their stuff up for about 3 months, so download it or print it now if you think you might want to refer back to it.

I'm not impressed so far. The chapter starts out with

If we had to summarize no-limit strategy in a single sentence, it would be this:

Plan Your Hands

What the hell does that have to do with no-limit? Are they suggesting you don't need to plan your hands in limit? In limit I think a plan is probably more important. Plans are important in no-limit but they are also much more fluid and really don't need to be that complete, they just need to be re-evaulated at every step.

In The Complete Book Of Hold 'Em Poker: A Comprehensive Guide to Playing and Winning I pretty much say that the most important concept in no-limit hold'em (actually in no-limit poker) is simply
Don't Call

I still think that's true most of the time. Against some opponents it's not true, against some opponents you're better off check calling than you are betting, but it's still the basic idea.

Then, after talking about planning, they jump right away to the idea of finding a balance between risk and reward, and use a really bad example to do so.

They have two read aces on the big blind, the small blind limps, they raise, he calls, the flop is a 3 card straight in spades, the small blind goes all in, the stacks are very deep.

What do you do?

They talk about risk/reward tradeoff only in terms of the amount of money, they never, not once, bring up the players.

Against some players I'm calling here every damn time. Against some players I know for sure he has a naked flush draw, he doesn't even have as much as a pair and a flush draw. Against some players I know for sure they don't have more than 9 outs because with a hand better than that they're checking to let me bet.

They don't even talk about that. So what the hell do they mean by risk? They mean how much money is involved.

The next example is almost comical. They give a of having KK in mid-position and opening for 15, getting two callers, one behind you, one in the blinds.

Then they go through an analyze a particular flop where you bet and the player behind you calls, and you get in an iffy situation on the turn where you're probably best but don't want to commit all of your deep stack.

Then they re-look it and decided that you made a mistake with the raise to $15, you should have raised to $30 and gotten two callers, then on the turn the pot would have been large enough to be pot committed.

All I can say to that is


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Big hands and pot sizes in poker games

Here's the lede on an Ed Miller post.
Big hands deserve big pots. It’s a fundamental no-limit concept.

What nonsense. It's not only not a poker concept (it's a bumper sticker phrase) it's not even true.

Inanimate objects don't deserve anything. And you don't deserve anything at the poker table by virtue of having some particular combination of inanimate objects in your hand.

When you have a hand that has a very high probability of winning (which is actually not what many players mean by big hand) then you want to get as much other people's money in the pot as you can.

I guess that's what he means. And if he was selling bumper stickers instead of giving poker advice then the phrase he uses would be okay. Maybe that't it. Maybe he is selling bumper stickers. Bumper stickers probably have a pretty big market.

I guess I'm just being mean this morning.

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Is Miller's call bluff just a thin value bet?

Ed Miller seems to be following the Sklanaksy tradition of giving something a name and then thinking he's done something.

In a recent post he defines a call bluff
The Play: The Call Bluff

How It Works: You have position on a lone, aggressive opponent. Your opponent bets a small percentage of the remaining stacks. You have a marginal hand, but you call. The next round, your opponent checks, you bet, and she folds.

I don't understand how that's a bluff?

What does marginal hand mean? Bottom pair?

He gives an example of a call on the flop with a gutshot and backdoor flush draw then a bet when an offsuit Ace hits the turn and the opponent checks the scare card.

I guess thats a bluff, but I call it betting a scare card.

I call it that becuase I think it's important to think about bluffs on scare cards as different from other kinds of bluffs. That's becuase when you're known to be aggresvie and/or tricky an attentive opponent will often expect you to bluff at scare cards. So before you do it you should be aware of how the other guy is thinking about you.

He does explain a little better later in the post
Predictability (of your opponent) is good because it improves the quality of the extra information you get. Some players will raise preflop and routinely continuation bet with almost any hand. But on the turn, they bet only if they have something, and they give up otherwise. The call bluff is a great counter to this strategy.

But if that's what he's talking about I'm not so sure he needs a marginal hand to call the flop bet.

That's the part that confused me. What does he mean by marginal hand.

His definition suggests to me he means calling with something like bottom pair, good kicker, then when the evil one checks the turn, essentially giving up, you value bet because your marginal hand just got strong.

His example suggests to me he means calling with a weak draw intending to bet if a scare card hits (his example had two clubs on the flop so any club and any ace might be scare cards to the evil one). Or bet if the gutshot hits or semi-bluff if the backdoor flush continues.

In the first case you have a hand that might actually be good. In the second case you have a lot of cards that can improve your hand without looking like it improved your hand and a lot of cards that do nothing but look like they improved your hand.

But then his clarification is something else entirely.

I guess I just don't know what he's talking about and things like this closing sentence don't exactly clarify things for me.
Furthermore, with some hands and stack sizes, you can delay the bluff a second time, playing it bet-call on the flop, bet-call on the turn, and check-bet-fold on the river.

Update: Some of the comments on his post say his call bluff is also called floating the flop. Another term I have no idea what it means. I should get out more.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

A raise on the river

I'm not sure I agree with this raise on the river.
The flop came 9h-8h-7s. Everyone checked and I checked.

The turn was the 6s. The small blind checked, the big blind bet $3. One other player and I called. $14.25 pot after rake.

The river was the 6h. The small blind bet $4. The other player folded, and it's my turn.

Our hero made it 12, the villian folded.

Read the post. There's a lot of explanation of why it's a good raise.

I'm not so sure about it myself.

Any thoughts?

One of the things I often forget to do is to write for the search engines. This post is about an online, nolimit holdem poker game. A low stakes poker game played on the internet. Just wanted to clarify that poker concept and comment on the strategy.

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Friday, July 13, 2007


This isn't really a heavily read blog, partly my own fault becuase I don't post as often as I should.

I just wanted to call attention to the comment thread on a previous post on overplaying an overpair.

I think an overpair on a drawy flop is an interesting decision point.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Strategy v. tactics

I said something on rgp that I like

In poker the
> distinction between strategy and tactics are admittedly blurred but it
> is fairly clear in chess,

It's fairly clear in poker also.

For example, the book Theory of Poker is 100% on the topic of tactics, it
doesn't address strategy or theory.

Tactics is about how to react.

Strategy is about how to create a situation that will cause the other guy to
react in a way that you like.


Pay attention to stack sizes

Here's a post from
> A curious thing happend the other day while playing at a no-limit hold'em
> game,
> and I'm now seeking some clarification regarding betting rules. Here is what
> happened. Everyone called my raise preflop. Flop comes down. I'm first to
> act
> and I bet $50. Person to the left of me calls $50. Last person to act
> re-raises all-in for $68. At this point I try to reraise all-in for another
> $300 over the top to get rid of the first caller ... club tells me I cannot
> reraise in that situation, I can only fold or call the extra $18. Club tells
> me
> I cannot reraise because the first raise was an incomplete bet, and
> essentially
> I would be raising myself ... anyone have any other (better) explanation ?

Not really.

A term used is "re-opening the betting". The betting is only re-opened if
there's a raise. When you bet 50, it takes a $50 raise to reopen the betting.
No one can raise less than that unless that's all the chips they have, in which
they go allin and you have to match their allin amount to remain active. It's
just the rule. There is no explanation. The "raising yourself" language is
must some mumbling that doesn't really have any meaning.

It's one of the reasons it's important to pay attention to stack sizes. If you
had some reason to think he's likely to raise you might have wanted to have bet
$30 instead of $50, giving him a chance to make a full raise so you can trap
intermediate callers for your re-raise, for example.

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