Thursday, November 18, 2010

Random Topics on Poker

Back when I lived in the North lands I had a core group of friends that had lunch once a month. My claim to fame at these lunches was losing 3 of the first 4 flips for the check (4 to 6 handed no less), and I still actually have managed to attend a couple since I moved down south thanks to gracious scheduling considerations from Pete (he actually joked last time that I was easier to schedule around than the ceo). I've been doing alright keeping this tradition alive down here and today held another gathering at BJs Brewhouse. This lunch drew the largest crowd yet, with a total of seven serious poker players showing up from all over the great Las Angeles area. In all I was at the restaurant for 3 hours and felt like we talked about a lot of stuff that could make an interesting blog post, so here we go.

At 11:05 the Big Potato texted to alert me that he had already arrived. The man is chronically early, partially because that's just the way he is and mostly because if I worked 10pm to 6am I'd be pretty likely to show up early for anything labeled lunch also. Imagine if someone invited you to a dinner event that started at 11pm; you wouldn't be late, right? So I closed up 2p2 and skedaddled over there and he and I shot the shit about Hawaiian Gardens and how they've dropped the 40 game down to 30 with a 1/3rd kill and yada yada yada. Eventually everyone else filtered in, and all told we ended up with seven brave souls and a bunch of funny stories and extremely thoughtful points of view which I'll now list in basically random order.

Joe Tall is a family man now, and trying to player serious poker on the internet while managing a child's going to bed routine seems to be one of the more interesting parts of his daily routine. As an aside every time I try to schedule one of these lunches both Joe and the Big Potato are supporters 1A and 1B. Their response is typically near instant, no matter how I ask them, and it is invariably something to the effect of "Yes let's do lunch just tell me when and where woo hoo!" I think this is because both of them don't get enough opportunities to interact with people, socially, who have a reasonable clue of what exactly it is that they do for a living. I feel exactly the same way, which is why I set up the lunches. Joe fancies himself a stud stud these days (I think he is exploiting an efficiency in the market....young guns just never really got into stud and therefore I imagine the game has not progressed as much as limit hold 'em has over the past five years....there are some interesting points about stud, like the fact that you'd think you couldn't really mass multi-table because the action is more complex, but in fact since it's an ante game you can have up 4 tables and just sit out of two of them anytime you want without missing "free" hands) and one night recently found himself sitting at a game with one of the legendary Chinese collusion specialists and a mega-fish who was sitting out. Joe's intention was merely to sit in the seat, put his daughter to bed, and come back to see if the game had managed to fill up. But a recent software change had eliminated the "auto-post" option (it used to be that you could be sitting in but not auto-posting your antes, which IMO is completely retarded....if you don't want a hand, you're sitting out) and he found himself instantly dealt a hand huhu against the collusion guy. The door cards aren't even off the deck and his wife is calling to him "She's ready!" and Joe is basically like "crap". So he clicks "sit out next hand" and proceeds to execute the most flawless hit 'n run in the history of poker (against a known cheater no less). He is dealt split jacks and puts in some action, then makes jacks and 7s on 4th street against a guy showing like a 4 and 3 who just calls. With five cards out he has a full house (with nothing but a pair of 7s showing) and the other player proceeds directly to apeshit. They cap it on 5th, 6th, and 7th with the other player drawing stone dead, having somehow someway made a wheel on 5th street. All the while during this series of clicking Joe's wife is calling to him wondering why he is being such a bad father. The instant the pot is shipped to him (I don't even know how many bets...what like 35? I mean we're talking about a $1000 HUHU 15/30 stud pot here people) he insta-sits out. LOL, nice hand Joe.

Joe also shared with us the story of the great "Cole South Dom Freeroll", the basics of which are this. Joe Tall goes to Vegas and hangs out with many ballers. Joe Tall repeatedly loses flips for dinner, to the tune of $3300, losing something like 7 out of 10 and 5 in a row. His wife is not pleased, so when he goes to super fancy dinner with NL ballers he declares that he is buying out before they even crack the wine list. They finish dinner and everyone is not having him buying out. Cole South offers a freeroll; if Joe doesn't buy out of the flip AND Cole ends up losing, he will buy 2 bottles of Dom for the entire table, nearly doubling the check. After four cards are removed from contention it is of course down to Joe Tall and Cole and....bink, Joe Tall ships the free roll and they drink Dom for an hour.

A good portion of the rest of the lunch involved some interesting poker discussion, but mostly at a high level on things such as the state of the market/industry/LA poker scene, ways for betting yourself, etc etc (Joe's stud hit 'n roll was the most detailed hand we discussed). Here are some of the points:

1. Bellatrix and the Potato debated the merits of intentionally playing extremely slowly in a rush poker tournament. Bellatrix argued that if you have an edge you should try to play as many hands as possible to maximize it. The Potato argued that in any tournament you are basically over-betting your bankroll every time you play a hand, and therefore it should make sense to slow down as much as you can. I think I agree with the Potato, but am not 100% sure.

2. Joe Tall explained his theory that online poker is both a gift and a curse. It's always there, always available, which is a gift in that it allows you to do what I've been up to the past three weeks (play 2000 hands a day from my dining room table), but a curse in that you can get totally wrapped up in it or play when you're not at your best extremely easily. I feel that so far I've been managing online poker very well. When I drove to Commerce and things started off poorly or the game wasn't as good as I hoped or whatever, I never, ever left. Like I just drove fucking 45 minutes to get there, traffic is terrible, what am I gonna do, turn around and go home? Sure I'd try to take tilt breaks and whatever but there's only so much that walking around a casino can do for your state of mind. But online the game is always there, and you can always get to it. If you're on tilt, shut the shit down and take a break. It's truly wonderful. At the same time just today I realized that it is a bit of a curse, in that online poker is like sweeping. I hate sweeping, easily my least favorite of menial house chores, and you know why? You're never done. Ever. If you're sweeping up the kitchen guess what? There is always a little more shit on the floor you haven't gotten yet. Same with the deck. There is always one more leave, one more piece of dirt, one more pebble, one more everything. Online poker is like that; there is always more action, and you've gotta be careful to get the right amount.

3. My dopelganger and I discussed the Commerce 40 at length after lunch ended, and I postulated my theory that playing the Commerce 20 tends to make one "sloppy". Basically you can simply get away with a ton of shit and none of it matters because everyone is so terrible that you're never going to get punished. Basically 75% of the hands you play will reach the following point; you raise preflop, some people call, you bet the flop, some people call, and they all check to you on the turn. That's it. And in 20/40 just blindly barreling the turn really is often fine because they peel so light that even if you're sitting there with a naked ace high your bet still really is sorta for value and if they check/raise you they have the stone nuts so whatever, just bet. But at 40 when they peel the flop they usually have SOMETHING and if they raise the turn they MIGHT be bluffing so you really can't just blindly bet. He turned me on to a new series on DC in which Mike L and Death Donkey walk through hands from the Commerce 40 (check it out it's quite good). He seems a lot like I was 18 months ago, with something like 700 hours of live 20 logged and the distinct impression that it is completely impossible to lose. Best of luck dopelganger :)

4. Primetime asked Joe "What do you do for a living?" and Joe humbly said he had founded a business. When Primetime pressed it was eventually explained to him that this extremely tall guy named Joe wearing a redsox hat was Joe Tall, co-founder of Deuces Cracked. Primetime was stunned; it was hilarious.

5. I postulated my theory of poker mistakes and the lifetime heater while we were disparaging The Grinder (whose wife is apparently spewing off thousands in the Commerce 20 these days and complaining when her husband only comes in 3rd in a gigantic tournament). My theory of the lifetime heater is explained in the extremely long rambling post above, but in short it's possible to run like the very wind itself for basically your entire live limit hold 'em career because you can simply just flop too many sets. Sets are like nuclear bombs in limit hold 'em. They are a monstrous made hand, and hold draw basically as strong as four flush or four card straight against ANYTHING that somehow manages to be ahead of them. So if you're running hot for weeks or months or years because you always flop a set, you're going to keep playing every single pocket pair no matter what happens in front of you. This lead to a discussion on the three dimensions of a poker mistake:

Is it definitely a mistake?
How big of a mistake is it?
Is it a variance increasing mistake?

Basically if you and I watch a player do something, we could be quite sure that he's making a mistake. What's important, however, is to quantify the magnitude of the mistake. If someone cold calls first in with 22 in a limit hold 'em game, that's probably a mistake. But if he does it in very early position in a game in which he's likely to get a few cold callers, it might not be. If the game is off the chain and nobody ever folds, it's probably not even a mistake. And it's definitely a variance increasing mistake, which means that doing it increases your chances of hitting the life time heater. The Potato basically proclaimed that "all those vietnemese guys" who sit in all the mid stakes games around LA are just like this. They don't have a clue why they're doing what they're doing, and they make a ton of very small mistakes, so the tendency is to label them as fish and not think too hard about beating them. But they're actually better than average players who do a lot of stuff right.

6. This one's just mine that I thought of today (while sweeping the kitchen). The poker ecosystem really is like a bunch of aquariums. There are lots of separate ones (different games, casinos, websites, etc) and it's important that some of them be kept relatively shark-free so that the fishes in them can get just a little bigger and stronger and eventually move to bigger and better aquariums. Think about it....who gets to the 100/200 game at Commerce? There are guys who grind their way up the hard way, guys who are independently wealthy, and fish who lifetime heater their way through the 20, 40 and 60 games. For the long term health of the game it is extremely important that some aquariums be available for new players to cut their teeth and occasionally catch lighting in a bottle and get way over their heads, bringing tons of money up from the 20 game all the way to the 200/400 or even above.

That's about all I'm going to write for now, as I really need to get back to the business of being a professional poker player.


bellatrix78 said...

Yeah, but you would be overbetting your bankroll in ANY tournament (be it NL or limit). Doesn't mean that tourneys aren't profitable or that we should suddenly turn into these big nits. It's not like we're sitting down in the tourney with 1000BB, that would be dumb. The only way to win in the long run is to maximize your equity advantage, that is to play more hands. In a Rush tourney that means, play them fast and make use of the autofold button, but looking through the hand history to get your reads

Alan Bostick said...

Bankroll management and tournament play have almost nothing to do with one another -- except when you are considering playing one in the first place. By a tournament's nature, risk of ruin is almost certainty for every player, even the best ones. So screw RoR; play every hand to maximize expectation, figuring the nonlinear function of chip value into your calculation of expectation.

If you slow down play in a Rush tournament, you will play fewer hands than your opponents, and have fewer opportunities to grow your stack. Thus you will be playing the later rounds with a smaller stack, on average, and be at a disadvantage.

Lucas said...

One positive about online poker as a career seems to be more blog entries. FWIW I agree with Bella that maximizing the number of hands played is the best strategy for rush tournaments.

Patrick said...

I have played quite a few rush tourneys, and I agree that playing as fast as possible is +EV if you have an advantage over the field. More hands against worst players is how you grow your stack. I feel that Rush tourneys even at turbo have more play in them then regular tourneys, and find myself less likely to be short stacked when half the field is gone.

I am mainly talking about NL though, at limit, it doesn't matter what the hell happens, you always end up short stacked. Although I did play an $11 6max tourney on Stars yesterday where I never felt short stacked until it got HU, mainly because I was like the chip leader the whole way, and people play 6max tourneys lol bad.