Monday, May 29, 2006

Dear SoxLover's Advice Column Back in Business

Apparently Yahoo liked my answer to the first dating question I got, since I've received another Dear SoxLover query.

It seems that Yahoo tweaked their algorithm since the original question as my site no longer comes up in response to the original query; it used to be the first result.

I nevertheless feel a responsibility to answer, so:

Dear Waiting,

Do not give up hope!

There could be many reasons he hasn't called you back. Perhaps when he got home, he forgot to take the scrap of paper out of his wallet. Expect a call when those pants come out of the dry cleaners in a couple of weeks. It will be extra special since he'll be sure to be in a good mood having found it there along with a crinkled $20.

Put it in his cell phone you say?

There could be many reasons he hasn't called you yet. Perhaps he left it in the back of his taxi. Perhaps he got your number along with several others and has been conscientiously giving each young lady her chance in order.

Whatever it is, feel free to ask me again, advice by Yahoo search has to be the most innovative use of internet technology I've seen, and any lady thoughtful enough to use it has to have an edge over all those other suitors for Mr. Right. You go girl!

Yours truly,

See the flop...

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Off the Hook Poker and Hustling Grammar

I have a lot of material I could write about, but last night really warrants most of the attention.

So quickly to get up to date before last night, I never wrote up Foxwoods from a week before: several hours, went well then poorly; made a few good plays and made two large mistakes that in the end made the difference between a medium win versus a medium loss.

I had a home game on Friday night, with Weak Player and Weak Wife up for the weekend from Atlanta, Garthmeister, Jordan out from the city, Dawn from Brooklyn as well as Alceste (who is a neighbor here in Jersey) and F-Nemesis, a ghost from F-Train’s poker past.

I started the tourney well, stacking Dawn, but ended up being busted by Jordan-back-from-the-dead whom I could not out-race coming or going. I got creamed with the hammer in our cash game by Jordan again, KATM showed up super late after a last Friday-night dish of Partner Doo Associate at his soon to be former firm. SoxWife managed to take down the 5 person freezeout to book a small win for the evening (busting me heads up in the process, which made the night a big win for her in the home bragging arena). KATM and I played into the wee, wee hours heads up as I myself won back to even (KATM to Sox: “Why do you keep pushing all-in on my probe bets?” Sox to KATM: “Because your probe bets are full of shit.” Sox to KATMwife at 5:30 a.m. on KATM cell phone: “Your husband is an action junkie.” KATMwife to Sox, in a wistful tone: “I know. I know.”)

Oh, and I dropped a massive two out suck-out on F-Nemesis (a/k/a Scott) when he flopped a set under my QQ which also was necessary for my even finish. Sorry Scott--good to see you--and thanks for the Scotch, which is nearly kilt (rimshot!)

Anyway, so about last night.

First the Weaks and the Soxes went to my favorite restaraunt in the world. Kaiseiki is the way to go--guaranteed you will be fed wonderful dishes you didn't even know existed--3 new ways of eating Toro, pine-nut crusted asparagus spears (which cannot be described), Kobe beef carpaccio, it was a blur of Japanese fusion: the wives counted 15 courses. It kept coming and coming, spectacular. Finally when it seemed that we were just a wafer thin mint away from a serious problem, they came out with the dessert tray. Or at least, that's what we thought it was because it had 6 different types of ice cream and sorbet, 3 types of cake, fresh fruit au natural and dipped in chocolate, dark chocolate fudge, and more.

Then they put the whole thing on our table. OMFG!

So there we were, in New York city at 10:30 stuffed to the freaking gills. What to do?

Poker anyone?

So, Weak and I took off to one never to be disclosed location that I had heard about but never been to. Very small, no frills (polite way of saying something worse), reputation of psychotic action. I had never been but had been told the floor was someone I knew pretty well, which proved to be true and we got in.

Not having a shot to go the ATM, I bought in a short 250 off of Weak's roll. Four hands in, a nice young man with a certain savoir faire managed to benefit from my overplaying AJ off a cliff and I was off to the ATM. Actually, he was not a nice young man, he was a fooking tool of epic proportions. Talking smack like a gangster (later line in the night “who here would like an imprint of my NYU ring in their forehead?”), raising a lot of pots and making sure that we all knew we were fish swimming with a shark. I have to admit, he had me at hello—and by had me at hello I mean he had me wanting to see him stacked multiple times.

So having rebought in for the pre-midnight table max of 500 (bumped to 1000 for a 1-2 game after midnight), I was not in a good mood. Sunshine kept raising any pot with limpers, regardless of his position. It was not good play but anger, not a good thing but it’s there, that caused me to take a shot at him. Four limpers to his small blind, he made it 20 to go. He had been doing this a lot, and after my walk of shame, I had not been playing a lot of hands so when I looked down and saw snowman-taterleg, I took it as a sign.

“Raise to 60.”

It quickly folded around to Sunshine, who looked at me with menace. “Kings?” “Slick?” “I call.”

Flop came Ten Six Trey with two hearts. He paused, looking again at me. “Check.”

“120”, said Sox.

“You got kings. I fold.” Flipped over his pocket eights.

“Not quite kings,” I said, flipping over my rags.


“I don’t, I’m not very good at this.”

He gets up from the table for a smoke outside. I know I just got in a stupid pissing match and am a little embarrassed for myself. “Sorry about that,” I say to the table sheepishly.

The chorus then chimes in: “no thank you man that was awesome!” Table verdict rendered, further justice to be meted.

Can you say massive tilt?

He is back, raising every pot, glaring at me each time. “You gonna raise that?” “Nope, not this time, can’t beat 8-3 this time.” Again. “How bout now?” “Sorry, I need to build back my image first.”

And he starts hemorrhaging chips. From the 800 or so he had when he stacked me, first he was down to 500 or so. Then he got picked off by another “fish” down to 300. Finally, Weak limps under the gun and gets raised by a non-descript on his left. It gets around to Sunshine, who decides to push in his last 275 or so. Weak thinks for a bit, confirms his read on the initial raiser (he thought he’d fold) and calls. Raiser folds as predicted, and Weak flips over suited slick and takes down a massive pot when the king hits on the turn. Sunshine goes ballistic, showing a six and not the other card. “How could you fucking call that? You can’t call with that?!” Weak’s answer, “how could you raise with that?”

Sunshine stormed off to make his first of several ATM trips of his own, returning.

Then Nigerian psycho sits on my left with a short 200 buy and my seat is pretty awful. He is in three of every four pots, raising half the time preflop and pushing when he hits anything. It works as within one dealer push, he’s up over 1,000. Never mind, he’s back down to 500 within two orbits, but the guy is action, and the table is rocking. He and Sunshine duke it out a few times, I’m the monkey in the middle. I have managed to win a few pots in the margins, but basically I’m at midcourt watching a tennis game.

I did get into one big hand where for the second time in my life I misread my hole cards. Cost me about 200 as fortunately the calling station whom I lured to the river with my “nuts” against his weak paired ace was, not surprisingly, short stacked. Major embarrassing moment. So I found myself stuck as much as 500, but did climb back up to about 400 down. I was pretty unhappy and considering calling it a night, but wasn’t sure I wanted to pull Weak off his seat as he was cruising along.

Then it got easy when the Grammarian showed, name to be explained at the end.

The Grammarian wanted to play immediately but was stymied by the four person wait list (the floor didn’t want to start a game with only four because he was afraid it would immediately break). So he tossed three greens ($75) in the middle of the table and offered to buy a seat. As soon as I realized what was on offer, I grabbed the chips and sold him what I figured was the worst seat in greater New York. I understand he lost his first 500 in 3 hands and rebought for 1,000. Clearly, he was a man for whom money was not a primary consideration.

Funny enough, we got the other table going fifteen minutes later when Weak volunteered to come over and join us. I took my sale proceeds and played normal poker as this five person was a night-and-day contrast featuring few flops. We then got a sixth player, an old man who sat to my right.

We played along and I was actually able to steal a few pots against 3 other real stacks and 2 very short buys (100). I noticed one of the deep stacks seemed to be seeking to get in pots only with the other deep stacks. Clearly looking to “play poker”. So when he was in the small blind and three people limped to my cutoff, I made I think a potentially significant error when I overbet the pot at 25 with Hilton Sisters. I just hate that hand and hope some day to learn to play it. He looked at me and said he had to call me to see what was worth a 25 bet. Not sure what, but I had a bad feeling he was looking to trap my overpair—which is why I don’t like my play because I fear it gave away my holding.

Flop came 6-T-Q all spades. Ok, I hope he was set mining, but I am not overjoyed with the flop as this may be a giant pot and the sisters like to kick me in the junk with gusto. If he flopped a flush, God hates me, if he flopped a flush draw, I’m not sure what to do. He, looking quite alert, checked. I made another non-textbook move and checked behind.

Turn came the ace of clubs. That was maybe a good card. He bet out 25 and I made it 100. At that point he called me and I figured he had the ace of spades. My pulse was topping 170 I think.

The river came a red eight, failing to fulfill my ardent desire for the board to pair but at least not four flushing me. He immediately pushed. Whaa?

Okay, potential scenarios:

1. I was beat: against a flopped flush, set of aces, KJ or garbage straight. I ruled out the aces, but the straight was real cause for concern. Still, I was having some trouble believing he would have played a 3 spade board so slowly with a turned straight, or a gut shot at all on the turn.

2. He could also have a lower set or a two-pair. Seemed to me that his river bet would be insane with these since he had so much check value here

3. Or my read could be right and he could have had the ace of spades and was bluffing with a busted draw.

I was going to lose it all if he had 1 and unstuck myself with 2 or 3. I can’t honestly say I would have folded to a smaller bet, but the push was fishy. I called and he showed the ace of spades, seven of diamonds, and for some reason berated me a bit. Favorite quote: “if you had bet on the flop, I wasn’t going anywhere with the nut draw.”

If that were true, I guess I extracted probably the maximum value for the hand. Well obviously, but I mean that playing it normally might not have got me paid off. If I bet say 50 on the flop, he had called, turned aces and I were to bet pot again to price out the flush, the best I could have done is induce a stupid call on the turn and maybe another on the river. Had I bet more than 50, maybe I would have taken down a small pot, maybe not. I’ll admit that in my gut I am not 100% happy with how I played the hand, but I am not sure if I am right or wrong. Obviously, I liked the outcome. Oh, one more thing: can you believe my Queens didn’t get cracked?

Finally, the icing on the cake, the wafer thin mint at the end if you will. The Grammarian kept popping over to our table to chat with the short stack on my left. He heard me speak and suddenly asked me if I wanted to take a grammar test.


He sprang back to his table and grabbed four red chips, putting them in front of me.

“I’m not betting on grammar.”

“No problem, you don’t have to bet, first one to get this right I’ll give them 20.”

Sox knows a good overlay when he sees one. “Shoot!”

“What’s the difference between ‘that’ and ‘which’?”

Easy insta-call: “‘That’ is definite, ‘which’ is indefinite.” My redbirds.

Looking slightly surprised, he ran back to his table and grabbed two green chips ($50). He set them down before him.

“Please correct this sentence. ‘Women having the right to vote threatens men’s superiority.’”

Sox ponders.

“Women’s having the right to vote threatens men’s superiority.”

Booyah! My chips.

The Grammarian ran back and grabbed some more chips. Here I made my one –EV grammar move when I failed to notice his hand was still over them.

“I saw John in the street, whom I knew to be ____. He or him? This one you also have to tell me why.”

Sox ponders.


“Really, why not he? Isn’t ‘to be’ generally completed with ‘he’?”

“Him relates to the subject of the second clause, ‘whom’. ‘Whom’ is in the objective case. The ‘to be’ links the two, and therefore it needs to be ‘him’, also in the objective case, rather than ‘he’, which would be in the subjective case and therefore incorrect. Where’s my money?”

He looked down and saw his hand was over the chips. “I forgot to put them out. You’ve already won enough from me.”

Doh! I couldn’t really argue with the guy so I had to make do with 70. Who says grammar is unimportant? You never know when someone will pay you cash money to be a nerd. How sweet is that?
See the flop...

Friday, May 26, 2006

No, I am not a Calculator

Raveen made a comment on my last real post on squeezing EV out of a loss, so I looked him up and saw a question for a basic mathematical analysis of a particular poker decision. My kind of puzzle, I put out a comment calculating the EV of the options fairly precisely.

Mookie in a comment to my last post pimping Bloggerstars asked how much math I actual use in big hands at the table. My response here is to that question:

Nothing close to that kind of calculation on the fly. His hand was actually pretty easy because he was so clear on his read (that his opponent was drawing to the nut flush) and because the chips were mostly all in already--no question of calculating implied odds there. In a real game, I wouldn't have done anything like the whole analysis but like most people know that a flush draw is basically 2:1 behind at the flop and that my opponent was not going to be able to fold. The choices were either call with half my chips behind and wait to see a turn (folding if the board 3 flushed) or push on the flop and let the cards fall.

The exact EV I calculated in the comment I would not be able to determine, but I would know that I would be losing EV if I checked and my opponent was capable of folding the turn and gaining it if he was not (aside: there is a variation of this situation however if less chips are in the pot versus the stack sizes where it is better to bet less than all in to give your opponent the opportunity to make two mistakes, one on the flop and one on the turn--FTrain has pointed this out to me and he is quite right that it goes against my natural inclination to get it all in sooner--this is a hole in my game--I believe Raveen's situation was different however).

The math I use in post-hand analysis is not that complex, but still not something I am capable of doing in real time. My actual math technique at the table when it's close enough to need computation is to first quickly as I can determine the pot odds I am getting, then I will guess the hands my opponent likely has and the outs I have against them (or vice versa), discounting outs that might be "bad".

For example, let's say on the flop if I have a flush draw with middle pair and a gut shot, and put my opponent on two pair or a set, or maybe just maybe top pair top kicker. Against the worst of his hands I have 18 outs, against two pair I have 12 outs against 4 redraws, and against the set I have either 9 or 11 outs (depending on whether it's bottom or top set) versus 9 redraws. This much I probably can spot at the time or close enough (if he is all in, I can take my time, otherwise I can still think but at the cost of giving away some information--much more likely to do this live BTW)--I would at some quick point take a rough guess that I have about 10-11 "effective" outs against the range (I have heavily discounted TPTK) and redraws. With two cards to come, using the rule of 4, I have about 40-45% chance to win--again this I can and do on the fly. The math is not perfect, but enough to guide me and any error is less than that attributable to the reads.

After I make this calculation, unless the action is all-in or fold, I'll also need to figure how I think my opponent will react to my actions. The actual decision paths will vary depending on the strength of the opponent and the size of stacks behind, if any--here there is math moving through my head in the background, but it's not something I will consciously calculate (see my post on the Math-Feel Balance a few posts ago).

I want to say doing all this does is not sufficient to make good decisions--though I think all good players do some form of this either consciously or intuitively (for some people, they have seen so many hands that the right analysis just comes, and for still others I've heard just get it from the get go).

I recognize that I am no such savant, and made the commitment to myself a way back to force myself to run the numbers afterward on close hands to gain the maximum learning value and to check whether my thinking at the table was on the right track. Running through the full math after-the-fact makes it easier to react faster to those situations at the table in actual real time when similar situations occur. This is also one of the primary reasons that I blog.

It is worth noting however that for this kind of math to result in better decisions, your reads have to be right--if you assign incorrect values to your effective outs because you fail to see a likely holding or give too much weight a less likely holding, all math will do is lead you to a bad decision. More simply put: garbage in, garbage out.

Again, some people get this through massive experience at pattern recognition, others I suppose through physical reads (I for one on rarely benefit from the latter).

Personally, I think I’ve got the math largely down, and I’m getting better at the reads, though I still have a lot of room for improvement. The last primary component I think is the discipline to follow through the results of the first two. You can get your reads down, you can calculate the optimal move that results from those reads and your own holding, but if you fail to execute—which in any given context can mean failing to fold, call or raise—you will lose. Anything that causes one to lose this discipline can make the perfect reader with the perfect calculation skills a perfect loser.

Unfortunately, I sometimes resemble this remark, without the first two perfects.
See the flop...

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Online 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: 7330476

See the flop...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Squeezing the EV Out of a Loss

I was posting a comment on Fluxer's site when, as often occurs to me, it got rather voluminous. Rather than run on in his comments, I decided to make a virtue out of verbosity and flip it into my own post.

Fluxer responded to TripJax's first question (What is the biggest mistake people make at a NL table?) as follows:

People don't realize that they will lose money after making good plays. I used to think that if my stack decreased playing a NL cash game, I was playing bad. Usually no one has a big hand, and the cards are irrelevant. Good players take advantage of that. You have to be willing to lose if you expect to win, and that's why bankroll is one of the most important aspects of poker in general, since the best players will experience the biggest swings. Poker is an exciting game because anything can happen, even if your play is consistently good or bad.

In general, I think I agree with this statement. Nothing original in the thought that one needs to focus on decisions rather than results to be successful at this often cruel game.

There is a risk, however, in relying on this way of thinking as a crutch. For one thing, it does not explicitly state the corollary point that people also forget that they will often win money after making bad plays. (Disclaimer, I'm not accusing Flux of thinking like this, I just am riffing on the idea.)

You start with a hypothesis that a certain decision is a good decision. You make that decision. You end up with a bad result. Conclusion? You're far from ready for one. Even still, if your first instinct is to challenge your own hypothesis, that is not something you should suppress. You should take it as a instance against your hypothesis, and consider why it failed.

It is absolutely true that good decisions may not cause good results and poor decisions may not cause poor results. Nevertheless, it is true that good decisions positively correlate with good results and that poor decisions positively correlate with poor results.

One must be careful before dismissing a bad result as anomalous out of hand. You need to think it through.

Sometimes, this is easy: if your move resulted in all the money going in when you were ahead, and opponent nevertheless got lucky, your hypothesis should remain unqualified (here I am assuming you are playing a ring game).

Other times, not so much. For example, say you lose when you opponent calls when he should have folded because your bets clearly represented a range of hands that were way ahead of what he called you with and even when he called you had ten outs twice, but you missed anyway. The correct treatment of this case?

The answer cannot be: you made the right decision and had bad luck. It was not bad luck that made your opponent call you. It was perhaps a number of factors: 1) it could be your table image was not tight enough to sell the hand you were representing, 2) it could be that the guy was multi-tabling and had not noticed you had folded 94% of your hands in the last 3 orbits, 3) it could be that the guy is a flaming moron. (It could also be that you got outplayed.)

Nevertheless, the natural response is going to be to type bloody murder into the chat box "how could you call that you #&$)*#$fish?!"

Mind you I'm quite guilty of this reaction myself, but I recognize it as an incorrect and worse a counterproductive response (this is a version CJ's critique of people who complain that the other guy calls him with the better hand, which may or may not have been aimed at me but I'll own it because I know I've done it). It's wrong not so much because it teaches your opponent not to make that "mistake"--they almost always believe they made a savvy call and may well enjoy your ire--but because it deflects attention from where you need it, that is, from adjusting your own game, in this case perhaps refining your hypothesis to further account for your table image, your opponent's distraction and course your opponent's possible stupidity.

My opinion is that the true EV of a poker decision should be measured not only with the expected result but also the expected future value of the information you receive about and convey to your opponent and the value to you of learning about the efficacy of the play in all future hands, minus the expected future cost of any additional information you have given your opponents and, one hopes not but it happens, the expected future cost of any false information you "learned" about the efficacy of the play in all future hands. These added elements are very small I think compared to the instant EV and generally should not effect specific decisions except at the margin (Sidebar noting Bob Ciaffone's excellent point that advertising is a natural byproduct of correct play and should never be done for its own sake; I think this also applies to information gathering and learning), but they are real, and if you react by ignoring the potential negative evidence against your game, you are leaving money on the table. It is plus EV to learn (thus the title).

Finally, I agree with Fluxer completely that Sklansky's FTOP is a far from perfect guide to actually playing poker. However, I do believe that deviations from it are usefully analyzed by reference to it--i.e., when you make a move that you wouldn't make if the cards were face up to induce your opponent to do the same and your opponent makes a an FTOP correct call, you need to at least consider the possibility that you made a mistake. Losing the hand is an indicator that you should do that. In fact I think it is imperative that you do so, because I think we are wired to find the fault with the other guy and if we do that we are not going to get any better from our mistake, which itself is additional -EV.

But sometimes you still got to ask, how the hell could you make that call???

See the flop...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Questions from TripJax

Saw TripJax prepared questions and it seemed like an easy way to write a canned post:

1. What is the biggest mistake people make at a NL table?
Assume question is addressed at ring games. If you mean people, the biggest mistake I see is when people can't fold when they're beat. For big bets--especially at lower level NL say up to 200. It may not be the most frequent mistake (which is definitely underbetting) but it's the biggest. Interestingly, it makes another frequent mistake--overbetting--not so much of a mistake.

If you mean this person, it's trying to hijack pots too often, particularly online. Over time, I have drastically reduced the frequency I attempt this and my results have improved accordingly.

2. What is the biggest mistake people make at a Limit table?
Fairly trivial point, they play too many hands. Except at Triple Draw. There, they play too many hands also, but the biggest mistake I see is failing to understand how important position is in that game.

For me, it's playing any hands--I'm not a very good limit player. Well seriously, my biggest mistake in a limit game is probably losing discipline when bored in games other than Triple Draw and Razz, and going on tilt in those after my junk get numb.

3. Why do you play poker?

No, I've always like games and competition. This is surprisingly deep game and and trivially short answer. I think it merits it's own post so that's all I say now.

4. If you weren't playing poker, what would you be doing?
Why do think the net was born...oh, I mean I'd be reading a Penguin classic. No, probably watching more TV.

5. What is your favorite poker book and why?
Harrington on Holdem 2. For me, it's just been the most useful and has helped me wrap my hands around and refine my understanding of concepts I had only been able to barely intuit.

6. Who is your favorite poker player and why?
I don't really have one. For the way he comes at the game from many directions and seems like a nice guy I like Daniel Negreanu (the vegetarian momma's boy thing doesn't do much for me, but it doesn't give me the urge to taunt him through an open car window either).

I absolutlely fear and admire Phil Ivey. No real urge to sit the table with him.

7. Which poker player do you dislike the most and why?
GRob for cracking my aces.

Oh, not really. So many people to put in here, but the asshole de jour is has to be Shawn Sheikhan.

8. Do your coworkers know about your blog?
A select few.

9. What is the most you have won in a cash game or MTT (both live and online)?
Best: It was a very good session.
Worst: It was a very bad session.

10. What is the most you have lost in a cash game or in one day total (both live and online)?

Ask the Rooster, he was there. He can even tell you my bad beats for me. It still hoits!

11. Who was your first poker blog read?
FTrain--discovered my law school buddy's blog by accident search for information on the legality of poker in New York (doh!) He needs to post more often. Pasting up others' old usenet posts does not count.

12. What satisfies you more, your aces holding up for a big pot or a bluff working for a big pot?
Hmmm. I'm not sure having aces hold up "satisfies" me. It's more about relief and evidence that the universe is not always evil. So it must be stealing a big pot.

13. Why do you blog?
I'd like to say it's about improving my game, disciplining my thoughts, but let's be honest, I like to navel gaze.

14. Do you read blogs from an RSS reader like bloglines or do you visit each blog?
Bloglines, will often click through however.

15. Would you rather play poker for a living than do what you currently do for a living?
Not really.

16. Do you wear a tin foil hat on occasion?
Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean "they" are not after you. I know. I'm one of "them".

17. If you had to pin it down to one specific trait, what does a great poker player have (or do) that separates them from an average player?

18. Is Drizz the coolest person on the planet for naming his baby Vegas?
I don't know. I always preferred "Moonpuppy". But Vegas is pretty cool.

19. What is your primary poker goal and are you close to accomplishing it?
To get mad skillz. Working on it.

20. What is your primary online site and why?
Full Tilt for ring games; lots of juicy tables, great software, excellent customer support.

Poker Stars for tourneys; Full Tilt tourney structures suck ass and they don't fill very often anyway (causal link you think?), solid software, also excellent customer support.

I also play on UTB, primarly for Triple Draw and for a change of pace in my NL ring games--better play, 10 players, I seem to have less swings on UTB NL than FT.

21. What site do you dislike and why?
I hate Party Poker. Software sucks, support sucks. Lots of fish, but you can find those elsewhere too.
See the flop...

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Math-Feel Balance

I posit the obvious point that for poker in general but no limit in particular, one needs to develop an intuitive grasp of the interaction between the odds and the human element. By this, I mean the ability to calculate pot odds, odds of winning against a range of hands, the ability to put an opponent on a narrow range based on his or her play in that and past hands and perceived current mental state, the instinct for what effect bets of various sizes will have on that opponent based on the former as well as your own current and long term table image--fold equity, implied odds, the whole lot--all at the same time and dynamically while dealing with your own emotions.

Apologies in advance, but it's an occupational deformation of mine that I have a compulsion to create clunky defined terms, so I'll call this the "Math-Feel Balance". It's not quite right since it's not really "balance" per se, one doesn't come at the expense of the other, it is more about managing the interrelationship between the two on the fly. I almost defined it as the "Math-Feel Nexus", but I didn't want to get flamed more severely than I am already asking to be.

Trying to develop the Math-Feel Balance all at once is impossible for all but the savant. Play, study, play, reflection, play, some more study and then much more play. Would that it could be mostly about digesting finely distilled poker wisdom from the writings of our betters--unfortunately, it's often more about learning each lesson yourself through repeated trial and painful error.

I believe I started the game with a flawed but not terribly so understanding of the math. Basic odds I got quickly, moving into implied odds and leveraged bets and the like came with study and application. Putting people on hand ranges comes from long iterations of play--pegging styles to how people with those styles bet and react to bets, learning how identify who was playing poorly and a table, how they were playing poorly, and doing so as quickly as possible. Generally, this is not something you'll get out of a book (one personal exception, particularly in limit poker I learned from a book that the correct circumstances for cold calling a raise were rare enough that seeing somebody do it just once at a table was a enough to launch a working hypothesis that they were a fish).

An interesting aspect of the Math-Feel Balance is aggression. For some people this is a natural phenomenon for most I think it should be a natural byproduct of the Math-Feel Balance--aggression is often the best way to translate your understanding of the odds and your reads to the best outcome.

However, it is possible to artificially inject aggression into one's game for its own sake. This is dangerous, and I think among other problems, I fell into this pretty severely. Cliché maybe, but still true: what one needs is selective aggression. That means in many dimensions: select the right player, the right moment, the right holding. I’m still working on it, but I think it's getting better, and moreover my aggression is melding into the math part that I think I've gotten pretty down pat at this point.

I continue to evolve as a player and believe that though I have come a long way, I have a long way to go. One of the reasons I love this game however is that I still see a whole lot of rungs above me.

I can't say that I'm feeling anywhere near bulletproof (what a bad sign it would be if I were), but my results have significantly improved. I have a renewed confidence in my game. I had a bad variance streak clearly extended and deepened by tilt-fueled poor play. I also fell victim to classic symptoms of Fancy Play Syndrome--this is I believe this what happens when you aren't maintaining your Math-Feel Balance, when you push one over the other rather than considering both together.

I believe that after two and half months of consistent results, I have turned the corner. Unfortunately, club poker in New York seems completely dead for the time being, with the last survivors of a dying breed being shut down. To fill the gaping void, I'm going to Foxwoods tomorrow, Vegas in July, and probably try to slip in a few AC trips when I get clearance. In the meantime, I'm going to have to make do with online play.

If this had been earlier this year, I'd be frightened for my bankroll given the disparity in results I had been showing between bricks and clicks for the half year or so preceding. I've spent the last few months retooling my online game in particular and climbing out of a hole I dug for myself in February.

At any rate, after taking stock of my game and my recent results, as well as doing some housekeeping in aggregating my bankroll accounting across sites, I determined I was ready to move up in limits again, this time to 1-2 NL (200 buy-in) full ring games--9 player on FT and 10 player on UTB. It's not that I haven't played these, and even 2-4 before, it's just that this is the first time I am tackling it with a thought out, non-RL dependent money management plan. I took a brief shot the weekend before last with ugly results, knocking myself back down to 0.5-1 as I believe I let the psychological jump cracked my discipline and upset my Mind-Feel Balance. I rebuilt over a week and a half and took another crack on Monday, with much better results, followed up last night as well (Tuesday was WWDN so I didn't play a cash game until after, and that was steam venting triple draw--went well actually). Still a work in progress, but I’m in this pool just up to the jewels, about to make the last leap into this level as my new state.

Here was a very difficult hand (for me at least) from Monday--a pot I would not have won without the aid of pokertracker/poker aces heads up.

Full Tilt Poker
No Limit Holdem Ring game
Blinds: $1/$2
9 players

Stack sizes:
UTG: $192.05
UTG+1: $86.55
Fishiswa: $194
MP2: $338.80
MP3: $191.75
CO: $245.25
Button: $253
SB: $268.30
BB: $97.25

Pre-flop: (9 players) Fishiswa is MP1 with T&♠ T♣
2 folds, Fishiswa raises to $7, MP2 raises to $12, MP3 calls, 4 folds, Fishiswa calls.

[MP2s stats showed him as a 41 VPIP, 13PFR, with aggressive but not insane tendencies after the flop. Big stack indication of at least recent success. Hard to automatically credit him for a better hand here but I considered that the min raise might be bait for a reraise. The overcaller was tight solid, and I had to think he either was set mining, or had a very good drawing hand. Hard to put him on an overpair to my tens except maybe jacks. I knew this was a potentially dangerous situation with tens out of position, but still thought I had enough value to warrant the call with almost 7:1]

Flop: 9♥ 9♣ 9♦ ($39, 3 players)

[Wowsa! Takes away the under set, question is is my overpair good. Bet out? Naw, let's let them tell me something first. I’ll admit there are strong arguments for betting out here.]

Fishiswa checks, MP2 checks, MP3 checks.

[Well I am not sure what I learned here. MP2 could be slow-playing aces or have overs hoping for a free card--MP3 probably missed.]

Turn: 4♦ ($39, 3 players)

[Blank. I need find out where I am. I either have the best hand or I'm way behind.]

Fishiswa bets $39, MP2 calls, MP3 calls.

[Ruh roh. MP2 calling is consistent with a big slow play. It's also consistent with a bluff set up--which certainly is consistent with his numbers. MP3s call on the other hand is consistent with a lot of hands that beat mine and few that don't. I am done with this hand.]

River: 5♣ ($156, 3 players)
Fishiswa checks

[As I said.]

MP2 bets $60

[Is it a bluff? We'll soon find out as MP3 is sure to call him.]

MP3 folds

[Whaaa???? Uh oh. Now I have to make the decision. Would MP2 make a bluff here knowing that one of us was sure to call him? He has only bet 60 into a 156 pot--a bet that looks like it's dying to be called. This couldn't be a bluff, could it? I click on my PAD desperately looking for information. His post flop aggression as I said is strong but not maniacal. But what's this? Hmmmm. His aggression is not the same on all streets. 40% frequency on the flop, 30% on the turn, and 85% on the river. Wow! That's a pretty big number. Still can't be sure he hasn't strung me along--first, not all of those 85% were bluffs, and second, this only based on 85 hands. But all things being equal, one has to believe the river bluff is definitely a feature in this man's arsenal. How much of a feature? 60 to win 216 is a good enough price to ask the question more concretely.]

Fishiswa calls.


MP2 showed K♠ A♦

Fishiswa wins final pot of $276.


It got even better when MP3 started cursing into the chat box, presumably having folded his jacks.
See the flop...

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Nothing to do with poker but these are really funny

May you have already, but I just discovered Google Video. A few of my favorites:

What's the internet for?

The future of China.

Helping hand.

See the flop...

Friday, May 12, 2006

A Really Good Day

When I tell Mrs. SoxLover it was a really good day, she knows that means two things.

1. The Red Sox won.
2. The Yankess lost.

So yesterday was a really good day. Better than just that however. See, we both were attending a small live tourney with a few bloggers and half of Brooklyn's young Russian poker playing community graciously graciously hosted by the gals at I Had Outs.

We had two tables full of players, pizza and beer. And a nice big plasma game with the Sox-Yankess game on, and a smattering of diehard Yankees fans there to enjoy the friendly rivalry (bah), including one at my very own table who fortunately forgot to sing. Only thing better than a Sox come-fro- behind-victory at Yankee Stadium is having it happen while watching the game playing poker with a bunch of New York's finest fans (yes, we had Mets fans there too).

Only thing better than that is doing it and having both your humble narrator and Mrs. SoxLover cash.

Other highlights:

Having FTrain announce his perfect reads on me to the table while he was not in the hand.

Hitting my gutshot early (yes Charles, I raised a gutshot) and getting paid off by Karol's brother, who was a force at the table against whom I was happy to have position for most of the evening.

Check raising my own wife. Boy was she angry. But the table didn't know what I did, which was she wasn't angry at me, she was angry at herself since she had read me like a book and ignored her read. This was the only mistake I saw her make all night.

Having KK hold up against 68 suited.

We ended up chopping 6 ways rather than the planned four places given the late time, but with the 3 rebuy structure, it wasn't not an awful payout notwithstanding. The blinds had gotten pretty high and it was on the verge of becoming a crapshoot anyway.

Thanks Dawn for providing the pad and the equipment (not so much thanks for putting me in my place a few times when I got out of line--well played ma'm).
See the flop...

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Weekend Wrap Up and the Worst Fold I Ever Saw

I actually posted a lot this week, perhaps buoyed by my recent good run--I hope that didn't jinx me--but mostly little blurbs.

Although this week has been quite busy (avoid deals with time zones in far continents where strange people come from), I did manage to get in a good amount of poker this week.

On Wednesday, I went with a recent nominee (by yours truly) to this list to play a few cards on Wednesday. As said crooner may have already mentioned in with his usual gentle ribbing, I was able to catch a few cards with a couple of draws. The table was teeming with fish, one enormous calling station who paid off FTrain's aces. When he called the push on the turn with the most riduclous board in the world, we both thought he'd been cracked and I thought I'd be sitting next to FUTrain (credit).

There was also a player with a pink tie who at first seemed good, but made some awful moves, mostly the expensive kind. In my first big hand, he staddled to 5 and there were two limpers and one fold (FTrain) to me. I had not played a hand for my first orbit, and made it 30 to go. I had Q♠ J♠ and made it 30 to go with just about 270 more behind. This bet may seem a little large, but with a straddle and limpers, I wanted to play this hand and generally limping here with 4 more to go is inviting someone to take the pot. As it was, it folded to pink tie, who thought for a few moments before deciding to defend with a call. The others folded and we saw a KT5 rainbow flop. Not too shabby at all. He checked to me.

I thought for a moment he was preparing a check raise, but put that aside as I hadn't played enough hands with this guy to trust a physical read. Considering the flop, I figured I had a pretty good chance of taking it down right there unless he had a king, and even then he'd have to consider AK (which it was possible he had but unlikely). So I made it 50 into the 73 pot. He thought again for a few moments and declared raise. Minimum raise to 100, that is. The kind that makes baby jesus cry. Here's exactly why:

I was being asked to call 50 to win 222, with 8 outs. If he was only going to let me see one card, I was 4:21, a little light, but since I had position, I had implied odds if I hit as the only way he could keep me from seeing another card was to put some more chips in, which was more likely if I hit a 9 but less so if I hit an A and he did not have AK. If he was not going to protect his hand, I was going to be getting two cards and thus had approximately 8:21 to take it. Either way, his bet was horrible.

Turn was a ka-ching nine, he pushed with Kournikova (the KQ kind), and I had my chips in the pot before he did. Egads he played that poorly.

I hit one more big draw with A♥ 8♥ with an ace on board when some dude refused to raise on the flop or bet on the turn to protect his AQ and waited to value bet 50 the river when he hit his 4 straight with 3 hearts on board. He had position on me and could have checked to see the cards, but his 50 bet cost him 100 more as he felt compelled to make the crying call into the nuts. Noice!

Last hand I have been debating, a bit with FTrain but more with KATM. Pink tie raises to 12 UTG, one of two standard raises for the table (the other being 20). Super tight older guy calls, FTrain calls, then it's me. I look down and see 5♠ 7♠, one of my favorite hands (see the banner above, thanks again Kat), and come along for the ride. By the time we were done, we had a 6 way pot for about 75 (strangely enough the ancient calling station folded). Flop comes 9♠ 5♥ 3♠. Pink tie checks and super tight guy, who only has 125 or so, bets 40 into this 75 pot. It folds to me and I have some thinking to do. I am not inclined to give up this pot with that flop. After all, if you don't love that flop, you should be playing 5♠ 7♠. Question is what will maximize EV here.

I could call, but frankly I know I'm behind with a monster draw--calling is really not an option with this hand as its value requires two cards.

If he has top pair, I am actually very slightly ahead, and although if he has a set, I'm not in great shape, I'm not exactly drawing dead. So where do I eke out extra value out of this situation? I want him to fold that's how. Granted, he is not going to fold a set, but he well might fold top pair. Putting him all in for 85 more, if he has top pair, will yield me approximately 50% of 75+45+85 or a bit over 100 if he calls, and 100% of 120 if he folds (this disregards the players yet to act, but I'll get to them). A fold is clearly better for me. If he has a set, he's simply not going to fold, but an 85 bet will still yield about 65, for a loss of about 20. Question is do I think it is more likely he has a set or top pair? (This guy is very tight so I can't put him on two pair with the preflop action, and I think he would have raised with an overpair, though the odds are the same as top pair anyway.) I'm looking at him and he does not look like a guy that flopped a set.

So putting him all in is the way to go. But now how much to bet? There were 3 more people to act after me. I had all of them well covered, but a two have around 400. I wanted to maximize pressure on the guy if he had top pair, and more importantly discourage any caller with a better flush draw (yikes!). I'd also like to push out two pair if possible, and incidentally wouldn't mind picking up a call from an OESD. I decided to bet 300. This was a pretty big over bet, and some might think 200 or even 125 would have done it (KATM thought so). I was certainly opening myself up to a set on my right. I am discounting that however for two reasons. First, the guy had either the 9 or a set, I had a 5. A set behind me just isn't that likely. Second, if I bet 125 for example, if a guy with a set after me with one of the big stacks pushes, I have a very hard decision to make as I am only a 2:1 dog here being offered 275 to win 640 and can only fold if I'm sure that's what he has (interestingly, if it's set over set, my odds are almost the same but then I'm being offered 275 to win 705 since I have to believe the initial bettor will be calling). So I am pretty much pot committed anyway.

My analysis of course wasn't nearly so precise in the 30 seconds or so I took (a long time for me at the table), but after going through it here, I am much more comfortable that I made the right bet.

After I bet, it folded around to the initial bettor. He thought for a bit, folded, flipping a 9 and saying "nice set". When I showed my cards (I probably do this too much), he expressed shock that I had bet that much with three players to follow without having a set.

So after an hour, FTrain and I took our easy money and went for some Man Doo Gook in Korea town. I am not making racially charged homo-erotic statements here, this is what meat dumpling soup is called in Korean. I even called KATM to confirm, but he was too busy to talk that evening as he was still at work being served some Partner Doo Associate.

Ok, now quickly for the Worst Fold I Ever Saw:

25 to go or so in a 50+5 90 person sit and go on Poker Stars where top 9 pay. I'm very short stacked when the following hand occurred:

Blinds: t200/t400
(Ante: t25)
9 players

Stack sizes:
UTG: t7605
UTG+1: t3735
MP1: t11475
MP2: t7115
MP3: t6415
CO: t4840
Button: t5250
SB: t13260
SoxLover: t1690

Pre-flop: (9 players) SoxLover is BB with 4♦ 4♥
4 folds, MP3 raises to t800, 2 folds, SB raises to t1000, SoxLover raises all-in t1665, MP3 calls t865 (pot was t3465), SB folds

OH MY GOD--IT WAS 465 to win 3465, what happened did his cards disintegrate? He had cards to min-raise the initial bettor, but not to call 65?!!! Look at his stack? Ask yourself, how did he get it? Don't know. I do know that he busted out 3 hands later, first crippling himself doubling up someone's kings, then over-betting middle pair to go bust.

Oh, on the hand that I had 4s, I was facing T9 off and tripled up. I used the chips, as well as one enormous suckout (A2 against AK, which Hoyazo said he transferred me a screen shot of but I didn't manage to get it) to slip into the cash, busting out 8th.
See the flop...

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Sense of Humor

Found an interest link on Russel Fox's site to a humor-type test.

I think it may have gotten it right:

the Provacateur
(61% dark, 38% spontaneous, 47% vulgar)
your humor style:

You'll crack on anything, and you're often witty, even caustic, about it.

your sense of humor is polarizing. You're transgressive, and you've got
a seriously sharp 'edge'--maybe too much for some folks. If they get
you, people think you're one of the funniest (and smartest) people in
the world. If they don't, they think you're an ass. Whatever, right?
While some might question your judgement, your comic intellect is
unquestionably respected.

PEOPLE LIKE YOU: Chris Rock - Lenny Bruce - George Carlin

My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 74% on darkness
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 29% on spontaneity
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 70% on vulgarity
Link: The 3 Variable Funny Test written by jason_bateman on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

Club cash game with FTrain post coming
See the flop...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Poker Mind

I can only assume Waffles was trying tilt me with his second comment to my post below. In fact, it spurred me this morning to write a point by point refutation as a comment, which I'll attach, since I bothered to do it, at the bottom of this post.

I realized however that, just like last night, I was getting angry thinking about the hand. I then had an inspiration. Getting angry about this hand is the wall that is currently keeping me from moving to the next level. I read Charlie Shoten’s No Limit Life, which I bought from the author directly at the December WPBT event, read it, and felt like I’d never get it though I knew I should.

This hand is a Thought Terrorist indeed.

To be a better a player, I need to be very happy with this hand--I induced a strong but reckless player to stack off with nothing but a prayer (context for those don't know was this was at the final table of last night's WWDN). Had I won, with a huge stack I would have been the favorite to take down the whole thing, say 40% against the remaining 7 given the huge stack (almost half the chips in play) I would have had. So when the money went in, I was basically 33% or so to win it all, with various slices to finish 2nd-8th, and 12.5% to bust out right there. What more can I ask for?

I can ask for my hand to hold up. But that is just not in my control. Fortunately for me, this hand came at the end of the night, so I was not tempted to go play something else in a tilt-fugue. But this is not always the case. Sometimes this happens at a cash table and I can rebuy, or where the next tournament beckons. If I could transform my anger to joy at having made the right move at the wrong time, rather than tilt I would play stronger.

This is what people talk about when they say incentivize yourself with feeling rewarded by good decisions, not good outcomes.

Reasons why feeling good is the better result:

1. When you lose like this and feel good, it will psychologically reinforce the urge to make the similar, correct play in the future, rather than subconsciously creating an urge to play the hand less correctly (either by playing it even faster as Waffles would have had me and giving up my AA EV or worse, slower than I did)
2. It will allow me to stay centered when sitting at a table (particularly at a cash game) with someone who is willing to put money in against me way behind.
3. It feels better to feel good than bad (duh).

Conversely, it makes sense to try and temper the good feeling that comes when I am rewarded for a bad decision (last Friday, I managed to win a huge pot on a 2-outer with of all hands QQ on a king high flop against slick, but I knew I was the fish in that hand):
1. Don't let it subtley increase your willingness to make stupid gambles.
2. Don't let the euphoria cloud your own adjustment to the effect that it can have on your table image (which you want to capitalize on as well).
3. Remember what you did so you're less likely to make the same mistake again.
4. It still feels better to feel good than bad--don't completely ignore the joy, it's part of the reward of poker. I am sure GRob felt a bit of it and I won't begrudge him it.

I think I am starting to get it, at least as an idea. Actually living it is the next step and it's a doozy.

Reply to Waffles' comment:

You're completely wrong about preflop bet and it's not even close.

He raised the BB 3x to 1800.

I raised him 3000 to 4800.

He was calling 3000 to win 7000.

His chances of winning were 3:17, assuming he can see 5 cards (I suppose this assumption was correct since he showed a willingness to call off his whole stack in with TPMK). Also, he's out of position, but again, giving his willingess to stack off with relative crap, that's less important.

I want his call every day and twice on Sunday. He is giving me large sums of money here.

I clearly induced him to make two huge mistakes (if I can take credit for that), and I think despite your comment, the preflop call was considerably worse. The postflop call was 13730 to win about 40000, and he was a 1:4.7 dog, plus he was no longer hurt by position. This mistake was not as bad, though still pretty awful.
See the flop...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

By reading this post, you waive your right to $1

GRob is evil.

Yes I realize there may be irony in this given the title of my last post, but please see where the chips went in.

Congrats to him for winning the whole thing--it would have been really embarrassing if he hadn't.
See the flop...

Monday, May 01, 2006


Here's the situation.

You're in middle position with $150 in a 9 handed online 100NL game, you get all five limpers to your pocket eights. You decide to limp as well.

The player on your immediate left in the cutoff has $200, is pretty tight, makes it nine to go. It folds around to you. You believe the raiser is not a moron or maniac, probably an above average player for this level, quite tight, preflop raising about 4%, reasonably aggressive post flop.

What do you do?

Easy decision, fold.

Or is it?

Two relevant questions:

1. Can you put this player on a hand?

Question one, most likely yes. They really don't want to see a flop with multiple callers and the number of limpers requires a big bet. This player is very unlikely to raise here with worse than queens and perhaps not with queens--I've found many tight players facing this many limpers with something like TT-QQ will often either play it for set value or overbet to suss out an overpair or just take it down preflop. A slightly more aggressive player you might include TT-JJ and AK, but let's say you are confident it's about 40% aces, 40% kings, 20% queens.

2. Will they pay you off if you hit?

Several factors here.

You have about a 1 in 7.5 chance of flopping your set.

If you hit when an ace, king or queen falls as well, it's going to get really tricky and you're going to have play much more carefully. Even in these cases you're still way ahead 60% of the time if an A or K has fallen and 80% if a queen has fallen, but your EV after the flop is significantly reduced as you've gone from basically 92% chance of winning to something more like a weighted 70%. This will happen approximately 40% of the time that you hit (assuming he has AA-QQ, there are 10 cards that will be threatening on the flop, with two shots assuming the third is your set). To simplify things, let's just assume that you can only hit "clean" sets but that they only hit 1 in 8.5 times (please feel free to chime in if you think this simplifying assumption is unwarranted).

Let's assume your strategy is to make a pot sized check-raise if you hit, check-fold if you miss.

If you hit and your opponent bets pot, there will be 37 dollars in the pot. Here's the crux of the question. If your opponent is capable of folding here, you made a mistake by calling preflop. Here's why: you paid 8 to win 29 and you only had 1:8.5 odds to do so. To make the call correct, your going to need him to call at least 39 more--even if he calls a minimum raise of 18.5 and then folds to a turn bet, you're still not getting the right odds, especially when you consider he does have two outs.

So let's say you pot it to 55.5. If he calls on the flop and folds on the turn to a push if he misses, you'll be getting 84.5 - 6 (4% of 150 of you losing your stack if he hits on the turn), so 78.5, which is makes your payoff 9:1 and thus good. If he pushes/calls and calls a turn push, you'll make 148 - 12 or 136, which is a pretty sweet 17:1 reward. (I think actually players that make that first call are probably going to make the second one as they are pretty well pot committed, so more likely than not you're effectively going to get the folder or the raiser--in fact the "better" players making this call will almost always push.)

Further breaking it down: the EV of against a 100% folder is approximately -5 (27/8.5 - 8), against a 100% caller is +1.5 (78.5/8.5 - 8) and against a 100% raiser is +8 (136/8.5 - 8).

In most cases you'll be unable to predict the response 100%, but I think this move can be profitable against many players you face at 100NL and below, especially if your "solid" opponent doesn't think you're so solid (if you don't have an aggressive image, this is going to be less effective). I don't have enough experience to know if this holds at 200 NL or above. Also, if the stacks are smaller or bigger, the math will change of course, though I suspect there is some balancing factors in either direction (for example, bigger stacks means bigger rewards but probably a lower chance of being paid off with a whole stack and vice versa).

Time to get cracking?
See the flop...