Wednesday, May 31, 2006


A friend posed a question yesterday regarding how well you think you understand other people, which really got me thinking. In the end, the one thing that appears relevant to me, is that someone who truly understands themself, is generally good at beginning to understand others.

Now you can probably see where this is heading... yet another angle on the "poker as life" metaphor. If you put the effort into understanding (or at least attempting to understand) your own thought processes, reactions, bet sizes, ego, posture, movements, etc... generally speaking, you're going to be on your way to understanding your opponents.

Sure poker players are just like any group of humans: diverse and in many ways unique. But the flip side of that coin is that really, though we may have different priorities and personalities, we're probably a lot more similar than we are different.

The key here is this understanding of one's self... I'm sure you know people who appear to float (or more often, struggle) through life without the slightest evidence of introspection. They wear their ego... their insecurities... right out on their sleeve. They never seem to learn. In poker, it is much the same... we all know the guys who do certain negative expectation plays over and over, like never backing down when they encounter resistance, or always chasing bad draws for bad odds, or slowplaying tenuous hands... it's a long list.

The tricky thing about poker (and life) is that it takes an astute and honest mind to accurately assess cause and effect and truly "understand", because poor behaviours or poor plays, can often be rewarding. In life, a certain ineffectual coping mechanism, can often appear to be quite effective in the short term, thus reinforcing it as "correct". In poker, well... we all know how on occasion you can get your money in bad, over and over, and come out on top.

Unrelated, mostly uninteresting, and quite admittedly whiny tournament story:

Hero: 77
Villian: AK

Flop A74

Hero check raises all in, villian calls.

Turn: K
River: A

In all fairness (and somewhat of a salve), the "villian" really did nothing questionable here at any point in the hand... but I really struggle with not whining about this long-odds crap. I mean, 98% (according to card player's calculator), seriously. A guy said, "that happens to everyone, though", and my legitimate response in my head is "no, it really doesn't this often, does it? I don't see you leaving tournament after tournament on the winning side of 80/20's or worse".

Furthermore, I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that I truly can't even remember the last time I put something like an 80/20 beat on someone let alone 98/2 (that's worse than a one-outer). 60/40, sure... whatever... I'm not crying about losing or winning coinflips or marginal leads... I take my AJ's against KK's and win now and again, too. Hell I remember losing back to back big hands with QQ both times, which fell to KJ and AK, to end a tournament for me... sure that stings a lot, but in reality, one was a coin flip, and the other was a 70/30... these things can/do/and should happen sometimes.

I guess I'm just venting frustration, and like any bad beat story, looking for consolation that I really don't need. I know the odds. I know that way more often than not I'm the one taking, rather than giving the truly bad beats. I know I tend to play winning poker and the bankroll supports that.

Chau Giang said it best, on taking a memorable beat at the 2004 WSOP: "Poker is nice...I love play poker".


Texas Holdem Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker!

This Online Poker Tournament is a No Limit Texas Holdem event exclusive to Bloggers.

Registration code: 8426635

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Zero Sum Minus Some

I just discovered Tommy Angelo's poker article archive (via Iggy). Now maybe I should know who Tommy Angelo is, but I have no idea. What I do know after spending some time at the link above, is that he's written some damn fine articles on poker.

Folding is a brilliant echo of a mantra I've long held: "Fold to win." Eerily familiar, Kay Knows Poker explores the subject of poker wives. But so far in my reading, perhaps the most striking article has been Zero Sum Minus Some.

In theory, poker is a zero sum game: "a situation in which a participant's gain or loss is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the other participant(s)." Sitting around your kitchen table (or one of these beauties), it still is. But as everyone knows, playing poker online or at a B&M card room, means a house rake or seat fee of some kind. Angelo has this to say:
Then one day while playing I was watching the money swirl around and down and it occurred to me that the poker table is like a huge punch bowl. Each of us pours liquid (money) into the bowl (onto the table). Then we each get a straw, and we sit around the bowl, and we suck. Meanwhile, at the bottom of the bowl, is a hole.

And the effect of the hole looks like this.
The chart linked above is very telling... but mainly it shows how in a true zero-sum poker game, roughly 50% of the players will be long-term winners and 50% will be long-term losers (the left-hand distribution). (Of course it's also possible for a few of the players to win most of the money, with the majority being losers... but in the long run, generally speaking, it's probably much closer to 50/50.)

Now looking at the right-hand distribution, the "zero sum minus some" part... it looks like about 70% of the players are long-term losers (a figure which I've heard quoted many times as being widely accepted to be true, especially online). The implication is obvious: to be in the 30%, and a long-term winner in raked games, you not only need to make moves that are profitable enough to beat the other players, but also the big drain at the bottom of the punch bowl. Indeed, that's what Angelo's article is all about.

Beating raked poker is tough. Seasoned players know this of course, but even they, as well as beginners, need reminded of how tough it can be to outsuck the rake drain. The real problem here is that the rake drain is a deceptive device; it has a habit of looking more like an inconsequential pin-hole rather than the 10" profit-negating conduit that it really is. Ten cents here, a buck there, does in fact add up quickly and eat into your earn rate.

Anyway, I've been beating the players and the rake at PokerStars for a while now... but I'm moving 1/3 of my bankroll over to the much talked about World Poker Exchange, offering weekly rebates of 100% of your contributed rake... essentially rake free poker. We shall see how a few weeks there pans out.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Maybe this has been around for a while and you've seen it... but hell, go check out Excerpts from EuroRounders... hilarious:
Michel: "Look...Croissant, I never told you this, but about a year ago, I was playing poker at the Casino des Atlantes, and Marcel Luske walks in. He sits down at the 50/100 pot limit game. And, I mean, the whole place stops, right? Just watching this guy play. After a while there isn't a retarded European gambling game going, because everybody's just, you know, watching this guy."

- Joey Croissant nods -

Michel: "So you know what I did? I sat down."

Joey Croissant: "No way, you need at least 300,000 euros to sit down at a game like that. Such bad financial management is typical of a boorish American!"

- Joey Croissant and Michel laugh for twenty-six minutes -

Michel: "Right, okay, but seriously, I played for an hour, doing nothing but folding. Then I won a huge pot."

Joey Croissant: "Aces? Kings? Ace-King doublesuited? Suited aces? High connectors? Middle doublesuited connectors? Two big pair?"

Michel: "Rags."

Joey Croissant: "That's probably fine too, you're only like a 48/52 dog."

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Two More Good Ones

More poker/life metaphor quality from Pauly:
Poker is a way to figure out your limitations and how you react in certain situations or during pressure points as DoubleAs has often discussed. But being honest with yourself is something that is very hard to do. No matter if it's poker or in your normal everyday life, the more you lie to yourself, the more it's going to hurt you and your loved ones in the future. If you are blinded with fame and glory at the poker tables and you're not 100% honest with yourself that you need several more years of training before you take the shot, then you're going to fall hard. And you might be indirectly taking people in your life down with you.

The first step is being honest with yourself. Then and only then can you begin the journey to figure out who you really are. Despite all your faults, it doesn't make you a horrible person. Nobody is perfect (well except Phil Hellmuth). And being able to identify your weaknesses allows you to point out your strengths. And that's what you need to focus most of your energy on... what you do best. Then you can take the time to improve those aspects of your life that are liabilities. The two pronged approach is a way to flourish and improve at the same time.

...and some back-to-basics insight from DoubleAs:
It takes a lot of time to master the subtleties of fancy plays so that they're profitable. You have to know the right situations to use them: the right position, opponents, stack sizes, table image, etc. .

I think most players often just go back to solid play after a FPS tangent. The player is now knowledgeable in the more advanced techniques and can actually use them correctly now. The big realization is that the fancy plays need the right circumstances and that those circumstances rarely present themselves.