Sunday, August 15, 2004

Poker Poker Poker

"I haven't taken a crap in 21 days. It's just not the same when I don't have a new uber-post to keep me entertained while sitting there. I stopped by here this morning, saw you had a new poker post, printed it out and headed straight for the restroom.

I'm now 23 pounds lighter."

A Faithful Reader, when my hiatus ended

Hoooooo-Boy, I think I'm in the mood for a genuine, mother-of-all-Guinness-fueled-uber-posts tonight. Ready for some stellar poker content? I've got one of my favorite poker all-time trip reports to post, a Phil Helmuth story, and last, but not least - new poker blogs. The new blogs alone could make an uber-post, fer cripes sake.

But before I begin, allow me to grovel and ask for any of you wanting to play, to please hurry and sign up for the Monty Memorial Poker Blogger Tournament, open to all poker bloggers and poker blog readers for a whopping $20. I need signups finalized by THIS Thursday. As in, I'll be sending them in around noon of that day. This tournament is open to everyone, bloggers AND readers, so join the fray and battle with your fave poker bloggers.

Please consider using my link to Pacific Poker as a way of supporting this humble poker blog. Please don't make me beg. I'll be posting everyone who has signed up on Monday or Tuesday evening. Email me your Pacific screen name and email address ASAP.

Whew. So far, it may be a decent turn out, with a solid mix of both bloggers and readers joining up. If two-time winner, Otis, from Up With Poker, can play (he had a baby yesterday - congratulations!) - I'll put a $50 bounty on him - whoever manages to knock his fatherly butt out gets a $50 bonus.

I plan on doing my best Phil Ivey imitation. Any two will do, baby!

I'm not sure what to say about Party Poker right now. Obviously, please consider signing up with bonus code IGGY if you are silly enough to NOT be playing there. Honestly, if you aren't, you are deeply and profoundly retarded. 50,000 damn players and with the Bad Beat Jackpot tables in full-swing, you can't ask for a more profitable situation playing poker right now. Despite my best intentions to play in some multi table tournaments, I can't stop grinding away in the ring games. It's simply steady, easy money for me.

Tip: if you are playing low-limit poker on Party, do yourself a favor and sit on the bad beat jackpot tables. Again, everyone is playing suited connectors and pocket pairs from every damn position in hopes of hitting that jackpot. Even me. :) Honestly, I think a low-limit, say 50.1, player on Party can sit and grind on the bad beat jackpot table and possibly hit a very nice score, the jackpots are getting over ten k pretty often. And let's face it, most of these BBJ hands are going to happen at the 50.1 table. It's seven, eight handed to a flop every damn time.

It's funny but I really wanted to write up some theory/strategy in this post but I simply found too many great snippets. Why waste time on my drivel when I can give you valuable insight from players like Daniel Negraneau. Here's a question and answer:


A Question for Daniel Negraneau

Hey Dan, since you apparently read this forum and respond to some of the
posts I was hoping you could answer a question for me.

To what extent do you feel that playing online provides any kind of
worthwhile experience that might help improve one's performance in live
games, especially tournaments?

It seems to me that the two venues share little in common and that winning
online, whether tournaments or cash games, is much more dependent on luck
than skill...

Your thoughts?

And the answer:

Last year at BARGE, Howard Lederer said that online tournament
practice is very valuable, especially as younger players can gather up
a great mass of tournament experience without ever leaving their
living room.

Obviously the biggest difference between live play and online poker play would have to be the absence of physical tells. A great player's tell reading ability is neutralized online, which leaves just the fundamentals. If you have a good understanding of poker fundamentals, there should be no reason why playing poker online wouldn't be profitable. There are likely a few minor adjustments you would have to make when playing online though:

1. You will have to call more potential bluffs more often. Without the presence of physical tells, the only way you'd be able to make a big laydown would be to have logged enough hours with your opponents and have a good read of his betting patterns. When playing online though, it's likely that you'll often face players you've never played before. Against them, it's important to pay them off until you have enough information otherwise.

2. You should bluff less often. Again, if you are supposed to look people up more often than you normally would, then so should your opponents - and they will. So bluffing more than you need is just a total waste of money. Your profit from these games comes from VALUE BETTING, not bluffing.

Mitigating point: Daniel obviously plays much higher limits than we do. Since I've moved up, I'm doing a TON more bluffing, simply because it's heads up so often at the flop and I can make more plays at a pot (turn check raise!) rather than trying to fight through 3-4 players. At the low limits, 5-10 and below, I recommend almost never bluffing unless you have a solid read on a weak player or a table is getting abnormally passive. I can make the case that simply waiting for good cards and betting the snot out of them is a sufficiently profitable strategy. Most online poker players are passive and call too often - it makes sense to exploit this flaw by pushing the thin edges of your good hands and chucking the others away.

Bottom line: it's way easier for players to play terribly in online poker than in brick and mortar. There is no shame online. No reason to 'stay in line' on certain hands. No raised eyebrows or worse, insults to your face. It's truly too damn easy for folks to play bad online. And they do.

I once read:

There's no place for whim in online poker -- any more than in a real world game. It's just that whims seem like such a good idea when no one sits in judgement.

Amen. And that's why I think online poker is such a tremendous training ground for anyone wanting to become a winning player. Tackling the low-limits at Party, and 'beating the game' over time is a wonderful accomplishment, and not that difficult if you are diligent in table selection, player tracking, and not allowing yourself to tilt. Solid starting cards and ABC poker = money. I mean, I think the majority of online players at Party prolly don't mind losing $50-$100, or whatever, a month for their hobby. It's fun as hell, and ultimately is cheap education/entertainment.

But something I've harped on many times is being honest with yourself. We all play poker for different reasons. These motivations are key to understanding yourself and your game. Many have pontificated upon the similarities between life and poker. And any sentient person can see those parallels easily: taking risks, weighing rewards; alternatively suffering and basking in the vicissitudes of luck. Sure. Yes, of course. But there's one dramatic fissure where the metaphor crumbles. In poker you have to lie to win; in life telling lies will only make you lose. Most especially if you're lying to yourself.

This sounds absurdly simple, or worse, downright pithy. But the power of this message transcends the whiff of cliche that trails behind it. When I went belly up many years ago, I learned a few things besides the pain of losing my bankroll. First and foremost, I learned that I wasn't as good a player as I imagined I was. It forced me to rip apart my game and admit serious weaknesses and so much more. It forced me into poker sherpa mode. And now, way down the road in my poker career, I have the opposite outlook: I'm a much better player than I imagine I am. And this mindset makes all the difference. Your mileage may vary.

Good Lord, such rubbish.

Felicia once gave me the attributes of a winning poker player by Dr. Al Schoonmaker:

Extreme self control- no impulsive behavior
Ability to concentrate intently- no wandering thoughts
Ability to admit mistakes quickly- and thus terminate them
Ability to depersonalize conflicts- be objective regardless of personalities involved
Selective aggressive play at the table
Acceptance of responsibility - accountability for all your results
Always demanding an edge/advantage before you play
Brutal realism- the absence of denial or kidding yourself
Visible thinking- thinking through and knowing why you made every play
Ability to learn from your mistakes
Obsession with winning
Ability to make adjustments based on observations; adapability

If Dr. Al says so, it must be true.

Anyway, let's get into some of the best of poker from the past few days. This next RGP snippet absolutely floored me and now I see that Paul Phillips has weighed in before I could. Of course, I must acquiesce to Him:

Here is one of the great rgp posts of all time. The basic thesis:

if I position my mouse on certain parts of the screen or move the mouse in a certain direction on certain parts of the screen I have noticed that I can often get Very Good starting hands.

I wish it were a joke. I know it's not. In followups he goes into more detail as to how to obtain the best hands:

If possible, sit at the position that is third from the dealer's left. This is not necessary, but I seem to get the best hands there. Do all of these things when a hand has just ended or about to end and keep doing it until after you receive your hole cards.

You can't get any deeper into cargo cult science than this. On how many common-sense levels do you have to be completely broken to infer that your mouse position will be reproducibly correlated with hand strength? I suspect a few years from now this guy is going to be completely lost in "beautiful mind" style dementia, laboriously charting mouse position data for thousands of online hands.

Of course, there's only one response to this.

Oh the humanity.

One of these damn days, I'll do a Best of 'Online Poker is Rigged' posts. I also keep meaning to address online poker and cheating, too. But right now, with poker hitting all-time highs in popularity I'm not sure I even care. If people are cheating out there, they sure are doing a shitty job of it.

Moving on, what kind of uber-post would this be without a Phil Helmuth story? Not a very good one, that's what kind. So even thought it's a positive Phil post, I'll let it slide. Here's a first person account of sitting with Phil Helmuth at the Commerce:

"The Guy In Seat Four" [A Phil Hellmuth Story]

A few years ago Commerce Casino was holding one of their bigger tournaments. The game was No-limit hold'em, final table (full). Phil Hellmuth was in seat six, and there was this guy in seat four who kept moving all-in on Phil every time they were in a hand together. After about the fourth straight time of getting moved off his hand, Phil was becoming visibly pissed. He started probing seat four about his seemingly reckless style of play. "Don't you care whether you win or lose this thing?", Phil asked. Seat four replied in a pretty sarcastic tone of voice, "No, I don't care", which brought about a few chuckles from onlookers. "Well I sure do.", Phil said.

The guy in seat four was targeting Phil, and enjoying it t'boot! The very next hand, seat four goes all-in on Phil again, moving him off his hand. Now I'm not 100% sure what Phil said next, but he decided to take somewhat of a stance by making a threatening "You just keep it up (moving all-in on me), and I'm gonna...." type of declaration to seat four. As soon as Phil finished anouncing his intentions, the guy in seat four said, "Well, you better hurry up and do it while you still have some chips left." Instantly, everybody at and around the table started crackin' up.

I looked over at Phil, and he's clearly pissed--moreover, he's the butt of a joke with everybody laughing. So what do you think he does? Well, first he goes absolutely silent. He stays out of the next three hands or so, all the while looking incredibly pensive. As the dealer begins to scramble the deck, it starts to quiet down a bit. Phil sits up and looks over towards seat four who is still beaming with self-satisfaction, then he asks in a friendly voice, "What's your name?" There is a silent pause by almost everybody. All attention is now on seat four. By the look on seat four's face it was clear that he did NOT want to respond! But after a brief struggle with whether or not to answer, common courtesy got the better of him, "Bob" he says. Phil goes silent again for about ten seconds. Meanwhile seat four--Bob I mean, starts to relax, he's in the clear!, or so he thinks. Phil speaks up, "So where are ya from?" Bob starts to shift in his chair. Discomfort returns, "Err, Oceanside" he says.

It was around this time when everybody in the room started to resume their conversations with one another. "The Show's Over", I guess they thought, but as far as I was concerned it was just getting good. Phil now acts like he's not familiar with the casino situation in Oceanside and probes O'Bobby Boy for details. Bob fills him in. Also, his uncomfortable pauses are becoming a thing of the past. "What do you
play down there?", Phil asks. "Two-four hold'em", Bob answers. It was about then when Bobby starts to go into some long-winded details about everything you ever wanted to know about "Bob from Oceanside."

Meanwhile Phil enters a pot with his new buddy, and what do you know? Phil wins the hand! Phil's happy now, and it shows. Heck, even Old Bob seemed genuinely happy for him. I could only stay for another forty minutes or so (it was early morning, and I needed some sleep), but during every hand they played together before I left, not ONCE did Bob move all-in on his pal Phil. The target that was once tattooed squarely
in the center of Phil's forehead, had now vanished. Mission Accomplished!

I have no idea how high Phil placed in the event (there were about five players remaining when I left), and I really don't think it's important. What I do think's important and down right inspirational, is how Phil turned a horrible situation COMPLETELY around for himself, and in turn giving himself a better chance to place higher in the event.
Way to go Phil!



I was there that night and the guy was Billy Duarte from Oceanside, a top notch pro.

Wow, that Phil Helmuth sure is a Master of Psychology, ain't he?

Even Paul Phillips mom doesn't suffer fools. Her take on Phil Helmuth:

In an email from my mom:

"Heard Phil Hellmuth interviewed on KGO the other day - ugh."

Difficult to put it any more succinctly than that, really.

Damn, I've got the best readers. One sent me this goofy Sunday cartoon from the strip FoxTrot. Sure, it ain't the Poker Hermit, but it will have to do:

BTW, I also discovered this screen shot of a guy from 2+2 playing 11 tables at once.
Eleven tabling

One thing I don't do enough of these days is pimp my fellow bloggers. To be frank, though, I could use up an entire post just pointing to the great essays these guys write up. But I want to point out two superb SNG strategy pieces by our own. If you spend much time playing SNG's, you simply *must* go read:

PokerNerd with a massive post:
If You Don't Read Another One of My Posts, Read This One

F-Train does an excellent follow up to the Poker Nerd:
SnG Strategy At Last!

Damn good stuff, thanks for taking the time to write those up.

Have I ever mentioned I'm a huge Mike Caro fan? Someone finally asked the question in RGP - where the hell is Mike Caro?

MIKE CARO ... what ever happened to him ?!

After devoting his lifetime working to promote our great game of poker,
and now that poker has suddenly 'caught on,' becoming so popular on
T.V., and now booming around the whole world, where is Mike Caro?!
Mike would be the absolutely perfect person, a true 'natural,' for some
of the commentary, or instructional roles in the T.V. broadcasts -- but
now that the long awaited time has finally arrived, where's Mike?!

The best that I gather of the 'story,' from second and third-hand bits
and pieces of information, is summarized as follows (and if anybody
else can add, or fill in, or correct anything in this, please do so):

A couple of years ago, Mike, along with all the other writers of
any competence, disgusted with the Shulman ownership conduct
of Card Player magazine, left to join the classier management of
new rival Poker Digest magazine. Shulman's solution to that little
'problem' was then to simply buy out Poker Digest for $800,000,
and shut it down, and of those writers, taking back to Card Player
only those few who would suck up to him the way he demands.
And even Mike Caro came groveling back, 'on hands and knees,'
to Card Player. But then Shulman gradually squeezed Caro out
of the whole picture, and the last I heard was that Caro had gone
into 'exile,' along with his most lovely wife and bird, somewhere
in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas.

However, now suddenly this new world-wide boom in the popularity
of poker, fueled mainly by the recent T.V. exposure, would seem to
be exactly 'tailor-made' for the 'resurrection' of Mike Caro, especially
now with ESPN having been properly informed of the Card Player
ownership, as Mike now would no longer be vulnerable to any more
of the nasty back-stabbing and personal 'sabotage'...

What do ya'll think.....will we be seeing MIKE CARO again?!

I sure as hell hope so but he's holding true - no more RGP for him. Here's a fan's perspective in this thread:

I don't blame him for wanting to get away from it all. Mike Caro has done more for poker than can ever be fully recognized by the uninformed. But there are many many winning poker players that appreciate what Caro has given us and we are all truly grateful. Caro could have just kept his secrets to himself in the first place. He didn't have to offer anything to anyone. He's obviously a generous and unselfish man. His logic and knowledge put him in a league of his own. I'd say his writings are one of about four of the greatest influences on my life. I am
indebted to Caro forever.

-Paul G.

That's laying it on a bit thick, eh? You'd think Paul was delivering an eulogy.

Wow, this is just Too Damn Cool. One of my long-time readers sent me an email stating:

Howdy Iggy, I wrote an article on poker...

It's about my native area, Sonoma County, in Northern California. I used bonus code IGGY when I signed up last Feb, and haven't regretted it at all... Anyways, you inspired me to write for my local rag, and here it is:

Card Boom

Thanks for all the good reading,

Excellent article, Kev, and thanks for using bonus code IGGY. Now, please, the rest of you slackers, hurry up and sign up on Party Poker and get that 20% deposit bonus. Time is a wasting! Poker is Hot, damnit, and you're letting opportunity pass by!

Geez, still a ton of stuff to say and post but I simply must pimp the new poker blogs. I'm overdue. So get your bookmarks ready and please go read the new guys. It ain't easy writing these damn poker blogs and we've got lots of new talent here. So allow me to rip em out with a snippet from each. Here we go:

I should have pimped this site already.
No Limit on Inane Banter
I noticed one bloke was playing every hand, and had amassed a war chest. I glanced at him, he was middle age, crappy porn mustache, every word out of his mouth was a profanity, constantly smoking marly reds etc....But what stuck out was his hairstyle, the ubiquitous (at least in poker rooms) mullet. Hence, I coined the term, mullet player. Think about it, doesn't it describe everything you hate about a guy who plays every hand and wins. Just like the hairstyle, you love to hate. Personally, I like it best to describe crappy play. Any other good terms for this kind of player?

Poker On Film - I've been reading this blog every single day and so should you.
How to turn $0 into a feature length film using Poker.

The Nut Heart Flush - I love women poker players. NYC writer gal here - great stuff:
Possible Blog Names
So, what to call this blog?

The current name, Tits and Cowboys, comes from the nicknames that certain pairs dealt in the pocket in Texas Hold'em have. Two Kings are called cowboys, while two queens are sometimes called Ladies and sometimes called 4 tits. A pair of aces are known as bullets or American Airlines.

Project $10,000.00 - this is posting every damn day. Worthy read.
This blog is going to serve as my poker journal on my quest to a bankroll of $10,000.00. Hopefully all will go well.

Poker RoadTrip - excellent blog here. Highly recommended. Especially love this tale of signing up for the blogger tourney.

Well, I know I'll last about two orbits or less playing against the rest of you but I'm in - for the camaraderie if nothing else. Fortunately, with the signup bonus I got it's a free entry for me anyway! To top that off, I mistakenly signed up for Casino On Net first (pushed the wrong download link, I guess). I bring up the software, put some money in the site, and then bam - no poker! WTF? Well, rather than simply withdrawing my original stake, I decided to gamble it up with the signup bonus until it was gone. Ha ha ha, the joke is on me. I won $100 in about 20 minutes at the crap tables! Now I'll just grab the dough and head for the exit.

Anyway, when I figured out what I had done wrong I got registered on Pacific Poker and played a tournament just to get used to the interface. Won that S&G, also! I'm definitely playing with house money for the next few days.

Looking forward to getting crushed by you guys.

STFU - One of the best of the bunch. Some fine stuff here.
i learned that, even when you're being called an "asshole" (and "stupit") after losing a monster pot because it was "such a dumb call", explaining that you had the nut flush draw on the flop and had a 36% to make it by the river will probably piss those people off even more. even if it was a huge pot.
i also learned that, if you want to tilt that person, you tell someone else at the table, after they complained about missing their straight, that it was 11.5% to complete. even if you made that number up.

Poker Noob - Damn, this guy knows his shit since he praised me.
What a great post by a guy named Iggy. Basically, my inexpirience with poker has lead me to blamed 2 of my beats to the river but not the decisions that lead up to that situation. Read his July 27, 2004 post.

Home Game - From Boy Genius and his bro:
Way overdue with this one, too. Collaborative blog for BG's home game. Great idea and I'd do it, too, but everyone in my home game is illiterate. Extra pimpage for Based on years of experience... because he's consistently funny. Run Forrest Run!

Poker By Fire
So, what is this blog for? It is an opportunity for you, the reader, to enjoy watching the total collapse of a foolish man, willing to risk real money against real people without having any real information on how to play the game. Will I succeed??? OF COURSE NOT! That's why this ride should be so fun. I will document some of the stupidest plays I make and I will let you know every red cent I lose chasing flushes and foolishly playing for the inside straight. If you are a good player, you will get some insight into the thinking of all of those party poker fishes out there. If you suck, well then we can commiserate.

Collateral Estoppel
Thoughts on Chicago, the Cubs, poker, law school, and any other random missives that I feel like talking about

Mark's Poker Blog
Lotsa hand histories.

Gawd DAMN, I still have ELEVEN left to go. I shall have mercy on you, gentle reader, and save them for next time. Good gravy, I could be here all night.

So what now? I guess I'll go play. Sorry for the non-mother-of-all-uber-posts. The game is calling me.

Please don't forget to sign up on Pacific Poker with my link for our impending blogger tourney. And if you are a poker player NOT playing on Party Poker, please consider using Bonus Code IGGY. Damnit, I give so much and ask for so little.

Thanks for reading. I'll leave you with one of my all-time favorite trip reports. I'm an old fan boy of Patri's writings and he even politely answered some emails from me back in the day. Cool, smart guy. Anyway, enjoy this post about taking a shot at the legendary Big Game.

Trip Report: $200-$400 blind NLHE

brief intro: sorry this took so long. i've been busy moving into a new house, and i also wanted to wait until i'd written up my other WSOP adventures too. Since i'm not sure if that will happen, i'll quit delaying and give y'all what you've been askin' for.

Wow, There's A Lot Of Money On This Table!
(or How Seven Hours Can Cost $12000 in Blinds)

by Patri Friedman

This is a story about money, hundreds of thousands of dollars of it, piled up and around and everywhere, bills enough to bathe in, to wallpaper a mansion, to buy a ferrari and crash it and buy another and do it again. I wish it was a story about that money in front of me, but it isn't, so you'll have to console yourselves with the thought that I was just one seat away, that it was close enough to reach over and grab if there hadn't been Binion's security guards hovering over it, and the owner of the money with his arms possessively around it, cradling the cash, glancing at it lovingly. It is a story about taking a shot and missing, for such is the
uncertainty of the poker world.

This sentence is so I don't begin a paragraph with the name of a 2+2 publisher. This sentence really belongs in an article by Douglas Hofstadter. Mason Malmuth has a theory about non-self weighting strategies. The idea is that good gamblers win because they can vary their bets, and so they identify when they have an edge and bet a lot more. They find a few really good situations, and bet them hard. The
conventional application of this to poker is the fact that we put different amounts of money in on different hands. However, if we look on a larger scale, at what games we sit down at rather than what hands we play, Mason's concept has obvious applications to the theory of poker game selection. You should be willing to risk a lot more on good bets, which means that you should be willing to play in much larger games when those games are very good.

My naive impression, before playing in the big games, had been that to play bigger you had to play better, that the $200-$400 games were full of world-class players picking on those who were merely great. In my limited experience, this does not seem to be true. Most professional poker players don't have large bankrolls, and so they don't play at the really high limits. Few poker players have a $200-$400 bankroll. On the other hand, lots of businessmen, stock traders, and other sorts of wealthy people do have the money to play that big. I'm not saying that there aren't world-class players in these games, or that they are always very live, just trying to explain what I think the reasons are for these big games sometimes being so good.

During my first few days at this years World Series of Poker, I had spent
some time talking and playing (at the Bellagio) with an r.g.p'er who was
spending his week proving this concept. He had enough money from sources
outside of poker to play the big games, and consequently was making a
great deal of money. Capital is a valuable asset in any business, and
poker is no exception. Having more money means you can make more money by
moving up in limit - you don't always have to get better to earn more.

With this as my mindset, I wandered into the satellite area downstairs at
Binions at around three or four o' clock sunday morning, after an evening
of $200-$400 HE at the Bellagio. There were rumours about some sort of
fantastically big no-limit game upstairs, with blinds as big as the limit
game I'd just been playing. The chief story involved someone opening
with QQ, being raised thirty thousand dollars, and calling all-in against
an opponent who showed K2. A king came on the flop, of course. I tried
not to break into a run as I headed towards the stairs.

In the middle of the Horseshoe's converted bingo room was a table, and on
this table was a whole lot of money. There were two live spots, the one
seat and the five seat. The one seat was drunk and talking a lot, and the
five seat was the big winner. It was hard to see much else, given the
crowd surrounding the table, but it was clear that the game was good. I
looked at the list. Miraculously, only two names were ahead of me. A
seat in this game, I was convinced, was worth a hell of a lot of EV. But
it was 4AM, the blinds were two and four hundred, the buy-in was ten
thousand, and there just weren't very many people around willing and able
to risk that much cash on a shot. The poker room was pretty empty, just a
few other games going, and how many people are there, even at the WSOP,
willing to risk five digits in a poker game?

Paul Phillips, maybe. I looked around but didn't see him, and decided it
would be unwise to call his cellphone at this ungodly hour. That left me,
so I put my name on the list. At this point, I was up about $15K for the
year before the series, and another $15K for the series. Given my large
non-poker bankroll, I decided that I was willing to risk my $30K in
profits on this single shot. What kind of gambler would I be if I saw a
great, great bet and didn't take it? Not the kind of gambler I am,
obviously :).

I went to my box and brought back thirty thousand dollars in cash, hundred
dollar bills won by guile, trickery, skill and luck from dozens of devious
opponents, money that was twice, no twenty times, no - infinitely sweeter
than money earned. I counted it with delight, banded it in
big-dance-buy-in sized packets, and played with it as I waited and
watched. Two of the players in the game (Mansour Matloubi was one) were
short stacked ($20K or less), and so I had an excellent chance of getting
in. Two hours later, it happened. One player went to bed and Mansour
went bust. O' Neal Longston took one seat and I took the other, and I was

The one seat was most of what the game was built around. Thirties or
forties, overweight, well-dressed, his name was Mark, he was drunk, and
boy did he like to talk. Every hand he wanted to negotiate a deal, show a
card, see a card, or just blather on about something. He was sometimes
pretty funny ("Is it me, or is this kid in way over his head?"), and he
was the mark everyone wanted to fleece. According to rumour, he used to
be a good player, maybe even a professional, but he had made a lot of
money in the stock market and now he didn't care (especially while
drunk). Daniel knows him well.

The five seat was the big winner. His name was Hector, a latino rancher
from Texas, and he had about $100K in front of him when I sat down. By
the end of the night, this had swelled to $500K or more (rumour says
$700K), a memorable run that will be talked about for years, unless (or
perhaps even if) he's already broke, which wouldn't surprise
me. According to rumour, he was down a great deal of money, and had taken
his last $8K and run it up to $40K in the 100-200 PLO game, before
getting into this one and being hit over the head with the deck like a
fairy godmother gifting him with her magic wand. He was bad but not

The other players in the game were pretty solid, with the exception of the
three seat on my right, who was weak but certainly not terrible. The kind
of player I want to have filling in the seats between the live ones, but
not someone who makes the whole game good. The two seat was Benjamin, a
nice middle-eastern looking fellow with a british accent. The six seat
was O'Neal, the legendary PLO player. The seven seat was Tony Dee, a
legendary high-stakes gambler, and the only good player (besides me) who
lost. The deck took from him what it gave to Hector, and he lost at least
a hundred grand while I was there (rumour says $250K). The eight seat was
Ali, a veteran of the big games, and while he looked like someone who had
made his money elsewhere (and has the reputation of being live), in this
situation he was playing a solid game, and wasn't giving anything
away. The nine seat was Texan Jim Bechtel, the victim of the QQ vs. K2
incident, but he recovered quite well.

The game was what I think of as typical in no-limit games where a couple
players are very live and the rest are solid. The one and five seats
were involved in most hands and most confrontations, while the other
players waited for good hands and took turns taking them on. There was
little to be gained by playing hands against the other players in the
game, and so no one was "putting plays" on anyone else, contrary to what
happens in a normal game, where varying your play is a must. There was
little point in bluffs or semibluffs when there were two big-stacks
waiting to look you up. And it was dangerous to bet a hand that you
weren't willing to back with your stack when there were two big-stacks who
loved to move in. One of the great things about poker is how different
lineups can influence the flow of the game, and in no-limit this makes a
huge difference.

The game was slow, perhaps 20-25 hands an hour. The mathematics of poker
tells us that while I should expect a pair of aces only once every 221
hands, jacks or better should come about 4 times as often, or every 55
hands. I played for seven hours, perhaps 150 hands, without seeing a pair
bigger than tens. The tens came once, the flop had two overcards, and
into the muck they went. I had ace-king twice, winning the blinds both
times, and no ace-queens. I believe I paid something like $12000 in
blinds alone, and by 1PM sunday, when Mark and Hector left, I was down to
$10K of my initial $30K. My shot had failed. But you don't want to hear
about that, I've given my reasons and made my arguments already. You want
to hear about the action, about what kinds of hands get shown in a no
limit game with blinds of two and four hundred dollars, about what it
takes to win a one or two hundred thousand dollar pot.

First we'll talk about a couple of the hands I played. AJ, with a
jack-high flop. I bet $2K and only Mark calls me, saying "Hey, the tight
kid is in! I bet he has a monster!" The flop was something like J86 w/
two hearts. The turn was a ten of hearts, making the straight and flush
both possible. Mark moves-in. I fold. He shows a straight, saying "To
bet into the tight kid, I've gotta have a monster!". I'd always thought
you were supposed to bet good hands into loose players and bluff tight
players, but I kept those thoughts to myself and congratulated him on his
excellent play.

In the other hand I was involved in, I had KJs in late position and saw a
cheap, multiway flop. Several players, including Mark, checked, and I
tried to bet a few grand at the J76 flop. The player on my right (the
semi-live guy) said "Wait, I didn't check, I'm going to bet" I attempted
to withdraw my bet. Benjamin wasn't sure if that was allowed, and asked
for the floorman to be called. The floorman said I could withdraw my bet,
it didn't have to stay in. Benjamine apologized to me, saying that in the
casinos he plays in (in Britain), the bet would have to stay in. I said
it was no problem. He repeated his apology, wanting to make sure that I
understood that he didn't have anything against me, he wasn't trying to be
rude, he just hadn't been sure about the rule (this may have been a tell,
given the subsequent action). I said that was fine, that I was not going
to be bothered by calling a floorman when a rule was unclear.

Anyway, the guy on my right bet, and I folded, as did those on my
left. Mark called, and then Benjamin made a substantial raise (maybe ten
or twenty grand). The guy on my right showed me AJ and folded. I told
him that I'd had KJ. Benjamin got all-in on either the flop or turn for a
total of $40K or so, and they dealt the cards twice. His set of sevens
won both times.

Presto was a big loser for Tony Dee, who thought he had a big hand when
the flop came 234. Hector had 56, however, and busted Tony for forty
grand. AJ with a flop of ATx seemed like a big hand for Tony too, but
Mark had AT and picked up another bundle of cash for people to look at and

One of the biggest pots of the night occured between Mark &
Hector. Hector had K3, and Mark had the ace of clubs and either the seven
or nine of clubs. The flop come K3x w/ two clubs, Mark bet five grand,
and Hector called. At this point, Mark had about $80K-$120K in front of
him, and Hector had about $170K. The turn was an ace, Mark bet $5K,
hector raised it to $30K. Mark called him with top pair and the nut flush
draw. The river was a three, filling up Hector. It was *not* a club, but
Mark was drunk and got all-in anyway, betting at the pot and calling when
Hector moved in. A few minutes later, as Hector stacked the bills and
five-thousand-dollar chips in front of him, Mark asked a friend, who was
sweating him, what he'd had in that big pot. "Just a pair of aces", the
friend replied. "I got all-in on *that*?" replied Mark. "Wow." We all
filled in the rest, mentally: "He sure is drunk."

Hector's stack of bills grew, and he asked for something to put it
in. They brought him two playover boxes, and he filled them with bills
and eventually piled more on top. As hands turned on the clock and
arbitrary numbers, empty with no visible natural phenomenon to flesh them
out, steadily increased, people began pouring in to the room. There was a
tournament (?$2500 NL?) at noon, and a steady stream of players, shaking
the sleep from their eyes, walked in and saw The Game. Our audience, held
off by velvet ropes and security guards, swelled to mammoth size. More
people than sweat a non-big-one WSOP final table were watching us play -
appropriately, as there was more money on the table than is at stake in
those tournaments. Big Name Players came by, tossing a practiced glance
over the participants, divining immediately who was stuck and who was
winning, who were the attractions. They all saw Hector's stack, and,
despite years of study at the science of keeping a blank face, this
unexpected confrontation with close to a million dollars in cash triggered
something in each of their faces. A clench of Johnny Chan's cheeks, the
shake of T.J. Cloutier's head, Phil Hellmuth's smile getting a little
broader, just for a second. Unlike the populace, watching in envy, able
only to dream about making a score like that, the Big Names were able to
look behind as well as ahead, summoning the treasured memories of their
moments of glory.

My stack was far from enviable, but I saw a few friends, r.g.p'ers and
real life acquaintances looking my way, eyes widening in wonder, the
inevitable question on their faces. I shook my head a few times, made the
thumbs down signal, and went back to playing at the game of waiting. We
were, as it happened, in the middle of the tournament area, and so it had
to be re-routed around us. As noon grew close, they managed (with
difficulty) to clear the watchers out from around us so the tournament
could begin. Without the crowd around us, the game suddenly felt less
elegant, less glamorous, and more like a cold-hearted method for
redistributing wealth. Mark and Hector must have felt it too, because
they didn't last much longer. Mark went bust and reached into his jacket
to find an empty pocket, got up, and staggered home to bed. Hector picked
up a pair of kings, ONeal flopped a set of nines, and doubled up his $40K
stack. Hector, angry at having lost forty thousand from his
three-quarter-million stack, stood up and began the far from trivial
process of racking his chips and pocketing his bills.

The story is going to dodge back to me for a second, and not a happy
one. With Mark and Hector gone, I knew I was no longer the favorite, and
I was ready to leave. Unfortunately, as it turned out, it was my button,
and I decided I'd just play a couple hands (we all know how these stories
end). I had $9000 left. I picked up two big cards that looked good, made
top pair with a good kicker, and one of the blinds had aces. I was
short-stacked and exhausted, and he trapped me. Game Over. The first
$21K I blame on the cards, but those last nine - I have no one to blame
but myself. Now I was even for the year.

For the rest of the WSOP (and even at games back home in NoCal), every now
and then I would hear rumours being spread, people talking about the game,
telling stories. Sometimes I would interrupt and correct them, sometimes
someone would point me out as having played, and sometimes I would just
sit there smiling as I heard how poker truth flows into poker legend. I
don't know how much of the money he had left, but Hector was back for the
big one, and he remembered me, his right-hand-side companion. He showed
me a picture, taken during the game. He is sitting at the table, money
piled in front of him, leaning forward, smiling broadly. And on one side
of him, clearly visible in the 8 x 11 glossy, is a young kid with a much
smaller pile of chips, sitting back and waiting for a hand that never
came. Such is the nature of poker, a game of luck, of draws, of freak
occurences where anyone can win.

If it was my only chance, I would regret it a lot more. But the long-term
is far longer than a single night or a single WSOP. Games like that don't
happen very often, but they do happen, and I will play in them
again. In fact, a week later, George the Greek was in town, and they
played $200-$400 blind pot limit (omaha, perhaps) at the Bellagio. I
wasn't ready for another shot so soon, but I will be. Until then, I


This became an interesting thread with plenty of questions for Patri. He waited and then answered them one by one, in this post. Enjoy:

I'm responding to a bunch of posts here, so the quoted material is by
several people, although it is not labeled.

First, y'all should note that the people who are suggesting that games
like this shouldn't be as I described, or who are surprised that they are,
are people who have not played in them, and the couple people who have
agreed with me (chance/ken) have played. So it should be pretty clear
that the way I have described things is how they really are, and for
whatever reason, Gary, Doug, and others have the intuition that they
shouldn't. So believe me about the nature of these games. Also I am
going to expound on some big-bet poker theory, which is probably pretty
good stuff coming from me (hope that didn't sound too
egotistical). However, when I talk about why I think the games have the
flow they do, that is just based on my intuition and observations and I
could easily be wrong.

:: One thing about your report confuses me. I always thought that
:: conventional poker wisdom about high implied odds structures (big bet
:: poker) was that you could afford to limp with a lot more hands than in
:: limit because of the possibility that you could make hundreds of times
:: the initial bet in later rounds if your hand hits. That is to say, you
:: might play 67 suited for $400 in these games because if you hit a
:: straight you are likely to make $40,000.

Yes. This is true of a normal no limit game. However, just like there
are limit games that are usually 2-3 handed, 2 bets to see the flop, and
there are limit games where its going to cost 3 bets to see any flop, and
there are limit games that are 4-5 handed for 1 bet, there is a lot of
variety in no limit games. How deep the stacks are compared to the
blinds, and how deep the stacks are compared to how much it costs to see
the flop are crucial statistics. The interaction between these leads
to different loose/tight strategies.

For example, if its a 5-10 NL game and everyone has $100, you can't play
speculative hands, but you have to play some hands or you'll get anted out
(this is what tournaments are like). If its a 5-10 NL game and everyone
has $2500, you can play a lot of speculative hands. If its a 5-10NL game
and everyone has $2500, but it usually costs $150 to see a flop (cuz there
are two raises), you can't play speculative hands, but you don't have to
find a hand to take a stand on because you can stand the antes. Make

So in the first game, you treat AK like it was pocket aces (same for
AQ/AJ/AT/KQ, when you are first in the pot and have some position). In
the second game, you are very careful with AK because you can raise with
it, get called, and even if you flop an A/K you can't back it with your
stack because your opponent could have a pair and flopped a set, and if
you back it with your stack he was correct to do so. You want your big
cards to be suited in that game, and an ATs, 67s, and medium pairs are the
hands you want. In the last game, you want to find AA/KK/QQ to win a pot
before the flop, and to slip in w/pocket pairs only when the price is
right (not too big a raise, not too many players beind - especially the
live action players).

:: Why did you play so tight? Is it because you were short stacked? Is it
:: because the bigger stacks were routinely raising preflop to punish
:: limpers? Were you just risk averse?

In this game, I was short-stacked, and there was a lot of raising
happening. Not just the big stacks punishing limpers, but because
there were action players in the game. Thus I needed to play very
tightly. I was risk averse in the sense that I thought a seat in this
game was worth money, that if I went bust I would not be able to buy back
in, and that this game was a rare occurence. Thus I did not want to go
bust (like if you are playing a tournament that fell way short of its
garauntee, you would have similar risk-averseness if the casino honored
it) because I thought risky situations would lower my EV. However, I was
not risk-averse in the sense of needing to preserve this buy-in - if I
found a good enough situation (the 2:1 - 4:1 range is about what you can
realistically wait for in holdem) I was willing to back it with my stack.

:: this: In limit poker, I do not have to be the best player at the table
:: to make money. Depending on how bad the worst players are, I may not even
:: need to be second best or third best or even seventh best. This is
:: because better players can only hurt me so much. But in big bet, even
:: one better player can devastate me, clean me out, take my whole stack.
:: So I have to be very wary if there is even one player better than me. If
:: there are two, or three very dangerous players I don't like the game no

This is both right and wrong. Yes, in no limit, a few dangerous players
makes the whole game dangerous, if they play a lot of pots. But there are
very few players like that, and recognizing them and learning to stay out
of their way helps a lot. In general, if there are some very live action
players, the good players all play pretty tight to take their money. I'm
not saying they won't get in there and gamble, play suited connectors
before the flop, call with flush draws, thats all part of the game. But
when the big money goes in, the good player is gonna have the
hand. Period. He's not going to be trying to bluff, because bad players
generally call too much. So you better get out of the way unless you have
the nuts.

Look, no one can take your stack unless you put it in the pot. And why
would you put it in the pot against a good player with anything but the
nuts when there are bad players to beat? Similarly, why would the good
player put his stack in against you with a weak hand? Yes, you can make
some arguments that if you play like that, the good players can run over
you cuz you are tight, but that is not how I have seen it work in
practice. First, if you are playing tight, you will often have a hand and
they are in trouble if they pop you. Second, the bad players are going to
get involved and you can't run them out of a pot. Third, why focus your
plays/stack/effort on stealing a little when you can make real money
against the live ones? Also, in some of these situations the live one has
a big stack, and so if you have a smaller stack, the good player is not
going to care about you. If you happen to double up a couple times, well,
maybe he'll look your way, but players often get up and leave if they
don't feel competent to not get trapped.

Again, one of the key skills in no limit is simply to learn to respect the
good players, and give them credit for a hand, and stay out of their
way. If you can do this well, and the game is live, you can still make
good money off the action players.

:: matter how big the fish are. My experience is, when there are several
:: good players chasing a bad player or two, a very good player can make a
:: killing by trapping the chasers. Its almost like collusion. The fish
:: lures them in and the shark cuts them off at the knees, they rarely
:: figure out what happened.

I have not seen this happen much.

It is true that there are occasionally great players in the game who are
good enough to beat/try to beat everyone, and they don't mind the presence
of a few live ones. But this is, in my experience, rare. When there is a
crazy action bad player in the game, even the Super/System mega-aggressive
types will slow down - they have to because the style of the game dictates

:: Now Patri stipulated that there was not much fancy play in these games.
:: It was straight forward follow the fish, bet it when you got it type of
:: play. But then again he did get trapped for $9000 in what would seem
:: from his description to be the only signifigant pot he was in all night.

Well, that was a) after the two live ones got up, and everyones eyes
briefly turned to each other, and b) when someone picked up pocket aces,
which isn't exactly fancy play or being risky. Being tight and careful
against good players is one thing - but it doesn't mean you don't play

:: This was perceived by Patri to be a good game, not because of the game
:: itself, but because of two players in the game. The question I'm not
:: sure about is whether the presence of two players is enough to make a
:: game a good game.

In my experience, yes. Its like money is falling from the sky, and
everyone runs around with their bags trying to catch it. Some people get
lucky, some people don't. Occasionally a wad of money hits you in the
head, and it hurts, and it bounces off into someone else bag.

Look at the high-limit games that get built around one or two players. Or
some of the regular games - the PLH game in albequerque built around the
banker, say.

:: In this example, there were two players pissing off chips -- but the
:: overall game conditions (plus the short stack) where enough to keep
:: Patri from getting in there and out-gambling them. When there is money
:: to go after I like to gamble it up some -- limp in with those little
:: cards sometimes and see what happens. But, here, because of the overall

Well, of course I'd *rather* play that way. And if I'd been willing/able
to put $100K on the table, I would have played like that. But I wasn't,
and I still felt the game was profitable even playing it like I did. Its
a totally different kind of game. Less like poker and more like running
around with a bag. Running around with a bag is not as fun, but it pays a
lot better than poker when you can find a good rainstorm.

:: Chasing is usually not a good idea -- whether you're chasing a pot or
:: chasing a player.

This is a silly syntactic game with zero semantic value. Consider the
following, similarly-derived sentences, which don't happen to prove a
point you have already decided is true:

Chasing is usually not a good idea -- whether you're chasing a pot or
chasing the person you have fallen in love with and think is your soul
mate but who hasn't quite been convinced yet that you are serious.

Chasing is usually not a good idea -- whether you're chasing a pot or
chasing a group of nude, hot, tanned, athletic, college streakers (both
male and female) who yelled as they went by "Join us! Be free! Be

:: If I have to sit at a table where I'm the next to last worst player,
:: I'd rather play PL or NL any day. You have to admit to yourself that
:: you are only a better poker player than one other guy at the table
:: so you do three things:

Hell, yeah!

:: (1) beat the one player you are better than. It only takes one hand.


:: (2) stay out the way and learn from the better players. I don't mean
:: play real weak tight here. I just mean play solid and safe against them.
:: Don't get the slightest bit out of line, not even once. If one of them
:: comes in for a raise, forget AQ. Be happy to break even against them.

Exactly. In a tight game, I fold AQo UTG. Unless I'm against a loose
player, or there is a lot of money in the pot to be picked up, i would
never raise an opener with it.

:: But don't be afraid of the good players. They are watching you and know
:: that you are playing tight. You can steal pots from them. They will
:: be afraid when you bet or raise.

Astute comment from Ken. Don't get out of line often, or against the
great readers, because they'll be on to in a gnats wink - its their job,
after all. But you can use that tight image to benefit, occasionally.

:: Right. If you flop a set, you can beat Daniel, Doyle, Jesus or TJ.
:: If you get dealt AA and someone goes all-in ahead of you, you're
:: in great shape no matter if it's a complete fish or a world-class

exactly. And in NL, you can wait for sets and aces, if there are players
who will pay you off.


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