Sunday, June 22, 2008

Making a mistake in judgement

One thing you can count on doing a lot of is making a mistake in judging a situation. You'll mis-read a player, you'll make a bad estimate of an opponents stack size, you'll miscount a pot size, you'll misread a board, even misread your own hand at times. It's something that's going to happen.

I'm not even talking about making a mistake in picking the right strategy for a given situation, I'm talking about just getting the fundamental situation wrong.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is failure to realize that you're confused about a situation. Thinking you know what's going on when in fact you don't know is a far bigger mistake than just not knowing what's going on.

Here's an example of what I mean by confusion.
Situation: 6 handed NLHE cash game, blinds $2/$3. You are on the BB with
a $190 stack. UTG is new to the table but you've played him before. He's
a standard straight forward TAG player. He's quiet enough that he doesn't
draw attention to himself, almost always shows down strong hands, typical
big hand big pot, let the pots that don't matter go without a fight, etc.
He has or is affiliated with in some way or another based
on google searches if that matters at all. All of this information is
known from previous play and research. He has $320ish and has been at the
table for a few orbits.

Player just sat down. Player has been at the table for a few orbits. That's confused thinking. That's a sign of strong uncertianty about the situation.

There's nothing inherently wrong with such uncertainty. But there's something terrible wrong with thinking that noticing the inconsistency in thought is just nit-picking and doesn't matter. The original poster just reacted badly overall. An example of his reaction is in the subsequent discussion thread is
> Do you want to try to explain why it's not bad poker to fold AK to a
> single raise in a high stakes 6 handed game?

No, because if I happen to use the wrong word or use a word in the wrong
way you won't understand it and will spend the next 20 posts complaining
about it. Instead I'll just ignore it and hope you go away.

The ">" item is from a post I'd made in the thread.

You have to not just recognize your mistakes but you have to allow for them. As I said in that thread


> On Jun 21 2008 11:11 AM, garycarson wrote:

> > On Jun 21 2008 11:03 AM, chandler wrote:

> > > On Jun 21 2008 1:10 AM, Travel A wrote:

> > > > If UTG raised and it folded around to me in the BB, creating a heads-up
> > > > a situation, I'd call. UTG, by raising, has already given the
> > > > information needed. The problem with reraising is that you're out of
> > > > position and there's no additional benefit of getting information.

> > > The thing is the raise preflop UTG doesn't really tell you much about his
> > > hand... which the OP adds later. And if you reraise preflop it does in
> > > fact get you some information. If he doesn't come over the top of your
> > > reraise you can probably eliminate AA/KK from his range.

> > If you're suidical.

> > If I'm him and I have AA I'm going to call your re-raise. I'm right where
> > I want to be -- with the best hand with position against a player who
> > thinks he knows what's going on but doesn't and deep money.

> > The only thing Re-raising gets you is having him fold exactly those hands
> > you want to play against -- like AJ or KQ.

> > > If he comes over
> > > the top, I can get away from the hand.

> > Which is why he should just call if he has AA.

> I'm not suicidal, just not very good.

It really kind of depends on what the OP meant by "straight-forward".
Many responders seem to think it meant predicible. But that doesn't
really make much sense as a definition since some of the most predicable
players have heavy doses of FPS.

I defined the term in both my books, basically just as a player who tended
to bet when he had a hand and checked when he didn't.

That wouild not preclude a straight-forward player from raising with AA
than just calling when re-raised, particularly when the money is deep.

I think you were just using a different operational definition of
striaght-forward than I was.

> There is a difference in the intent
> if not the result. In my defense, most of my current opponents would be
> happy to relieved to come over the top of me with AA/KK after that preflop
> reraise... And they are not necessarily wrong because they get calls from
> inferior hands with some frequency. Calling AA there makes sense. I have
> smooth called my AA to a single raiser when playing out of the BB, but
> never just called a reraise.

That's why I had orignially asked the OP what the Evil One thought of him.
He didn't answer.

Has our hero shown a willingness to re-raise then fold to a huge playback?
We don't know. If so then I'm leaving open the possibility that the Evil
One has AA or KK. If he has then there's still some chance of AA or KK
although the chances are reduced.

Generally in no-limit it's a mistake to put your opponent on a specific
hand or to eliminate a specific hand from possibility. You can do that in
limit becuase the cost of being wrong is controlled, but that's not the
case in no-limit and you need to always let your mind consider even
unlikely possibilities -- unless one of you gets real short-stacked, in
that case you can eliminate AA from possibility if he only calls the

> OK, I started out with calling the AK preflop and toyed with the idea of
> the reraise, but check calling every street after you hit really has me
> intrigued.

You might not check/call every street. If he ever makes a really big bet
you need to think about giving it up. Also if the board gets real scary
and he doesn't seem worried about it then you might think about giving it

> If I'm thinking I can see how attractive this is. It keeps
> inferior hands betting, keeps the pot smaller if you're beat and you can
> shift gears to value bet later if the action dictates, but everything in
> me is screaming to bet when I hit that TPTK... and I usually do. I'm
> going to have to give that tactic serious consideration.

In limit blind aggression usually gets it at least close to right. Not so
in no limit. Don't let your ego get in the way, you don't need to control
the betting every hand, and you don't need to control information flow
every hand. Particularly with deep stacks.

With deep stacks you should tread carefully.

In limit you usually want to go after every sliver of value. In no limit
you need to look more at the skew of the distributions of possible
outcomes and avoid negative skews. A negative skew is one where you'll
usually win a little but sometimes you'll get dunked. A winning
distribution of outcomes in no limit is one where you'll usually have a
small loss but sometimes have a huge win (I'm talking about per hand, not
per month).

The distribution of outcomes for winning no-limit players looks very much
like the distribution of outcomes of winning limit players who play in
wild/crazy games.

This, btw, is one aread where the poker hand history analysis software
falls down -- they have too much focus on mean and variance (first and
second moments for you physics majors) and tend to ignore the third moment

The point is that if you're not sure about the situation don't worry about. Just be aware that you aren't sure.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


Curiosity is a generally good trait for a student of poker to have. But it's a trait you need to indulge away from the table. Wondering What If away from the table, and thinking about it deeply, can help you garner a deeper understanding of the game. But too much wondering What Is while at the table can cause serious dents in your stack.

The best known example of a player who needs to learn to compartmentalize his curiousity is Danny Boy Negreanu. From one of his recent blog entries:
He raised me 4100 more all in. A bet that "looks" like it has to be the nuts or close to it. Bill knows I know that, and I was very curious to see this hand. It was played so strangely that I couldn't figure it out. Did he put me on a hand like JJ and think I was making a defensive bet? Did he think he could rob me if he moved in? I had no idea, so since the pot was laying me a price, I had no real choice but to call. Seems odd to say "no choice" but that's what it felt like since I had no clue what he had.