shipitfish: (partly-cloudy-patriot)

A good friend of mine and lurker here at my journal is a software developer for a startup online poker site. I have served from time to time as their “poker world expert”, which I've enjoyed immensely. These days, they are all accomplished low limit players themselves and don't need my expertise often, but my friend sent me this question that I think I have an answer for, but am curious what others think.

They are implementing Razz, and like all good programmers, they are making sure that every edge condition is handled. My friend has discovered a case where the otherwise excellent Poker Source hand evaluation library (which folks in the poker world who don't also live in the Software Freedom world know as “twodimes”, a web repackager of that library) does something suspicious. We are trying to decide what the right solution is.

Suspend your disbelief for the moment, and consider two Razz hands that have gotten to showdown heads-up. One hand is the 5s 5h 6s 6d 7h 7c 7d. The other hand is the 4h 4s 8c 8h 9h 9d 9s. Obviously, there wouldn't be a huge pot between these two unless they were total maniacs, but there's at least the antes, the bring-in, and a limp. Who should be awarded that pot?

Poker Source says that the winner is the latter hand. I disagree, I think the former wins. In Razz, we have all learned the rule “best five low cards, aces play low, straights and flushes do not count against you“. We've also learned that if all players at showdown must make at least one pair (because they paired twice, for example), the lowest pair wins. I would argue that this continues on up through the rankings of poker hands, skipping the straights and flushes. So, if all players in the hand must make at least two pair, they should make the lowest two pair they can. By this logic, sixes-up is a worse hand than eights-up, and therefore sixes-up should win.

I am not sure what case could be made for declaring the latter hand the winner. It can make four different five card poker hands: eights-up, nines-up, nines-full-of-eights and nines-full-of-fours. The other hand can also make four: sixes-up, sevens-up, sevens-full-of-sixes and sevens-full-of-fives. Can anyone therefore speculate why Poker Source would think the latter hand is a winner in Razz? Is it just a bug, or are we missing something?

shipitfish: (poker-not-crime)

Last night, I got all my chips in out-of-position in a multiway pot at a NYC club; Dawn was in the pot. I held the 5h 3s on a 5c 5s Jc board with two clubs. I moved in because we had one all-in-preflop player for the main pot, and I had a bet and a large raise (from Dawn) in the sidepot ahead of me. I decided that I would represent a weak flush draw by check-raising all-in. I had Dawn, based on previous action, on either AJ or QQ (she claimed later it was QQ). I figured she'd call most of the time with QQ and fold AJ. I expected the very tight player in between to fold his flush draw or jack. There was a reasonably good chance I'd win the side pot and end up heads up against the all-in-preflop player

It came out as I expected, the tight player folded, and Dawn thought for a while. Now, I am totally against soft-playing, so I wouldn't have told Dawn to fold or otherwise given her any direct information. However, I really wanted Dawn to fold because I knew what she probably had and knew she'd have trouble folding QQ.

I should interrupt my story to note that I'm typically the type to give off false tells. I've noticed a few tells common with players who have big hands — there's the classic hand-shaking, but also they tend to breathe heavier when they've made a big bet with a strong holding than they do with a bluff.

I try to use a reverse tell in these instances. When I don't want a call, I get myself all excited and breathing heavier, and if I can get it going (usually I can't), I get my hands shaking a bit. I do the reverse when I have a hand.

However, in this situation, I suddenly found myself shaking a bit and breathing heavy. I am usually in total control of this tell and frequently reverse it or otherwise mix it up. And here I am, up against Dawn, knowing that I don't want to see her lose, and I'm inadvertently giving off the correct signals of a big hand.

Dawn folded after much deliberation, and I haven't yet had a chance to ask her if the tell was a factor. I sure hope it wasn't, because I feel somewhat that effectively I made a subconscious soft-play. I agree that a soft-play of any kind is 100% cheating. I think two articles recently on the subject get that point across well.

So, did I subconsciously soft-play? Should I feel bad about it? I know that I am consciously in control of that tell because I used it three other times that night to give the wrong signal to other opponents. But, heads-up with Dawn with a player all-in and one folded, I let it come out as a straight-up signal. By the time I was breathing heavy and shaking a bit and realized it, I couldn't get control of it to stop it, so I let it go. Did I cheat? Should I try to avoid playing at the table with Dawn in the future anywhere but home games?

I think I'm helped by the fact that Dawn likely didn't pick up on the tell one way or the other, but she'll probably comment here to say. Still, that doesn't excuse it if I was, even subconsciously, trying to give her a signal to fold.

Oh, finally, for those who want to know how it turned out, Dawn folded, I claimed the side pot, and had to show my hand to show it down with the all-in player who had committed his chips preflop with Qc 8c and caught the Kc on the turn.

shipitfish: (foxwoods-stack-2006-01)

I have talked a lot about the NL game at Foxwoods. I have gone back and forth about whether or not their NL games are run well enough to be worth playing. I once claimed that I would never play in the $1/$2 NL game again. Although I can't seem to find the post in my archives (perhaps it was said in a comment), I have also seen bizarre rebuy rules enforced at the $2/$5 game, where a floor person told me I could not top off to a $500 (maximum buy-in) stack until I was below the $200 minimum. I've since gotten around the rule by being a bit more sly about it, but as far as I know, it's still in place.

I went yesterday with two NYC Players (Dawn of I Had Outs) and Alceste) to Foxwoods. I warned them about everything I knew and felt about the NL HE games at Foxwoods, but they wanted to see the place for themselves, and I looked forward to showing what was once my home poker room to some fellow NY players.

I mostly played limit for the day, but I spent a good amount of time taking breaks and looking at what was going on at the NL HE tables. I kept a close eye on the $2/$5 tables and didn't really see any particular reason that I should be jumping to them. Sure, the games seemed generally beatable, but I didn't see anything to indicate that a good score could be made. Most of the players seemed somewhat tight, so I could imagine a strategy of trying to run over the table would be profitable, but not greatly so.

Based on my limited observations, what I believe has happened in the $2/$5 NL game is that it has become much like the $10/$20 limit games at Foxwoods. All the Foxwoods limit regulars have known for years that the $10/$20 limit HE game is the toughest game at Foxwoods. Sure, it's beatable, but it's where you run into the best players. This is because there is little reason for the small stakes gambler to jump up from the $5/$10, because with the kill it plays almost as $10/$20 in an action game. Meanwhile, the bigger gamblers go for $20/$40, because it has the draw of being the biggest regularly running limit HE game. Everyone I know who plays serious limit HE (such as [ profile] roryk, [ profile] reddogace, and good old F.D. who started at the $2/$4 tables with me, play almost exclusively that game when at Foxwoods).

What I see at $2/$5 is the people who have learned some things about NL HE but haven't built their bankroll up for the $5/$10 or $10/$20 game. I'm about in that category, so I'm likely to find settling in at $2/$5 players about at my skill level. So, with a huge time charge, I'm going to rate to lose in that game because I'm sitting with relatively evenly matched players; the low stakes gamblers will prefer to make ten rebuys and goof off at $1/$2 and the serious ones are going to try the $5/$10 or $10/20 blind game.

I was actually one of the first six people who were dealt the first hand ever of the $1/$2 NL game at Foxwoods, which was on Saturday 1 May 2004, as I sat in the game the first time they called (with the goal of learning more NL). Foxwoods realized the popularity of this game quickly and it grew. Their goal, however, has always been not to design a game that the regulars would like, but rather build one that would draw the maximum number of people from other parts of the casino. In other words, their goal (not surprisingly) is to maximize the number of people in the casino they could get to pay exorbitant time charges.

Now, I realized and posted a long time ago that the math of the NL game doesn't work out well. An entire buy-in leaves the table every hour, so you have to move chips early to build a stack that can be used to get people's chips before they are lost to the house. One of the tools you can use is the $40/$100 rebuy trick, whereby you pay a blind from a minimum $40 buy-in, and then rebuy to make your stack $138. This helps a little, as long as you can double up quickly.

The other system I use in this (and all capped buy-in games) is to always pay the time charge and dealer gratuities out of my pocket. This is very important, because if you waste your stack of a limited buy-in with time charges, that $10 in the first hour you pay is actually $20 of from your stack, because you can't use it for a double up. Over a few hours, you've paid $30 or $40 in time charges, and imagine how much double-up and redouble-up money you've lost! Thus, I have tipped and payed time out of chips in my pocket for years at the Foxwoods NL HE games. At times, some people at the table asked if this was allowed, and the floor people always said it was no problem.

However, sometime in the last six months, they have made yet another bad rule change. In addition to not being able to rebuy in an NL game until you are below the minimum buy-in, players at Foxwoods NL HE games can no longer pay time out of their pocket. I spoke with a floor person at length about this, and he was completely unable to come up with a good argument. At first he said they didn't want the confusion of people taking chips in and out of pockets, making it more difficult to watch if money was taken south. But, I asked him, are you still allowed to tip dealers from your pocket?, and he said yes. I therefore maintained that his argument was flawed, because if one can take a chip from the pocket to the table in that case, how is taking time the same way any different?

His next piece of sophistry was even more bizarre. He claimed that since some players might not have adequate bankroll to take time from their pocket (i.e., their case money is on the table), that players taking time payments from their pockets was a violation of table stakes rules, because the player that pays time from his pocket is gaining the advantage of keeping that amount of money in his stack. Of course, this is patently silly. The idea that one can take incidental expenses from the pocket or from the stack has been a long-standing rule in poker, and the time charge should be treated no different than any other incidental expense. In addition, how is this any different from my ability to buy into a game for the maximum while someone else can buy in only for the minimum? That gives me an advantage, of course, but that's just poker.

Both his arguments twist a long-standing permission for players and turn it strangely into a requirement. It's always been the case that if some players choose to pay their incidental expenses (time charges and gratuities) from their stack, that's a prerogative that they are granted by the “incidental expenses during a poker game may leave the table” rule. Making that prerogative into mandate is completely silly.

Foxwoods could make a consistent argument here, saying that the confusion of people going into pockets for chips is too likely to allow people to hide that they've “gone south” (a poker slang term for taking money that is in play in a game from the table). If they wished to make this argument, they would have to mandate that a player may not be possession of any Foxwoods chips except those that are on the table, and that they may not pull gratuities from their pocket under any circumstances. Even more, they could remove the (already annoying) “cash plays as chips” rule of Foxwoods, and they could even say that you can tip in cash but not chips.

But, the truth is that Foxwoods has no interest in making the rules consistent. Indeed, they have no interest in making rules that help regular players. They have no interest in making it so someone can take full advantage in a NL HE game. The truth is, they are a limit club, and they know their regulars are only going to play limit anyway. If they keep the limit players happy, they will have their regular daily client base. Meanwhile, they know that the tourists will want to find NL HE games that don't scare them. At each stakes level, they don't want the tourist intimidated by the big stack. They tolerate the players who stay and build a stack, but that's not really the clientele they want or care about. They want the games to play small to keep people buying in one-buy-in-at-a-time and losing it, all the while throwing their time right from that stack into Foxwoods coffers. They want them lose a moderate amount on the trip, and come back six months later and do it again.

In other words, they don't care about the poker community, or running games that serve that community. What they care about is their own internal competition with the blackjack pits, the craps pits, and the roulette wheels. It's well-known that the Foxwoods poker room has long been treated with contempt by dealers and floor people from other parts of the casino. They don't make as much money, and because of the requirement that all dealers throughout the casino pool all tips, everyone feels that the poker room free-rides on the huge tips received at the high-limit gambling games elsewhere in the facility.

Foxwoods is just a poorly run poker room. They are the poker monopoly of New England, and therefore have no reason to change their terrible policies. I still enjoy the place, because it has special meaning to me. My weekly bus trips there taught me how to win at poker beyond pennies on a dining room table. But, tradition can only hold one for so long when a place is run so poorly.

It's not to say that the games aren't beatable. It's not to say they aren't relaxing. I enjoy going there for the limit games from time to time, because the resort as a whole is nice and when going with a group who aren't poker players, there are opportunities for everyone to do something they enjoy. But, I think my Foxwoods days are done beyond that. I'm going to write a letter to the poker room manager and explain my reasoning, and perhaps there might be some hope of getting a reasonable response.

Anyway, thanks, Foxwoods, for helping me build my bankroll so I'm well beyond the $2/$4 limit games where I started, but I think you don't have much to offer a poker player anymore. Especially if your goal is to make up silly rules that help you only in the short run. I gave you more chances to improve than I really should have. Shame on me for actually thinking you were trying to make the place better.

shipitfish: (Default)

Last night, for the second time ever in Greg's poker game, someone got angry enough at me to resort to name-calling. I made (as Greg called it) "an unorthodox move" to avoid implementation of a controversial rule. While I agree that my move was unorthodox, I don't think it warranted name calling, nor do I think it violated the spirit of the rules, especially given the controversial nature of the rule, the implementation of which I thwarted.

We were playing limit poker ($4/$8 limit HE, O/8 and (of all things) Crazy Pineapple, with a half-kill to $6/$12). I may post specifically about some hands in a later entry, but at the moment, I want to focus on the incident that led to someone calling me a "little bitch". (I'm a pretty portly fellow, so I was a bit surprised I was a "little" anything. :) I write in this entry specifically about the incident. )

I follow it with a discussion of the specifics of the rules in question that led to the incident. Those who aren't as pedantically aware of poker hand-showing rules may wish to read this part first. ) I follow that with a discussion of one thing I do above and beyond the requirements of hand-showing rules that I think is good for the game. )


shipitfish: (Default)

November 2016

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