shipitfish: (Default)

For about a year, I considered whether or not I wanted to become a pro. Last month, I posted that I have decided not to do it, and I have basically quit poker, compared to my previous time investment. I was usually playing about 20 hours a week from around mid-2003 until late last year. I am now playing about 20 hours a month.

I have a number of reasons that I have abandoned this plan (and similar reasons have reduced my part-time play, too). It will probably now take me a few months to give all my reasons for this. I'll try to post a reason a week, at least, in no particular order.


A while ago, I linked to Ed Miller's speculations about whether the poker world keeps getting harder. I link to it here again as I think it's probably required background reading for what I'm about to say next.

Game Selection is central to any profitable poker strategy. As the proverb goes, if the seventh best player in the world insists on only sitting in a seven-handed game with the those six better players, that amazing player will be a lifetime loser despite tremendous skill.

I believe that game selection generally tends to ebb and flow. Take a look back over the fifty year history of professional casino-based poker play. (Ignore the roving gambler era since that lifestyle worked for very few.) There are periods throughout where the games were very good and not so good. Now, I'm not talking about the really big games, because I'm relatively sure there are enough stupid rich people in the world to make those games highly profitable forever. And, as the Dilbert Principle states, products that are the playthings of the stupid rich are the most profitable in capitalism.

But, few people will build the bankroll, temperament and the high skill required to play at the high limits. I've met about three people in my life that I thought could actually make it at $100/$200 limit (or $25/$50 blind NL/PL) for the long term. You need a tremendous amount of skill and ability to handle variance to survive. Few people have that.

So, let's assume that as a run-of-the-mill pro, I'd have to figure I'm not in that class of people that can play that high. So, I'm going to settle in at the middle limit grinding — right at that spot where all the grinding pros land. Right where the games are toughest, because it's right at the cusp of where someone can actually make a living. Thus, game selection becomes the chief determinant of success.

During the 1990s grinding it out at limit $15/$30 and $20/$40 was particularly difficult to beat. There wasn't a lot of gambling interest in the game, and there were a lot of strong players fighting over a small amount of dead money. We could easily reach that moment again.

Indeed, in online games, because of the rapid nature of game development and quick movement of dead money in NL HE games, we've found that many sites are almost unplayable at the online “middle limits” of $1/$2-$3/$6 NL. Part of this came from the UIGEA forcing out casual US players, but it was already starting to happen on some sites before that.

Casino games, by contrast, will stay pretty profitable long term, since the popularity of poker has caused one likely irreversible fact: many people who previously enjoyed general casino table games now prefer poker when they visit the casino once or twice a year. There is probably enough dead money at the lowest limits to make them profitable.

Note the emphasis on lowest limits: there will be great games at $1/$2 NL and up to $5/$10 and maybe $10/$20 limit. But, those aren't make-a-living stakes. They are make-some-profitable-extra-income stakes; the same stakes I've been beating all these years and netting amounts always less than $25,000/year for 20 hours/week.

Of course, if you are highly skilled and committed to improving your game, I am absolutely sure you could seek out good games and find them at the middle limits. But, I wholeheartedly believe it would require daily trips to multiple casinos; online poker is not really going to sustain many pros at the middle limits.

Thus, I firmly believe that, moving into the post-poker-boom world, a pro needs to live near a casino Mecca (e.g., Bay Area of CA, Los Angeles area, Las Vegas, or Atlantic City), where that pro can make daily visits to the casino with minimal travel overhead. It's a matter of fact, frankly, that without a wide variety of live middle limit games to choose from, the full-time pro simply won't be able to earn enough to make poker more lucrative than other careers. Certainly, to even match my current Real Life salary (which is a relatively low NGO wage), I'd absolutely need that level of game selection. Relying on what's available online for my daily income wouldn't cut it.

So, since I'm not relocating to those places (I would really dislike living in any of them), I think this is an important reason not to go full-time pro. That leaves the question of how this issue impacts my part time play. I have decided, first and foremost, that for any larger stakes, occasional trips to the casino are likely better than frequent online play for small stakes. The game selection at casinos is basically always good, and I can have a better time and hourly rate as a recreational player and part-time pro if I visit casinos occasionally for trips where I can play 12-14 hour days for a short period of time. It's clear that for the part-time player, online cash game selection is abysmal enough that it is probably not worth the trouble for many hours per week.

That sums up my first reason for not going pro. I hope to write the next installment soon.

shipitfish: (poker-strategy-books)

I've been reading some older 2+2 titles recently. Sklanksy and Malmuth have this wonderful way of describing things that reminds me of my graduate school texts. I suppose you have to have gone to graduate school for some science-related field to actually enjoy that dry, dense writing.

I finished Sklansky's Poker, Gaming, and Life, and half of Malmuth's Poker Essays, both of which are collections of essays written for Card Player and other magazines in the late 1980s and 1990s.

One of the general themes that amazes me is their constant discussion of “systems”. It's clear that during the period when writing these essays, their simple ideas for poker planning were new. In many of the essays, they seem forced to actively defend the idea that winning players should treat poker like an endeavor centered around an hourly win rate, which is computed based on how much of a favorite the player is to the game she's selected. On the corners of every essay, they defend the now obvious idea that concepts like “loss limits” and “quitting while ahead” are completely silly for the winning player. In those days, it seems that the idea that you should quit a game only if you aren't a favorite or if your non-poker life calls you away was novel.

I read these defenses and imagine that during the late 80s and early 90s (while I was busy winning a mere $20/week in penny-ante wild-card games and didn't even know that “real poker” even existed) must have been a time of some enlightenment in the poker world. There were people, probably even pros, walking around who believed that the “quit while you are up” strategy was somehow smart play, no matter how good the game was. I suppose these were the same people who walked around saying that Internet thing is just for computer nerds.

Of course, the interesting shred of truth in the win/loss threshold approach (and one that Sklansky and Malmuth ignore, since they are writing only to the winners) is that the system works really well for losing players. Someone who is not a favorite to the game should let the short term luck wash over them and run off with the money if they are lucky enough to get hold of some. And, likewise, when they can't get luck on their side, they are better off running from the games as quickly as they can to limit the amount that strong players can extract from them.

(As a tangent, this is why the only thing that really upsets me in poker is the hit-and-run. It's just about the only strategy a bad player can use to defeat good players — forbidding the cards to even out and allow the good player to recover against the short term luck. In essence, the “quit when your up” is the only weapon the weak player has in her arsenal against a better field.)

I can imagine, though, despite how wrong-headed the beat-the-system approach to poker seems today, that Skalansky's and Malmuth's messages were hard for people to hear. Many people chose life as professional poker players so they didn't have to think about spreadsheets and hourly rates and marketing to the right customer base (i.e., choosing games where you're a favorite). The truth is, if you want to be a pro, or even a regularly winning player, you are just a weird sort of entertainer looking for people who actually want to see your show. You're the travelling circus that has to trick people into thinking the freak show is worth paying for. You are running a business, even if (for the recreational player) only a hobby one. You have to treat it as such and let go of the fanciful notions that somehow you are getting something for nothing.

The idea of “beating the system” using some strategy — be it a win/loss stop or anything else — is a fantasy. Playing poker for a living isn't beating the system; it's actually in a pretty simplistic way of being a cog in the machine. Grinding, that verb we use to describe the profitable poker we all hate to play, is what the real pros actually do.

It's always good when clear thinkers come along and burst the delusional bubbles. And, Sklansky and Malmuth have been doing it for decades. I suppose there must be people out there still living in the bubble, believing that some system gives them the power to beat the games. If so, they should probably all go out and buy these books. :)

shipitfish: (Default)

I have disappeared from my journal because I've been coming home from work every day and immediately launching the Cake Poker client and playing until I can't keep my eyes open anymore. I've put in approximately 6-8 hours each weekday and 12 hours each weekend day in playing on this site. I'm earning around $64/hour muli-tabling mostly $1/$2, $200 max, and occasionally $2/$4, $400 max NL HE.

This site is completely amazing. The closest game I can compare it to is what you find in the $1/$2 NL HE games in Atlantic City. These games can be beaten by the clueless. Indeed, the would-be other “sharks” on the site are actually very weak players who simply hold money for me and one or two other strong players to get.

I think there are a few factors that make this site so amazing:

  • The Sports Book Players: Cake poker has a skin arrangement with with an online sports betting site. Most of the players (based on chat comments) are actually coming through the sports betting site, not Cake Poker. These players are truly horrible, and have virtually no textbook knowledge of the game and minimal playing experience. They don't even know what hands particular bets represent, let alone figuring out if the other players hold the represented hand or are bluffing.

  • Lack of Poker Tracker Support: A lot of otherwise strong online poker players are not that smart. I once knew someone who has been a losing player for years who told me there was no reason to play on a site that didn't support Poker Tracker. He said this during the hey days of Pacific, when the limit games there were the best ever seen on teh Internets. Pacific then was much like Cake is today. This fellow, who was struggling to do well at limit games, would only play on the shark infested waters of Party and elsewhere, losing steadily, while I was cleaning up on Pacific. At the time, I was probably only a little better at limit HE than he was, but I was a consistent winner and he was a consistent loser, because of his stupid Poker-Tracker-only game selection criteria.

    Of course I'm annoyed that my hand histories aren't imported and I have no heads-up display on the players. Thing is, I started playing online poker before Poker Tracker and like systems were even available. I know how to beat the game without it. Anyway, the opposition on Cake Poker is so bad, even someone who is completely spoiled with the Poker Tracker crutch should be able to beat the games with ease. These players are horrendous; a trained monkey should be able to at least break even in these games.

    Frankly, I am heavily rooting for Poker Tracker to not support this site. Once that happens, many sharks will give it a try. I recall that six months after HandGrabber came along and made PT work for Pacific, the games started to decline. Now, Pacific is nothing special — just another crappy software poker site.

    I am so amazed at the near-exact parallels between Pacific and Cake Poker: another gambling site sending players over (888 and Sports Book), bad software, no Poker Tracker support. In poker, you have to live where the fish live, even if it puts you out of your comfort zone.

  • Completely readable, loose passive players: This is key here. They slow-play when they shouldn't, and min-raise with monsters. They just call down with any top pair, but let you manipulate the pot size. They stack off every time with any two-pair or better holding. You basically have to be a moron to get a lot of chips in the pot bad against them, since they are trivial to read.

  • Profitable Promotions: They have this “gold card” thing where you collect cards from their vault. They are used for a number of their promotions. The most interesting one is the weekly “GC 500”. There's a lot of luck involved, but if you play every day for five hours or more, odds are you are going to win an average of $250 in the thing a week.

You may note that this post was originally friends only. I didn't initially want to tell the whole Internets about the fish pond. These days, it doesn't matter as much.

Anyway, I might not be posting a lot, as I want to suck down this money before it runs dry!

shipitfish: (poker-strategy-books)

A blog, as originally conceptualized back before most people in the industrialized world had Internet access, was a regular post by someone about things they were reading online. That's why I've always called this an online journal, not a blog.

Anyway, occasionally, I act blog-ish. Today, I'm going to.

Ed Miller wrote an excellent entry on Sunday regarding his analysis of whether or not poker games are getting tougher (you can also go to the non-livejournal-syndicate version). If you haven't read this entry, I believe it's an absolute must-read. I agree with every one of his sentiments, and it basically renders pointless a number of journal entries I had under development.

I think we really don't know what will happen to online poker. Having done the low-limit multi-table thing, I believe he's right about multi-tablers being glorified “bots” that make it extremely difficult to win. I find myself that my edge is better playing only two tables right at the top of my stakes threshold, in part because I can get a nice edge against the rock multi-tablers in orphaned pots. (Frankly, massive-multi-tablers rarely notice when pots are orphaned.)

I also absolutely love the fact that he makes reference to my day-job politics. I find it wonderful that Ed Miller turns out to be someone who believes, as I do, that generally useful technical information should be free as in freedom.

shipitfish: (poker-strategy-books)

Like most people of reasonable intelligence who have a disdain for the corporate world, I spent far too much time in the academic world. I have an utterly useless Master's degree in Computer Science, that I pursued only because corporate technology jobs were sucking my will to live and I couldn't think of anything else to do. During my time in graduate school, I also spent a year teaching high school. I got out of the whole experience alive, without spending years of my life writing a PhD dissertation that only five people would ever read. I sometimes consider it a narrow escape.

There are, however, certain principles of academic work that create useful lifelong habits. Frankly, the academic “skill” of pouring over mounds of seemingly useless information, condensing it into something vaguely applicable, and then going out and trying to make something of it has served me well in life, and in poker, especially. There are certain ways in which a rigorous pursuit poker success is like the academic lifestyle.

The most obvious graduate school principle that applies to poker is the need for constant yet independent study. There is rarely heavy structure in graduate programs, and so it is in poker. You can hire a coach (adviser), you can talk about hands with friends online and offline (study groups), but you are more or less on your own to learn.

But, the most interesting aspect of my years as teacher and student that have helped my poker game relates to development of “level 2” play. For those who aren't familiar with the term (or are more familiar with different phrasing), I'll digress a bit to define these so-called levels of play:

Level 1:
Knowing what hand you have (and its relative strength in given situations).
Level 2:
Knowing what hand your opponent has.
Level 3:
Knowing what hand your opponent thinks you have.
Level 4:
Knowing what hand your opponent thinks you think that he has.

Popular theories state that your best edge comes when you are thinking one level deeper than your opponent. (Personally, I think anything past level-3 is pure game theory, and it isn't worth psyching yourself out with it — if your opponent is that tough, just make the play that a rigorous game theoretical analysis suggests instead.)

I admit that I spent probably a year or two skating between levels 1 and 2. Not that I wasn't capable of deep thought, and even hitting the magical level-4 on occasion against players I knew well. However, your poker results come not from your maximal capability, but the skills you can sustain constantly for the duration of many sessions. For a long time, I spent most of my time on level-1, and my results showed it.

These days, I'm on level-2 consistently. (And, with good game selection, I rarely encounter opponents who spend most of their session on level-2, thus limiting my need for level-3.) I got there by slowly building level-1 thinking into my hypothalamus, so that it never becomes conscious enough to cloud my active mind, which remains focused on level-2. My goal, of course, is to make that level-2 thinking as solid and ingrained as my level-1 thinking has become. Lately, I've thought about how my academic experiences aid in this process.

The connection wasn't obvious at first. I put it together when listening closely to whiny rants of “good players”, complaining that games with too many “donkeys” aren't beatable because these “donkeys” play too illogically. I can't possibly put them on that hand, these “good players” lament. I always thought such statements were ludicrous: if a player has less skill in this game of skill, you should beat him in the long run, right? Of course! It's not that level-2 thinking doesn't work here, it's that you have to work (ironically) a bit harder at it.

When I'm playing against weak, level-1-struggling opponents, it's much like being a graduate student in a room full of undergraduates, or, in the most extreme cases, like standing in front of my high school students as a young Computer Science teacher. Do you remember, by the way, that excellent TA you had your freshman year, who made everything so clear? How about the terrible one who was useless in the problem sessions because everything he said was over your head? And in high school: remember that teacher that droned on Ben-Stein-style, and the one who dynamically engaged the students?

What often separates good TA's from bad ones, and good teachers from bad ones is their ability to have some level-2 thinking about their students. The best teachers reach back to the time in their lives when they didn't understand the material. Every teacher was once a student, it's just that most of them have forgotten what it was like. Wisdom and knowledge have replaced that confusion, that flawed logic, and that unclear reasoning. However, the best teachers that can revisit that spot in their past, and walk the student through the jumble into clarity.

When you are up against clueless “donks”, who are still struggling to understand when to raise or fold holding top pair, you have to get down to their level. They don't think the way you think; you've progressed beyond their level-1 thinking and have ingrained good, strong level-1 thought into your routine. But, for you to properly use your level-2 edge against them, you have to trace their flawed thought patterns. Like the teacher guiding students through murky, complicated new material, you have to set aside your own deep knowledge of the game and think like they think.

If nothing else, it will keep your game fresh. Sure, there are only so many “right ways” for you to play a flopped set on a two-tone board. You probably know and have tried them all and know the trade-offs. But, that guy across the table from you hasn't. He may still think min-raising is the right play. He might think slow-playing is correct. He might even be so confused, and not even realize the strength of his hand at all, and just call on every street!

It's your job to think like he does, not try to to graft your logic onto his play. Don't rhetorically ask What was he thinking!?! in pure disgust; instead, ask yourself that question seriously. It's your job as a good player to have a reasonable response. Indeed, if you're playing your best game, you should be able to give a dissertation on his muddled sophistry.


Hmm, maybe my narrow escape from obscure academic knowledge wasn't as clean as I thought. I'll ponder that the next time I'm writing the 20-page psychology thesis in my mind's eye entitled: Tonight's Big Fish: How he Overplays Top Pair but Only on Boards With Straight Draws.

shipitfish: (Default)

I had to stop thinking about poker for a bit after losing that grand, and I will be posting more about total donkey plays I made last weekend. But, I want to be clear about the hand that is the subject of this post: I am pretty sure that I love this situation. I made a brief off-handed reference to it in my earlier post. The thrust of the argument against my play below is that the preflop decision leaves me an underdog (i.e., playing AQs against a likely big pair or AK), and therefore it's not worth taking a flop. Furthermore, one could argue that the flop is at best a coin flip, so why introduce so much variance for this? Before I get deep into the analysis, let me first retell the whole situation, which should be stated and considered first before extensive analysis can be at all useful.

The hand begins on 21:09 on last Saturday when readysteady, a tight-aggressive, overpair-overplayer player on Full Tilt raised UTG to $9 in a six-handed NL HE game with $1/$2 blinds. I was right next to him and decided to call with Ad Qd. I could have easily been dominated by AA, QQ, or AK, but felt that it would be reasonably easy to get away for a small raise on the flop if it came A or Q high. Meanwhile, having seen him play aces once before at this table, I felt he'd raised less preflop with AA from early position (probably only $6), trying to induce action. He'd won with those aces earlier, so it was unlikely he hadn't gained a temporary “must over-protect aces” philosophy. He had raise to $6 before from early position with hands like AJ, so I suspected here that he held a vulnerable big pair that didn't want to see a flop out-of-position — probably TT or JJ. But, maybe he did hold QQ or KK; I couldn't rule it out. AK was another possibility, of course.

There was still some chance he had AA, but I figured (at the time) that most of the time, he held a hand like AK or TT-KK as opposed AA. In fact, the real numbers were much better. He's a tight player who almost always holds one of those hands when he makes that raise. With an Ace in my hand, there are only three ways he can make AA, while he has 33 ways to make one of those other hands, so he's about 1-to-11 underdog, statistically, to hold AA after his $9 raise. Why am I so focused on AA in this post-hand analysis? I'll get to that shortly.

To continue with the hand itself: I decided to call his $9, and that I'd get away on the flop if I made merely one pair. I had $259 and he had me covered. He had overplayed one pair a number of times at this table; he fit the typical profile of someone who plays NL HE by being very tight preflop and getting all the money in on nearly any flop where he holds an overpair or top pair, strong kicker. I'd of course rather have a set-building hand against him, but a nut-flush-building hand wasn't too bad, and I'd have position for the rest of the hand, as I expected the rest of the four people to fold unless they had monster.

With $21 in the pot, we see the aforementioned 5c 2d 3d. (My original quick note about the hand had the suit of the 5 wrong, but it isn't relevant since it wasn't a diamond. :) readysteady bet out $15.

I now had him read for an overpair, or maybe a feeler bet with AK (pretty unlikely). Folding on this flop seemed like a bad move; I have too many outs against so many of his possible holdings. I could call and see if the turn hit me, or raise right away. It was highly likely that he would reraise, and I decided that, before I raised, I had to know what I'd do when he reraised. If he reraised, I had to be committed to playing for all my chips. I had limited time to make this decision, but I was sure in about 20 seconds of my one minute to act that I had to be committed.

My biggest consideration was how I'd get paid off if my outs came. I thought he might put one more pot-sized bet in if I hit the flush or the straight, but he might slow down if an overcard came. If my overcards are actually live outs, then I might make another half-pot bet from him on the turn, and when I called it or raised, he'd be done with the hand because he knows that I am not going any further without a pair that beats his (i.e., his “get all money in with overpair” rule no longer applies). Meanwhile, if one of my overcards isn't good (specifically, if he holds KK), I'm a favorite (see numbers below), but it's still tough to play a Q on the turn. I was therefore ready to commit my stack.

I raised to $40, readysteady paused for about a quarter of the allotted time (15 seconds) and reraised to $100. That pause made me even a bit more sure that he didn't have AA. I felt he'd be faster to commit chips with AA, because he doesn't have to pause to consider that I might have an overpair to his. The pause, of course, could have merely been his consideration of a set, but this was a player I'd seen commit quickly to aces once at this table. I felt he would do so again. I moved in, putting my whole remaining $250, and he thought again (this time only about 2-3 seconds) and called. He showed Kd Ks and the board completed to 5c 2d 3d Jh Kh. His set won $521.

Now, in the moment, I didn't have time for heavy math analysis. But even after the hand, I think that the questions are really these: (a) should I fold AQs preflop to an early position raiser, and (b) should I just see if my draw hits on the turn rather than getting all my money in?

As to the first question, I don't think it is reasonable to fold the hand, even against a tight online player. The typical profile of tight players in the six-handed games on Full Tilt — a profile which this fellow fit and had confirmed by his actions — is that they overplay overpairs and/or strong top pair for all their chips. My 9-to-253 implied odds are just too huge to pass up in a six handed game. The other players behind me are highly likely to fold. I'm going to see a flop heads up with position.

Of course, I may be dominated. I need a lot of help on the flop (which I got, IMO) to put any more chips in the pot. But when I do get that help, I'm going to get his whole stack. I am focused on taking stacks in NL HE; not making sure I make the absolute direct odds pre-flop EV play. This is why I decided that for me in this hand “hitting the flop” did not include merely top pair. I definitely needed two pair or better.

Two pair would be tough to play, but this fellow was likely to slow-play a set, so it'd go check-bet-call or check-bet-raise on an AQx flop should he hold a set. Either way, I would have slowed down and eventually folded two pair in that sort of situation. I might lose a bit more on the turn, but I'm only going to bet a quarter of the pot on the turn when he checks again, worrying specifically about the check-raise by that set of aces of queens. Once he check raises, I'm done — I've folded two pair many times in such a spot. So, while there are some negative implied odds for two pair against a set, I also get paid off pretty well from AK, with which he bets out rather than check-raising in that spot. (I should note that despite lots of advice out there about betting out with a set, few players do it; I didn't think readysteady was likely to.)

If I flop Broadway, I'm getting all my money in on the flop while winning. In that spot, he puts it all in with AK most of the time, and a set all the time. If I flop a flush, I almost always win but I admittedly don't make too much from him, unless he flops a set.

If I flop what I flopped, overcards, a flush draw, and a gutshot, I have to tread lightly if the flop is ten high or bigger, but in this case, with all babies, I'm in great shape.

Yes, he can wake up with AA in that spot, and I get my money in as a 36% underdog. But, going back to the hands he likely to have, given his preflop action and flop lead, he's a 1-to-11 underdog (about 8%) to have specifically AA. So, 8% of the time, I'm a 36% underdog. Another 8% of the time (when he has QQ), I'm a 44% dog. Meanwhile when he has KK (18% of the time), I'm a 51% favorite. Against the rest of the likely pairs (TT, JJ), which he holds 36% of the time, I'm about 58% favorite. I'm of course crushing AK (the extra 30%), but if his flop lead was actually a feeler bet with AK, he folds any AK when I raise.)

Anyway, I'll even set aside my read that he didn't hold AA. I'll just do the pure EV calculation that his lead bet gives us no new information (i.e., it may be an AK feeler), and that he gets all the money in with any pair (i.e., we assume no fold equity). I do the calculation by assuming I win right there when he holds AK, and that I have to face the odds with all my chips when he has any other holdings.

With these assumptions, my flop EV (when I raise on the flop, expecting him to reraise and we get it all in) is as follows:

HandProbability of HoldingEV formulaEV component
AA 8% 36% × $271 + 64% × $-250$-5
KK 18% 51% × $271 + 49% × $-250$3
QQ 8% 44% × $271 + 56% × $-250$-2
TT, JJ 36% 58% × 271 + 42% × $-250$19
AK holdings 30% $36$11
TOTAL: 100%$26
(The EV “component” field is the “percent he has it” column multiplied by the “EV formula” for that situation.)

Now, I agree that introducing $250 of variance for $26 of EV is nowhere near the best spot I can get find in these tight-weak games online. But, it's still a good spot that I'd take every day for $250! I believe in keeping a large bankroll (larger than most proposed recommendations), in part so you can take these tight marginal edges.

There are also meta-game considerations here to think about. I have chosen to play short handed NL HE tables precisely because the players there tend to be tight-weak preflop and play one pair too loosely after the flop. I play best in NL HE against tight-weak players who overplay one pair.

When playing against these players, I want to sometimes take these tight-edge gambles. I want them to know they are going to get action when they overplay one pair. More importantly, I want them to know that sometimes they won't be a huge underdog against me when I give them such action. (Indeed, I engaged readysteady in chat window discussion about the odds precisely to make sure he realized that I'd pushed an extremely tight edge.)

You see, I want readysteady (even his username exudes tight-weak play, did you notice that?) to overplay that KK every time. I want him to continue to believe that folding an overpair is impossible. I want everyone at the table to feel the same way. I want readysteady to call up his poker buddies, and tell him about the huge fish who pushed in with AQs with “only” 15 outs. I want them all to react this way, because, if I didn't have straight draw outs as well, I wouldn't have played the hand the way I did. I would have called with 2-to-1 direct odds on the flop, seen if I made the flush on the turn, and folded for a pot-sized bet if I didn't. It would have been a little mundane pot that wouldn't even have made it to my blog. But, I had at least three extra outs, and went for it. Sure, the math shows I'm risking $259 to chase $26 in EV. But, most of the time when I get the money in with him, I have a set of fives, not the nut flush draw with one (maybe two) overcards and a gutshot.

Some might argue this is a reckless way to play NL HE when I could sit and wait for more of lock. I'm going to ask my coach to read this one, but I'll probably need a lot convincing from him that I made the wrong move. I watch these tight-weak players bleed away money playing ultra tight and making themselves like textbooks. I want them to fear me at the table; to worry that they can't fold because maybe I have some big draw, not a set. I don't move in every time with AQs in that spot with every player. It felt right in this situation, with that board, against that player.

We can argue about “risk vs. volatility”. We can disagree that introducing $259 of variance into one's bankroll for $26 of EV is too much variance. (Although please consider that the limit HE player frequently puts 30 BBs at risk to win at most 2 BBs for a given evening — and that this situation is much better.) But, I think that's the most important point of this hand: varying a little bit from playing “by the book” (i.e., calling with AQs after a preflop raise, moving in with a big draw that may be at best a coin flip) builds a complicated table image that keeps your opponents guessing and forces them to respond to you.

We'll see what Bob says when I ask him to read this — if I'm full of crap, I'm happy to eat my words if he tells me to. :)

Update:Bob finally answered me on it.

shipitfish: (poker-strategy-books)

I paid my backer another $250 or so this week -- his 33% of my approximate $800 in winnings. I've been steadily beating both live games here in NYC and online.

Because I was chasing some bonuses on a few sites, I've been playing on sites that I generally felt in the past were "bad games". Some of the higher bonus sites online tend to attract bonus hunters, who are by their nature, low-risk, tight players. Like most players, my optimal game is a loose-passive one, where my value bets get called and I can play the best hand and win with it. Generally, I still feel that such players are the most profitable opponents for limit games, since the best hand is usually shown down.

However, on many sites, there are many more NL HE games running than limit. As such, I've been playing a bit more online NL HE than I used to, and am discovering that the tight-weak style of the classic "bonus chaser" or "correct player" makes for profitable NL HE games. I discuss in this entry a number of reasons why I feel this is so. )

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November 2016

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