Thursday, October 18, 2007

How big

The poker how-to blog suggests looking at the flop and asking yourself "how big do I want this pot".

That's part of what you need to think of. But more than how big you want to pot to end up you need to ask yourself the pot size trajectory you want to plan on -- how fast do you want the pot to grow?

He gives an example of what I'm talking about although he doesn't get explicit about that part of the plan.
.50/1.00 NL, hero has $100 and villain has $25

Folded to hero on the cutoff whe raises to $3 with JhJd. The villain on the button, an unknown shortstack, calls.

Flop: Td 8d 7c (pot: $7.50)

Our opponent has $22 left in a $7.50 pot. With so little left to bet and so many draws out we are happy to get $22 in the pot.

He suggests betting the pot and getting raised. I'm not so sure I like that plan. It's going to be hard to count on getting raised. In his example trajectory the hero gets all the money in on the flop, which I think is fine.

But what if you bet and don't get raised? There's a lot of cards that might scare you on the turn. Do you really want to triple the size of the pot and leave yourself with an almost pot sized stack left? I don't think you do. I think you want to try real hard to avoid putting yourself into a situation where you have to make a tough decision.

If you check that flop one of two things will happen --
1. He might check, leaving the pot relatively small until you see the turn and decided then what to do. or
2. He might bet, making it fairly easy to just pick up the pot with that little extra right now.

If you check neither possibility leaves you in a real bad spot, the pot is still small enough so if he checks then you can fold the turn if things turn sour. At the same time it gives him a chance to put some more money in the pot now, allowing you to easily get it all in now.

When you think about the pot size you want don't just think about the size, think about how you might get there, and think in terms of multiple possibilities, not just one path.

Give yourself options, and avoid having to make tough decisions later.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Talking at the table

It turns out that if you want someone to believe something, for example if you want to think you're a very tight player, just say so. Even if it's clearly false, other players that aren't paying complete attention to you will hear it and believe it.

Monday, October 08, 2007


I dropped out of school in the 9th grade, when I was 14. (I later went back, finished high school, got a couple of graduate degrees).

When I quit school my grandfather gave me a job. He managed Eagle Rock Ranch, outside of Wimberley, Texas. It has since become Woodcreek, a residential subdivision, but at the time it was a working ranch during much of the year and a Resort Ranch during the summer months. During the summer they employed college students as waiters, lifeguards, wranglers, etc. But during the off-season the employees were all full time cowboys and maintenance people. I was hired as part of the maintenance crew during the off-season, and part of the resort crew during the summer.

They had two separate barracks for cowboy housing -- one for Mexican cowboys and one for Anglos. (1963 Texas wasn't just a different time, it was a different place). I bunked with the Anglos. One night we went over to the Mexican bunkhouse for a crap game. I'd never played craps before but I knew the basic rules.

I also had a skill that nobody else in the game had -- I knew how to calculate the probabilities of various dice combinations and how to translate those probabilities into odds. Yes, I was a 9th grade dropout (which was what most of those cowboys were) but boredom had actually been a big part of my school problem. My grades had been bad but I read a lot, and liked math.

There was no host for the game. Shooters had the dice and shot until they either made a point or crapped out, then the dice passed. All bets were side bets, and all bets were at negotiated odds. That's right, there were no fixed prices for various propositions. We negotiated it. That gave me a pretty good edge. I actually knew the difference between the probability of making a point of 8 and that of making a point of 4.

The point of this story is to try to point out the nonsense that the idea that poker should be regulated rather than banned because it's a game of skill.

Well, that craps game I played in Wimberley, Texas in 1963 was a game of skill also. That didn't make it any less a gambling game.

And it gets really interesting when you think about what happens when you start regulating that crap game. Once you start regulating it, having a government agency overseeing a permanent host of the game, the negotiated odds go away and any edge I might have had from my skill is gone.

Regulation takes the skill completely out of that game.

That's what too much regulation will do to poker also. Regulation and taxes increase costs which causes increases in rake which reduces the value of any skill you might have.


Starcraft and poker

I ran across this passage on Reasonable Deviations, quoting from Nuclear Phynance
I used to play this game called StarCraft in the late 90s, wherein you can build up an army and advance your own technology by collecting resources. My strategy against the computer was to avoid battles and focus on defenses until I had advanced to the highest point of technology, then to Unleash the Fury and wipe the computer out in a massive but short battle of inevitable victory.


But when I started play online against other people, I found that sometimes relatively weak players could win battles against me by ‘rushing‘, wherein they focus all of their initial efforts on offense, ignoring the longer term goals of resource collecting and defense.

Sound familiar?

And Starcraft players even started acting like poker pros when
In other circles, some players would agree beforehand that there would be ‘no rushing‘, because they preferred the long game.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Implied odds in no limit

The concept of implied odds isn't really the same in no limit as it is in limit.

In limit your concern is about getting some extra bets on future betting rounds. But in no limit it's really about winning or losing a stack.

This came up in a thread on playing AKo in a no-limit game.

I had pointed out that AKo against a very tight early position raiser (QQ+, AKs, AKo) is an equity dog and has no implied odds since it won't get a of action against QQ.

A commenter expressed a dissent because he says you have implied odds from an expected contiuation bet even if an A flops.

That's not really implied odds to me. The only flop that has any chance at all of busting QQ is a TJQ flop and even then you aren't really a huge favorite with the flopped nuts. If you get action with a flop of AKx you're in pretty bad shape, probably drawing almost dead.


Monday, October 01, 2007

Angle Shooting Slime

Some TV poker is on, I don't know what it is.

Todd Brunson is very short-stacked, I think on the big blind, I'm not sure.

Mike Caro raises $1,000, enough to put Todd all in.

When it's Todds turn he says, "I raise".

Of course he doesn't even have enough to make a full call, and subsequent discussion indicates he knows that.

He just can't help himself. He so short-stacked he has to call and he's just taking a shot in the remote hope that Caro hadn't noticed he's short-stacked and might fold when he hears him re-raise.

He's really a slime. The worst. Really bad. I don't know if he learned that from his daddy or not.

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