Thursday, February 4, 2010

Theory of Good Games

This is just a thought that has been bumbling around in my head the last few weeks, but I think it's well-formed enough now that I can turn it into a theory. Or at least, to quote my wood shop teacher in 8th grade (Mr. Weldon, whom I hope is still alive but to be honest I'd bet the under) "something that resembles something that looks like what could possibly be the very beginnings of" a theory.

One of the main ways that your average casino poker player gets better is by observing other players in his game. He doesn't read books, he doesn't post on two plus two, he doesn't talk about hands with people who have beaten the game in the past, and he probably doesn't even think back about his own play in an objective manner and apply changes he thinks will win him more money. He just plays and watches what other people do. My theory is that if he finds a particular player who either always seems to win or is very difficult to play against, he will start to incorporate aspects of that player's game into his own. For example, if Joe decides that Bob is a solid, tough opponent and Joe notices that Bob never open limps, then it's possible, in fact likely, that Joe will start open limping less. At this point I feel the average response is probably "no shit sherlock." Fair point, this is pretty obvious. When people play games they try to copy what the better players do. But there are two interesting points.

Often times the skills required to beat one game are very different from those required to beat the next game up, or at least not enough by themselves. For example, you can probably beat a lot of green chip casino games (6/12 and 8/16) and still play way too many hands preflop. The reason for this is obvious; most of your opponents are playing so many hands that your errors are very small, or perhaps even not errors at all (game conditions dictate which hands are playable preflop, and the default set of such hands changes as you move up in stakes). So what does this mean? People who copy winning players and then try to move up will often be woefully unprepared for the next level and get absolutely slaughtered.

While the first point is interesting, the second one is more what I was thinking when I decided to write this post. If there are no "good" players in a game, none of the regulars will ever get very good. And if a game isn't big enough to support a professional, then really nobody great will ever play it for very long (he'll either move up after crushing it for a few hundred hours, or never play it in the first place). With just a little bit of logic and faith, you can use these statements to claim that live 8/16 games will always be awesome, because nobody will ever crush them for long enough for the regular players to learn enough from them to become solid winners themselves. At least sorta. The same token doesn't really apply to 15/30 and 20/40 games, because these are large enough that some people (myself included) play in them regularly with the expectation of making enough money to at least support themselves. The risk being run is that if enough good players populate these games, the bad players will eventually start picking up their tricks and improve themselves.

OK that's all I've got.


ExMember said...

I like your theory. I'd like to add something similar I think I've observed:

Regulars in a poker room seem to have similar styles.

Players in LA play differently from players in San Diego, or Oceans 11, and way different from players in Vancouver or Foxwoods.

I think the cause is the same; players learn from each other.

The conclusion to draw here is that you should be even more careful about educating players. Something you teach one fish can spread through the entire aquarium, especially in a regular-heavy room.

Also, never let yourself be seen as a tough, winning, or successful player at the risk of inducing imitators. This may be why one tough pro has been telling me they are on a seven month losing streak.

I am, of course, being paranoid, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong.

Patrick said...

Yes and no. This seemed to be the case at Casino AZ as well, but by the summer of last year, there were a good handful of 20/40 winning regulars that were now playing 8/16. This was because the games dried up, and they were smart enough to move down and not go broke. Granted last year was likely an outlier due to the economy and all, but these were players who were used to winning and playing live, who transitioned to 8/16 instead of moving their play online. Granted once things turn around, they will likely move back to 20/40. So I guess I am just rambling.

Lucas said...

Craziest part of the post was that I had an 8th grade teacher named Mr. Weldon who I was fond of and is also likely dead. He tought Earth Science though.

Andrew said...

Any idea how long 'long enough' is before the fish pick up on things? Presumably it's a function of stakes. Any guess as to how long it would be at 8/16, since someone playing several hundred hours on their way through seems like a significant amount of time.

Brian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian said...

The 2 green chip games at Bay 101, 6/12 and 8/16 are very different games. While it is totally profitable playing a TAG style at 6/12, the same style will likely get slaugtered at 8/16. This is not due to the higher caliber of play at the higher limit (matter of fact, they are the same players). The half kill drives actions and many more chasers.
Casinos that offer bad beat jackpots are even crazier. Of course, when the players hang around with 2 3 SOOTED to the river and miss their gutshot straight flush draw... lol

bravos1 said...

This is exactly like the convo we had yesterday regarding BA. He fits right into this theory pretty well.

Brian, I disagree with your post a little. Yes, the 6 and the 8 at Bay are very different games and I've said many, many times that the biggest gamboool game in that room is most likely the 8/16 game for a few reasons. The part I disagree with is that playing a TAG game in both will be very profitable. You just have to understand that "TAG" can mean different things and a true TAG needs to know when aggression should super-seed tightness in certain situations. ie a TAG should still be getting into a pot w/ 78s if it's gonna go off 8 handed.