Archive for December, 2010

The Information War

December 21, 2010 Leave a comment

is the pure game. online poker can be described as a vast laboratory in which to test out one’s personal theory of profitable poker – a realistic simulation. it has the advantage of allowing the player to experience hands at a highly accelerated rate: about twice as many per hour, multiplied by each additional simultaneous table!

♣   ♦   ♥   ♠

tonight at dinner, a friend – without experience in poker – asked me about the ‘poker face’ angle of the game, which I took to mean the concept of spotting physical ‘tells’ in your opponent’s facial expressions and/or body lingo, ideally providing helpful clues to deciphering their hidden cards (or more realistically: their state of mind).

this is an aspect of the game which is widespread throughout pop culture, I would argue, because it is something that lends itself to being portrayed in film, tv and song. think of paul newman stone-cold bluffing all his money with junk cards in cool hand luke or kenny rogers’ iconic ode to ‘the gambler’ who had made his

life out of readin’ people’s faces

and knowing what their cards were by the way they held their eyes.

bottom line: poker can be summed up as an ‘information war’ in which, to have any success in the long term, a player must take in way more than they give off – must have information surplus, not deficit. so, whether I face a given opponent online or in person, my (dual) task remains the same:

  • make effective use of all info at my disposal
  • do my best not to let my own play fall into any detectable patterns.
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Huge spot declined with trouble-hand

December 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Everything happened so quickly, I didn’t think to capture any screenshots. Let me set the stage. We were past the break, just starting to ante, in a $10 R/A on a fishy site. I had around 37 BB, and had been at my table for a while, with a TAG regular on my right who had me covered. One of the tournament chip leaders (with an enviable stack over 100 BB) who had seemingly been playing normally and aggressively, suddenly overbet all-in from UTG, got called by KK, then showed down a holding of JTo… “Chip dumping,” joked one player. The bigstack politely informed the table, “I have somewhere to be,” which saved anyone clever from having to ask it.

To defend himself in this manner was to announce unequivocally – if not explicitly – the unilateral superimposition of a new, volatile metagame. He was about to commit tournament suicide. It would be messy and might go on awhile, since he had the whole table covered. Anyone with experience at these stakes should now anticipate this player to be either

  • all-in every single hand, regardless of action/cards
  • all-in with any decent holding, regardless of action/cards
  • somewhat sensitive to action/cards, but no longer wagering any amount less than all-in

In all cases, we expect this strategy philanthropy to remain in effect until he either

  • wins the whole tourney in short order
  • goes bust in flames
  • has a change of heart

Most likely, every chip he has (still 75 BB!) will very soon be virtually donated to one or two lucky opponents with fish-isolation skills. This bizarre scenario demands a careful strategy for entering pots in which he has not yet folded. When the table captain tells you “It’s midnight” you are better off resetting your watch – even if the sun is out!

For the purpose of this analysis, I will assume a zero chance that he is being dishonest. Even if it were a ruse, designed to provoke light calls when he picks up a monster, his next orbit’s worth of dealt holdings (crucial to the outcome of such a campaign) still rate to be as random as any other. So the most relevant factors to consider, once he has chosen to put a full table of opponents “on notice”, must be

  • how often he then starts shoving
  • over what types of preceding action.

As it turns out, I was denied the luxury of any additional profiling. On the very next deal I received AQs, a desirable hand to hold in a massive one-on-one confrontation. I had my sights on the bigstack, now seated in the BB position. Since I was certain he would shove, even as a pure steal, into a lack of aggressive action in front of him, my plan was to disguise my near-premium holding by open-limping or over-limping, fully intending to call his all-in or shove all-in myself, if he or anyone else were to raise only a portion of their chips. A pretty transparent counter-strategy, but I doubt if that actually mattered.


I was on the threshold of middle table position. To my chagrin, the TAG regular seated just to my right raised the minimum, to 400. He had above-average chips, about 11 000; most stack sizes were in the same range as mine (~7500). Anyone might benefit from stealing the roughly 550 in blinds and antes, but the looming threat of a maniacal re-steal was likely to keep thinking players honest. Therefore I couldn’t put the TAG on an early position steal: I considered him intelligent enough to know that a weak 2x open will not get all the way through in general, surely not under these circumstances. So I asked myself why he would want to make a bet that was likely to be over-raised all-in; maybe even called, raised, then re-raised all-in…

I concluded that he was probably following an all-purpose strategy similar to my own plan, with a slightly tighter range to account for position: not planning to fold pre-flop, correctly anticipating – in fact likely rooting for – at least one shove! If this was true then the TAG wanted me to shove, so that couldn’t be a very good idea. He would insta-call; I would usually be drawing to 3 outs, either my single overcard (vs a big pair) or underkicker (vs Big Slick). To fold to such a tiny bet would be absurd, while the last point alone dissuaded me from re-raising – not to mention the disastrous possible error of somehow scaring off the BB’s maverick all-in action by showing strength!

I felt a cold call was indicated. Calling had several benefits:

  • lowering risk by keeping pot small until action “inevitably” returns and more is known
  • under-repping my hand to anyone unsensitive of shift in metagame
  • occasionally seeing flop with an excellent multiway hand, with position on TAG and BB
  • occasionally letting me resume my original plan, if TAG unexpectedly folds to BB’s shove

The last benefit acted as a hedge against my inkling that the TAG was looking to stack-off. I could have been happily wrong on that point, because if his range was wider than it seemed then the bigstack’s shove would occasionally act as an induced isolation move, which I could promptly snap off.

The drawback to cold-calling was that it would complicate all subsequent decisions. But with so little concrete information to work with, and such tasty implied odds, I felt it best to wryly invest 400 chips and re-assess before committing the remaining 7000! Once I’d called, the pot totalled 1350; everyone folded to the BB who jammed his 15 000 on cue. Not the worst sized bluff “on paper”, but much less likely to induce folds from opponents you have warned before-hand (literally). The original raiser thought for long enough to seem like he had a decision – then called the overbet with all his chips.


Implied odds are no longer a factor as I am closing the action. If I call, the pot will be 23K, which is just under 3.1x my stack. The pot odds are ~2.1:1 so my AQs needs 32.5% equity to break even vs this pair of opponents. Facing firm evidence that the TAG was not on any form of steal, I deduce that his range must consist of hands he plays this way for value, basically never a hand I dominate.

With my prior read on this player, I assign him [TT+,AQs+,AKo] and fold with a sigh, deeming it unwise to play such an enormous pot – even to triple up – when my “trouble hand” is so often dominated: Any large pair crushes me, as does AK. I am not confused by the hollywood; he has probably figured that a snap call will let me off the hook if I hold a middle pair. His bluff inducing mini-raise/call was a pre-meditated move which I saw coming, and immediately became the most important factor in my decision.


Upon folding, I wince to see the tight regular expose the biggest underpair to my hand! He wins a huge pot when JJ defeats a holding of QTo, drawing slim (but live) due to my generous laydown. If I had managed to find a call in this particular spot, I would have encountered close to the best possible scenario: a roughly 40% chance to triple my chips. The result compels me to question my logic and run some numbers in PokerStove, which ultimately confirm my intuition. Based upon the action in the hand, the BB’s range is practically irrelevant. Even if we insert some bluffs and thin value hands into the TAG’s range, we still don’t obtain the required 32.5% equity.

I was able to use position to my advantage and get away from the hand cheaply. I must conclude that the fold of AQs was mathematically justified against the combination of a random hand and the very “confident” hand range repped by the TAG. Having a proven skill edge over the field meant not needing to risk all my chips in a single big race… Still, the gambler in me wanted to make a monster call – despite the chance of taking the worst of it – for a shot to exploit the utility of a 100+BB megastack.

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December 8, 2010 1 comment

Their business model is food for thought.

When your enterprise projects this much confidence, you don’t even have to say what your name stands for. Maybe it stands for, whatever you say it stands for. What’s the harm in a safe answer?

Root mean square.

Random makeout session.

Really massive sh*t.

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December 8, 2010 Leave a comment


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3 December, 2010 00:30

December 3, 2010 Leave a comment

“The river blocker aka ‘price-setting bet’ is most effective when used sparingly vs. a good player, or vs. a player who isn’t paying attention to sizing”
Colin Moshman

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3 out of 40

December 2, 2010 Leave a comment

Fact: 7.5% of all inductees to the Poker Hall Of Fame died at the poker table!

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