Tuesday, July 27, 2004

"Satire is a sort of glass wherein beholders generally discover everybody's face but their own."
Jonathan Swift

As Lou Krieger pointed out, this analogy also holds true for losing poker players. They see flaws in everyone's play but their own. It's far easier to cut someone else down than to take ownership of our own inevitable flaws. This is especially true in poker.

Reading Poker Maudie's great post from a few days ago caused me to ponder about poker, as I often do. About how easy it is to fall into a funk. To start blaming the cards. The poor players. Our abilities. Blaming variance, even, as if you could EVER escape it.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: it's not how you win at poker, it's how you lose.

As Steve Badger says:

"The problem is: you just can't will yourself to win -- be it a tournament, a single day's play, or even an individual hand. And then, unfortunately for some, not winning is something many players simply can't handle. And being able to not win well is a fundamental, key ingredient of being a winning player."

I'm not even sure this is something that can be taught, it has to come from within or perhaps it's simply experience - but I've just seen too many players come and go after losing and not being able to dig out of it mentally and/or emotionally. It's too easy for the downward spiral to kick in.

I think a particular strength of mine has been my persistence in using losing as opportunities for learning. I rarely have many epiphanies while the deck is hitting me in the face but I am very diligent about analyzing my play while losing.

Blame the river if you want - it won't help your game.

Whenever I get hit with bad runs or a big session loss, I typically blame my poor play first. This is my natural tendency after indoctrinating myself in Sklansky and the ilk - they ingrained in me the knowledge that a good player can suffer large losses - in fact, they are unavoidable. How you handle them is the key.

I try to win more and lose less by constantly staying on top of my game. Making sure my starting hand standards aren't slipping, making sure I'm not chasing without proper pot odds, making sure my play is "correct" and not session dependant. Not letting bad beats affect me one iota. This criteria and much more (drinking) helps me keep a healthy attitude about losing.

This is probably very basic to any of you card players out there. Of course, it's smart to examine your play. But it's crucial when you've been losing.

Many years ago, I learned about (and am still learning, to some respect) about how you can start playing sloppy while losing. And I vowed to never let it happen again. It may be difficult for players to appreciate this without experiencing it for themselves. I know a few players who have a superb A game while winning, but once losing, literally give their chips away.

I could truly care less about individual sessions. My need is to focus not on short-term results, but on the quality of my play. I let the results take care of themselves. And it works.

Tilting. Steaming. Threshold of misery. These terms I knew as a neophyte are now the stepping stones of a solid grinder. I never could have beat the games consistently without beating those demons first.

Alrighty then, enough on that. Let's crank through a quick post so you can have something to do at work tomorrow and I still have time to grind tonite.

Interesting article here from the Sunday-Herald. The leader of the Jim Rose Circus is now a pro poker player. Is this a jump the shark moment?
Leader of the Pack


I’m heading for the Palms Casino, one of the newer additions to the Vegas skyline, to interview the self-styled King of the Freaks, Jim Rose, who for ten years corralled the strange, the sickening, the surreal and the ‘uniquely gifted’ under one canvas roof and entertained audiences all over the world. If the international success of the Jim Rose Circus proved anything, it was that people will turn out in large numbers to watch a man lift heavy objects with a hook through his penis.

But no more. It has been a year and a half since the circus tent was taken down and folded away for the last time; the freaks have limped slowly back to their day jobs; the chainsaws and stomach pumps have been auctioned on eBay; and the whip-cracking ringmaster has found a different group of ladies, knaves and cowboys to be his servants. Rose, who could sell timeshares on St Kilda, has swapped his Mexican transvestite wrestlers for a pair of queens and become a full-time, professional poker player in legendary Las Vegas.

Oh my, you simply *cannot* miss this link. I can't explain it properly - you have to see it for yourself. Thanks to the MiddleAgedMan for this wonderful poker abomination.

Seriously, go check this out. The product photo of one guy in sunglasses and the other in a cowboy hat is beyond description:
"Honey! How cute! You look just like a poker outlaw!"

So tell me. Is THAT the jump the shark moment? We must be drawing near...

I'm not sure how to segue past that thing. I need more beer.

Couple poker blog notes. Looking at running another poker blogger AND reader tournament the third week in August. We are overdue, after all. In our last tourney, that Otis won and Gene took second:

poker bloggers > readers

So let's see if the peanut gallery can't exact some revenge this time. Details to come.

Sad to report that the Poker Penguin is going on hiatus. He shall be missed. I'm hoping that he will find the siren song of poker blogging too strong to resist.

I'm admitted this before. I'm a huge Paul Phillips fan. He's one of the few RGP posters that I always read every single one of his posts. He's almost as snarky as me. So anyway, there has been oodles of discussion on his post here that follows about a tournament tipping issue on PokerStars. You really need to go hit his poker blog for the ensuing comments and such. But here is the post for now, allowed by Paul:

pokerstars tipping fiasco

I've been meaning to write this up for a while but I wanted to give pokerstars a chance to rectify the situation. That's clearly not happening so I should at least document what took place. Usually I don't want people reposting from my livejournal but in this case I encourage redistribution, or posting a direct link to this livejournal entry. Here is the direct URL:


On the pokerstars cruise, an amount equal to 3% of the prize pool was pre-allocated to the dealers. The pokerstars spin on this is that they added the money as opposed to taking it out of the prize pool; but for people who bought directly into the tournament the buyin was a very steep $7500+500. As high an entry fee as that is, it was considered by all of us to include dealer compensation (a $250 entry fee and $250 dealer toke represents a reasonable fee and 3% of the prize pool.)

What that means is that no matter how they spin it, those of us who paid $8000 paid our full share of dealer compensation out of pocket.

At the conclusion of the tournament the top three finishers -- Gus, Hoyt, and Daniel -- each left ANOTHER 3% on top of this. When they discovered on the way home that they had essentially tipped 6% they were all quite surprised. I believe based on their accounts of how that happened that they were deliberately misled into believing the dealers had not been compensated.

Pokerstars claims that they announced the tipping situation to the room. That may be so; but it was very difficult to hear and clearly plenty of us, including myself, did not know. Regardless, the people who NEED to be informed of this are the big winners, at the time they are tipping! It's completely disingenuous to suggest that they "should have" known, or should have asked the right questions, or any variation thereof. If none of the three big winners knew that 3% was already going to the dealers then tournament management at a MINIMUM abrogated their responsibility, and looked at in less favorable language, flat-out hustled the players.

Since this kind of abuse drives me crazy I appointed myself delegate and approached pokerstars to remedy the situation. The amount of money at stake here represents a few minutes rake to them; I honestly thought it would be a no-brainer for them to return the overtipped money out of pocket, but they refused to offer anything, not even a compromise position.

I realize some will say that hoyt, daniel, and gus, being worldly and successful poker players, should have asked different questions before tipping. Maybe, but that doesn't make it right. In those circumstances, when you ask what tip is expected and are told "3%" (as at least one of those three was) it is quite strongly implied that dealer compensation has not yet been handled.

I offer this story to those who have come to think that pokerstars is on another level than the other online cardrooms with respect to ethical behavior. I too have thought that pokerstars has on the whole acted far more ethically than any other poker site, and even in spite of this event I still believe that; but this is a serious black mark and it has destroyed my former confidence in their corporate ethics. To my eye those players were conned out of that money and pokerstars was complicit -- and when faced with an inexpensive opportunity to make it right, they washed their hands of the whole thing.

Also, I should point out that I write this on my own; if you think I'm in the wrong you should hold it 100% against me, not against daniel, hoyt, or gus. I believe my account of what happened is accurate but I'm the only one who cared enough to publicize these events. And it's entirely possible, even probable, that all of them would have left large tips anyway; what incited me to write this is that tens of thousands of dollars were accepted on false pretenses. If you play in big buyin tournaments, next time that could be you.

Paul's kind of like me. Only successful.

So I see that poker blogging tournament champion, MeneGene, is trying to weasel his way out of a David Sklansky sex post. How Dare He! I highly recommend that everyone politely request this said essay. Gene's one of the best that we have, damnit, and he too rarely gives us these gems. We can't let this one slip away.

Per the Sklansky theme, here is a David Sklansky apologist explaining:
Sklansky, is "nice" better than "right"?? A player's view

Sklansky is the "Scientist" of the poker community. He tests theorems,
constructs mathematical models, uses designs of expirements, and looks to find objective "fact" and "truth" as opposed to subjective opinion, about such things as poker strategy, correct analytical approaches to poker problems, etc.

He then writes on the matter so we can all evaluate and test his work. Many agree that before HPFAP was written, there was no true, general populist, truly valuable to the average player, master work on the subject.

We don't need scientists to be masters of human emotive interaction. We need them to be objective, and "correct" in their approach to problems. Notice scientists often have acrimonious ego driven disagreements and debates, but this is how they peer test each others ideas.

For the "nice" part of human interactions, we have women. It may sound sexist in today's PC world to say so, but even today there is an article on the wires about a new study, latest of many, showing women's brains being wired for "emotion" more than men's, amd men's more for problem solving.

If I had the choice of a "nice" but poker theoretically mediocre Sklansky in the poker community, or a straightforward, mind driven, problem driven, fact driven Sklasnky who writes his books, I'll take the later any day.

The relatively dumb and "nice" we have in plentiful abundance. Those who are not as human interation friendly, but stand out in their field and make truly valuable contributions we can all benefit from however, are few. We need the former for relationships, but the latter are much more rare, and extremely important for a society to move forward.

Einstein was not a paragon of emotion based human ineraction. Neither were hundreds of other great minds who have moved us forward. I'm glad they were more intellect (and even ego) driven, than "please like me" driven dimwits.
We are all better off for it.


Yeah, but what we really want to know is how often David is scoring with the cocktail waitresses, damnit.

Hrm, up until this post, I've written 237,697 words. Yes, it's still rubbish, but I wanted to take note of how MUCH rubbish I've spewed out there into the BlogoSphere. Not to mention the 1,752 links I've provided thus far.

Here's an interesting tidbit. I accidentally discovered this press release from PRWeb detailing ALLIN magazine's conception.
Young Entrepreneur Goes ALL IN with Launch of Poker Magazine

God bless them for featuring the poker blogs in a six page spread. We all owe Hank a beer for his fine article.

Damn, I still have sooo much to link up but I wanna play some damn poker. I'll save the great stuff for next time. ;)

Thanks to anyone reading. Most especially to our Patron Saint, Wil Wheaton. Talk about owing someone a beer....I owe Wil a keg.

Bonus code IGGY on PartyPoker.
./ends futile shilling

Let's close with the final essay from Tom, shall we?
Part 3, Confessions of a Math Guy.

Subject: Confessions of a math guy, part 3

From: Tom Weideman (no_spam_i@hortas_rule.net) Sent: Jul 1 2004 2:35AM

I promised in part 2 that in this final installment I would explain how math
guys go about using their math skills to actually play better. I want to
point out right away that with all my discussion of optimal play and game
theory, there is quite a bit of work done on exploitive play, as I will try
to explain...

First of all, the math skills I refer to are NOT the abilities to do
arithmetic at the poker table. This is a trivial aspect of poker math, and
just about every "math guy" detractor who has posted to rgp seems to feel
that poker math is an important, but trivial aspect of the game, since
anyone can master counting outs and computing pot odds. Well, yes, if that
was all there is to poker math that would be true. But the real triumphs of
the mathematical approach are made AWAY from the table.

There are several tools that are used to study the mathematics of poker away
from the table, and I'll describe a few here. Sorry, I won't be going into
any detailed findings I might be privy to, nor will I go into detail about
the methods themselves. I provide this list in no particular order of
importance or frequency of use:

1. Computer simulation. It is exceedingly difficult to draw conclusions
about the profitability of certain types of plays because the game tree
(which enumerates all the possible sequences of events in a hand) gets very
large. So instead, one can draw conclusions by simulating play and
repeating the process for millions of hands. The difficulty of course is
accurately simulating the play of opponents, but at the same time
conclusions can be drawn regarding how to play against various types of

2. Statistical study. Until recently, this method really wasn't available.
The advent of online poker has brought about the availability of large
databases of hands played, which can be studied for trends and results from
real play.

3. Assumptions and logical thought. This is an old-but-effective method for handling broad, common scenarios. It is not always obvious what the proper course of action is in a given spot, but when one lists the hand sets of the players involved and the likely actions taken by each hand in the future, one can work out the results of the various options available. This is particularly effective when one "notices" certain tendencies that all players seem to have in certain spots - once an appropriate action in a common spot has been worked out away from the table, it doesn't have to be re-worked at the table.

4. Toy games. These game-theoretical studies of simplified versions of poker give a broader (and in that sense often more useful) view of the game. For example, a study of a toy game may provide an answer to the optimal play that is surprisingly "loose". This might tell the person doing the study that for situations well-approximated by that toy game, people tend to play too tightly, indicating how he might go about exploiting them and avoid being exploited by them when the roles are reversed.

That's it. I just felt that someone had to write a somewhat comprehensive description of what goes on behind the scenes of poker math. All the things that are outside of this area like hand reading, tell-catching, and so on, are very important and useful in the exploitive approach to the game, and there are some math guys that are very talented in these aspects, just as there are some that aren't so good at them. But unlike the "poker is a people game and math is for calculating pot odds" crowd, we math guys don't think that those two elements of poker (math and people skills) are mutually exclusive, so we get flustered when we are backed into a corner to choose one or the other.

Tom Weideman

Link of the Day:
No, You Di'Int, Bill Cosby
After Bill Cosby made fun of young blacks for names like Shaniqua and Taliqua (but not Ensa), 13-year-old Kiah Thomas demonstrated why her name means, in Swahili, "shut up you crotchety old windbag."

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