Sunday, July 18, 2004

"Poker is America's most favorite game. Seventy million adults play cards and about 47 million Americans prefer poker. Poker is as American as baseball and hot dogs. Many of our most famous presidents were poker enthusiasts. Poker contains a greater amount of skill than bridge, or any other card game, according to authority John Scarne."
From a 1970's Gardena cardroom brochure
Howdy all - an uber-post awaits you, I hope. I'm going to try, anyway. 
I hope you don't have much to do at work today.  

This post brought to you by Party Poker Bonus Code IGGY. Please consider signing up through my links and using my bonus code for up to $100 free money. At some point I should start posting testimonials. Just try it, damnit. Sixty poker bloggers can't be wrong.
Alrighty then, let me get the boring stuff out of the way first, and then I'll overload you with poker news and links. Fair enough? Most of my regular readers know that my cat, Monty, was hit by a car about 6 weeks ago. And yes, he somehow survived and is home now, but is still undergoing some serious problems. He has major difficulties both eating and breathing. The broken jaw per the eating and internal damage per the breathing. His lungs keep filling up with liquid which must be drained fairly often. And now it appears as if he needs heart surgery to repair a tear. Sigh. He'll prolly need to have this done by a renowned specialist at Ohio State - we're still exploring the options. I won't bore you with the rest of the sordid details (not to mention the unimaginable cost of all this) but I can only hope he lives after all this.

Geepers. He's heading in for another consultation tomorrow. For now, we are just enjoying his company as much as we can.

Moving on, I headed out to Caesar's on Saturday with my buddy, Dann, for a day and evening of live poker. Dann had never frequented this bastion of crackerville Southern Hospitality before so he was in for a real treat. If you've ever read the CardPlayer's Journal or played at Caesar's, outside of Louisville, you fully understand how wonderful these games are, despite the high rake. We played for about seven straight hours before starvation drove us away. The room was packed and fortunately we arrived early enough to avoid the hour or two wait.. I fully expected to sit 10.20 but sat 4.8 at first and because my table was so outrageously juicy, I sat there the rest of the day. It was insane - like 50.1 Party Poker. It was 5 to 9 handed EVERY time to see the flop. Rarely raised, very passive. Everyone playing every conceivable draw to the river. AMAZING. I never once saw a check-raise.

Four hours later, down about $200 and inwardly shaking my head but still hopeful to get ahead, I lose yet another flopped set (Kings nonetheless) to the nice Asian lady to my left, to her 73 SOOTED. I'm still unflappable, playing my game, but I'm wishing some of my hands would stand up just once.

I think I hit the 8 beer mark around now and decide to start playing raise or fold. I get Big Slick on the button, raise and get seven callers. I flop an ace and two suited rags. It's bet to me on the flop and I raise and everyone naturally comes along for the ride. An ace on the turn. Same situation as the flop except now we shed some players, down to three handed. And then BAM, the third spade hits on the river. Bet into me, a fold and so I raise, saying "I'll pay off that flush."  He three bets me, I cap, in keeping with the raise or fold rule. He turns over AJ and I can't believe I'm scooping I'm a damn pot. And thus my rush began. I end up +$240 for the session by the time we decide to leave. Dann experienced the same table dynamics as I, and essentially received the same treatment by the Poker Gods, except for the big comeback. He lost a whopping 20 bucks.

So I played against a dwarf Little Person for the first time ever, this weekend. He was a pretty cool guy but not very good at poker.

So let's get right to the latest and greatest, shall we? Who the hell cares what I did this weekend, anyway.

Here is Part One of a Three Part series. I  know several of my readers count on me to cull the wheat from the chaff from RGP. So on that note, here's the intro to a rare gem on RGP. Part Two and Three coming.... Good poker brainfood.   


Confessions of a Math Guy - Part One
Recent poker popularity has prompted me to write some stuff about poker math.  My approach will be to avoid any detailed mathematics, and just attempt to explain the general way that math guys think about the game.  
The way most people play poker is to try to exploit the mistakes of opponents. 
Some simple examples are:  
1. If he bluffs too often, call him more often.
2. If he bluffs too rarely, call him less often.
3. If he calls too often (plays too loose), bluff him less often and bet for value more often.
4. If he calls too little (plays too tight), bluff him more often and bet for value less often.  

Everyone who has moved past the novice stages understands these things.  But math guys ask questions that others do not: "How precisely does one define 'too often', 'too rarely', 'more often', and 'less often'?"  Knowing the answers to these questions is not necessary to be a winning player, but certainly the more you know the better off you are.  

At this point I should explain a subtle aspect of this that may be lost on some readers.  A phrase like "bluffs too often" has a broader range than it sounds.  It doesn't just mean that in 'x' similar circumstances a player bluffs 'y' times, and y/x is too large of a ratio.  An equally useful interpretation is that THIS PARTICULAR TIME you think he is more likely to bluff than the probability described by the "proper" ratio.  For example, maybe he actually only bluffs rarely, but this time you picked up a tell, or perhaps you have been folding a lot recently and you suspect he has changed his bluffing likelihood to exploit you, etc.  The point is that I will use "frequency" and "probability" pretty much interchangeably.  I just don't want anyone to think that the only way to know how to play against someone is to count their actions - people skills certainly come into play here.  

Anyway, if a player makes a play neither too often nor too rarely, math guys say that he is making that play with an "optimal" frequency.  You can't exploit him by calling/betting/raising more or less often - there's just nothing you can do to improve upon your ev.  BTW, this reminds me of a piece of advice I read a long time ago that is one of the best that I've read (not sure who wrote it - maybe Caro).  Paraphrasing... "If your opponent is making a mistake in a certain direction (say too loose or too tight), then you should take actions that get him to exaggerate that mistake.  Berating someone for overly-loose play causes them to tighten-up, and mocking them for tight play causes them to loosen-up, and both of these have the consequence of making them play closer to optimal (unexploitable)."  

The advantages to good card-reading skills (which is a mix of people skills and logic), tell-reading (people skills and observation), and opponent action prediction (a greatly underemphasized skill, imo) should be apparent. The more you know about an opponent's cards and likely future actions, the less precisely you need to know the optimal frequencies.  I mean, if you could somehow determine through these skill with 80% certainty that an opponent has nothing and he will bluff with it (most people wouldn't come up with a figure like this, they would just determine that the probability is "very high"), you don't need to know that his optimal bluffing frequency is precisely 1/7 - he's obviously way above that mark, and you should call him with any hand that beats a bluff.  This is so straightforward that people tend to forget (if in fact they ever knew) that underneath it all there is math lurking.  

Tom Weideman

Here's a new book from 2+2: You low-limit players should have some interest in this, although I'd recommend certain chapters of Gary Carson's book for loose aggressive games, the type you will encounter on Party Poker.

The new low limit holdem volume, Small Stakes Hold'em: Winning Big With Expert Play, by Ed Miller, David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth is available.You can find it now at http://playersbooks.com/customer/product.php?productid=16372&cat=0&page.

And let me offer this flame war per this new 2+2 book. I'll set the stage:
Lee Jones, author of a popular book, called Winning Low Limit Hold Em wrote this post in the 2+2 Books and Software Forum. The link to this (311 entries already!) thread is located here: Ed Miller's book "versus" WLLH.

Here is Lee's post:


Hi all -I've been reading the posts about Ed's new book (but haven't gotten my hands on a copy yet). I expect that many of you would like to have him and me initiate some debate on points on which we disagree.

I think that would be an interesting and informative thing for all. However, I'm uncomfortable with the tenor of some of Ed's posts. Here's why:

He says things such as my book is "full of errors" and is (in places) "plain wrong".

I tend to use words like "error" and "wrong" when dealing with facts. I am extremely hesitant to use those words when what we're talking about are opinions, intuitions, experiences, etc.

Now, does this make me a weak-tight author? I don't think so. Unless Ed has gotten access to a large database of online hand histories and done a statistical analysis to see whether his ideas or mine are "correct", then he is offering his opinion and intuition and experience. Just as I did when I wrote WLLH.

If I got the "pot odds" numbers wrong, if I had mis-stated the probability of flopping a set - those are "errors". I think it's irresponsible, and not constructive to the conversation, to couch much else on the topic of (e.g.) post-flop hold'em play as "right" or "wrong".

That said, I will, time permitting, be happy to discuss any specific technical points on which Ed and I disagree, though we should probably take those discussions over to Small Stakes Hold'em, n'est-ce pas?

Regards, Lee

And from here it hit the figurative fan. Ed Miller chimed in, careful to attack Lee's book, not the author himself. Mason Malmuth has some classic nebbish comments. But David Sklansky's arrogance really shines through here. At some point.

Here are the gems- you think David is proud that Ed graduated from MIT? 


Because logic and the application of Baye's Theorem can often lead you to the almost undisputably correct play. And because Ed Miller is not going to suggest Lee Jones is wrong unless he is convinced of that, there is no reason to believe that you couldn't lay 100-1 on Ed vs Lee regarding any poker play dispute Ed feels sure about. We are talking about an MIT graduate vs someone who once wrote that you shouldn't change your play regardless of the size of a jackpot.   

Those who think that an MIT graduate would not be much more likely to correctly analyze the profitabiliy of poker plays, (if they put their mind to such a task), than members of the general population, are engaging in wishfull thinking. I am not talking simply math here either.  

 Reason being that it my pet peeve that people fight so hard to deny the reality that the type of thinking taught at the best science and mathinstitutions is as important to getting things right as it is.

And when a MIT student disagrees about an anlytical concept that he has investigated thouroughly, he is, while not automatically right, almost certainly right if someone disagrees. It isn't necessary that the other person be a member of the general population for this to be so. If his adversary was a graduate of Purdue (or for that matter a Harvard Englsh major) it would still be true.   

Simple precise question. You hear two people arguing about a poker play. One where the right answer can eventually be determined. You know only a few things about the debaters. One is a math grad from MIT who has made a study of poker and is quite certain he is right about this particular argument. The other person once wrote that the size of a jackpot should never change your strategy. 

At this point you must make a price as to who is right about the argument. What would you say that is? And as long as you agree it is over 50% in favor of the MIT guy you cannot say I am making a personal attack or appealing to authority. (My figure is 98% by the way. What's yours?)  

It is important that I go on record as saying that I believe that it is almost impossible that Lee could be right about anything that Ed (or me or Mason) strongly disagrees with regarding poker. If I didn't think so it would have been wrong for us to collaborate with Ed on our book. It is also important that I explain that the reason I am so sure that Ed will turn out right on every point is because he is both a great player and a great thinker. And it bothers me that many people somehow believe that it is still quite possible that someone who both plays worse and thinks less brilliantly could still be right when disagreeing about a poker play even when the first guy is SURE.  

The point is that if Lee Jones decides to debate specific poker points with Ed I am sure he will be thoroughly vanquished (to the satisfaction of the readers of this forum and without help from me). Maybe I should not have butt in simply to increase the chances that the debacle would have occurred. But I find it insulting that some of you seriously entertain the idea that a man whose first edition of his poker book was riddled with errors, could be right when arguing with someone who Two Plus Two deemed qualified to co write a poker strategy book for us.     

I do agree that Lee Jones debating points with Ed Miller would be instructive. In fact it would be very instructive because the fallacious or misguided argements that Lee would be forced to use might resemble similar thoughts of some of the readers of this forum. And of course I realize that most of you didn't seiously consider the possibility that Lee would win these debates. Actually I am the nice one here. You guys are probably descended from those who watched the contests between the Christians and the lions.

Although I still think that 44 is about as good as 77 in very multiway pots against certain types of players, I am now pretty sure that I overestimated its value.But the above error is totally unrelated to the points about Ed vs Lee. Because my opinion about two fours was not based on logical deduction but rather observation. And I did not state that I was sure of that opinion.

And yes. If Robert Varkony decided that it was highly important to set his mind to writing a better book than Lee Jones, I am almost positive he could.

Hrm. Really?

I'm not sure why David is harping on the MIT brand. Why not simply debate poker - the actual issue at hand? Most people who have advanced degrees and play poker well realize that degree of correlation between the two are relativly low. There's SO much more in the thread itself, go hit it up when you have time. David also continues to harp on SAT scores. 
I love these jabs by Gary Carson about David Sklansky when alerted to this thread:
Everyone who might read a debate between me and David should know that I have a graduate degree in engineering from Northwestern University and David never finished his sophomore year in college. 

Humorless pricks should post at 2+2.

Allrighty then.. You always have to have the last word, don't ya?
I found this next interesting essay about the above thread but lost the author. It might have been the Pokerblog dude, and if so, my humble apologies.

I read the posts about "Poker Theory"  ... I read the current LeeJones/SM/academics thread... and I have to laugh. Of course, the basic math of poker is important... but beyond it... IMHO ... the 2 things that make the great players great ... are not advanced math, incredible advanced academic degrees or ability to understand abstract or arcane mathematical concepts... but: 
1. Instinct
2. Discipline 
These are the 2 factors that I see that most separate the great players from the rest.  And I would rather put my money on a player with unbelievable instincts (Scotty Nguyen, Phil Ivey, David Negraneu) or unbelievable discipline (Dan Harrington, TJ Cloutier, Howard Lederer) than a master of game theory with advanced math degrees and huge IQ and high SAT scores.  A razor sharp memory is also more useful IMO. So is a heightened ability at common-sense and logic -- but it is the type of logic that is instinctive in many people.  Just like the great ballplayer performs advanced calculus to make a great catch or hit a homerun -- but might be terrible at math! Of course all of these top players have a mixture of great instincts and discipline -- but I do observe they lean toward one or the other as their primary weapon.
I think this "game theory" and super-advanced math among the few top players who have mastered it -- provides THEM with a method or excuse for achieving discipline or instinct -- they believe in it -- so they stick to their gameplan in high pressure situations -- or it gives them a framework to trust their instincts.  Sure, it's great, useful, smart-stuff -- but just a small component IMO.
A possible #3 key to poker might be: Guts -- but again -- the sucessful advanced math guys probably use to math to arrive at a way to play with "guts" at key times. It gives them a formula. A logic to let themselves make some gutsy plays at times. But maybe this is a function of instinct and/or discipline.
Take a look at this list (no special order, many greats ommitted) and tell me how many PHD's or MIT degrees are there: 

Doyle Brunsen
Scotty Nguyen
Johnny Chan
Antonio Estafardi
Ted Forrest
Howard Lederer
Phil Ivey
Jennifer Harmon
Amarillio Slim
TJ Cloutier
Amir Vahedi
Sammy Farha
Daniel Negreanu
Eskimo Clark
Josh Arieh
Hoyt Corkins
Gus Hansen
Phil Hellmuth
Peter Costa
Huck Seed
Men Nguyen
Layne Flack
Annie Duke (degree in psycho-linguistics, not math or physics)
David Chiu
David Ulliott
Barbara Enright
Dan Harrington
PS... yes, I know Howard Lederer is "the professor" and thinks a lot during play -- but IMO he's is an amazingly composed and disciplined player --virtually unshakable from his discipline -- and that is IMO his key weapon.


There is so much to say about this entire idiotic discussion but I'm getting deep in the Guinness. I need to make sure I can finish this up tonight so allow me to move forward.
This is big news in the online poker world. Doyle Brunson is opening up a new site. Doyle is a hero in that his last poker site went bellyup and he honored all losses from his own pocket. Plus, it's interesting to use the new SuperSystem 2 book as hostage to get players to sign up.....
From long-time RGP weirdo, Razzo:

Hot Poker Action!
You know what cheers me up when I'm feeling bad?
Rolled up aces over kings.
Check-raising stupid tourists and taking huge pots off of them.
Stacks and towers of chips I can't even see over. Playing all-night high-limit Hold'em at the Taj, "where the sand turns to gold."
Let's play some cards!!!

Take a seat at the table - Bonus Code IGGY on Party Poker!

9 time WSOP champion and author of The Bible, Super System (and S/S2) DOYLE "TEXAS DOLLY" BRUNSON is opening a new online poker room called DOYLESROOM.COM. It will be open in a month or so.
SuperSystem 2 [his new book] will only be sold to players that come and play there. Actually, it will be given to them after they log enough hours on the site. Doyle also has over $1,000,000 (sound familiar?) in books back ordered but these will not go out until first of the year. If you want a book I guess you either order it and wait, or, play on the site in about one month. More on this as it develops. As many know Doyle signed on to HighlandsClub.com and backed up all losses with personal payments when the site went down. Unlike HC, Doyle is in charge at DoylesRoom.com. GOOD LUCK, DOYLE BRUNSON and all his players at DoylesRoom.com.       


Don, I just spoke to Doyle on the phone. I asked him for you. The bookwill be in stores and all books purchased before release will be honored.  

Doyle, for the time being, is only letting his book out at DoylesRoom.com. He is not going to release it to the public until after all the players on his site have a copy. He will not distribute it until, quote "players onmy site stop asking for it", unquote. This against the dislike of the publisher, who told Doyle that his book is doing the best of any pokerbook in history. I'm talking about S/S1. As I stated, S/S 2 is $1,000,000 in the black. 

Doyle has some big surprises and some great marketing ideas. He is also about to sign a BIG NAME. It won't take a genius to figure out who MAY be the host/card room manager. Heh. Doyles e-mail is texdolly@aol.com if anyone wants to write Doyle and offer advice or make comments. 

Doyle is in Montana right now. There is an autobiographer with him doing the works to write Doyles autobiography. Can't wait to read that. Hadn't talked to Doyle since 2004 WSOP (april 21). He looked good then...sounded great tonight. He's in good shape.  


I've a ton to say about the state of online poker right now. Too bad I'm drunk tired.  

Oh man, I am truly a fool. I STILL remember when Greg Raymer posted his online offer to be backed (he caught alot of flack, btw) and I seriously considered it – if only because he was one player whose posts I ALWAYS read on 2 +2 back in the day:
Investing in Greg Raymer - the big payoff and IRS  

I have had 4 consecutive backing deals, each for a fixed term of about half a year. At the beginning of each deal, the share price is set, with about 1/3 of the shares being bought by me. If we lost, the losses were shared equally by the shareholders. If we won, I got 35% off the top for playing time and effort, and then the shareholders split the 65% equally by shares. Each deal covered ALL of my poker for the entire term, including cash games, tourneys, and internet play.
Two years ago, 1 share cost $500. At the beginning of the last deal, each share cost a bit over $600.

Each share is now being paid over $35,000. Thus, I am paying out over $2.1 million to my backers. My largest single backer invested $5000 two years ago, and will be paid over one-third of a million dollars.
I think my only unhappy backers are the ones who invested early but cashed out along the way. There are a small handful of such individuals, as we have had a small amount of turnover (some backers out, some new ones coming in, and some investors adding to their original investment) on each new deal.
If anybody asks again, please refer them to this post for me. ;-)
later, Greg Raymer (FossilMan)

I'm not sure how to segue from here. I still have a litany of top-notch poker content to pass along but I'm fading fast. One note from last evening at Caesar's, I had hoped to get 86'd from the cardroom for drunkenness, carried out by burly security guards, all the while screaming, "BONUS CODE IGGY - BONUS CODE IGGY!!" and to give Dann an opportunity to write up a guest post. My local friends soooooo enjoy telling stories about me.

Alas, it wasn't meant to be. Perhaps next time.

Again, consider playing on Party Poker with Bonus Code IGGY. Actually, now that I think about it, Dann has been killing the tournaments on Pacific Poker for several weeks now. Pacific is now the 4th biggest online poker room and as Dann says, "I never thought I'd leave Party, but Pacific is incredible."
Take a shot and get a $100 deposit bonus by using my link to signup. Purty please.
Pay it forward.     

I still have new blogs to pimp (including one old-tme reader who finally tried Party Poker with a fascinating perspective that I'll share soon) but I'm going to clean up my poker news links instead. Poker as Cultural Juggarnaut is still the main theme here and I don't see it dissapating anytime soon. If you are just dabbling, get your shit together and start hitting it hard - there is gold in them thar hills!
Time for poker news from the mainstream media:
New Jay Lovinger poker column from ESPN:
Jackpot Jay  
Denver Post poker article:
Texas Hold'em Poker a big deal
New York Daily News on poker 
Poker Gold Rush is on for Hold'Em Poker 

Wow, even Time Magazine is taking heed:
Poker - Hot Game In Town

I'll pimp da new poker blogs in my next post, I promise. I'd do it now but I'm pretty angry at blogger right now. This new editor sucks.
Anyway, I'd guess one out of ten readers made it this far down. So thank you.
Again, please consider signing up on Party Poker with Bonus Code IGGY or for you Party players, please check out Pacific Poker via my links.
Your humble servant,
Link of the Day:
Rock Hard for America
Ronnie James Dio's presidential campaign offers its own "Two Americas" theme: "Two eyes from the east -- It's the angel or the beast. And the answer lies between the good and bad."           

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Information on this site is intended for news and entertainment purposes only.

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