Thursday, July 22, 2004

"Roll em For TJ!"
HDouble to me at this years WSOP, at the craps table

Uber post pending. Hope this lil essay holds you over.

Bonus Code IGGY on Party Poker!


Confessions of a math guy, part 2

In part 1, I focused on exploitive play, how it relates to optimal play, and
why non-math folks can apparently do it fairly well. In this part, I will
discuss features of optimal play in more detail.

Simply put, you are playing optimally when your opponent can't (correctly)
figure out a way to exploit you. For example, you aren't calling too much
or too little, so he can't decide whether it is profitable to try to bluff
you or not. I need to emphasize that the opponent may THINK that he can
exploit you (perhaps he thinks you call too often and therefore doesn't
bluff), but in fact you are playing in such a way that despite what he
thinks, he is not exploiting you.

[begin digression]
In my opinion, there is far too much criticism of optimal play in poker
because of the lack of a single equilibrium solution for multi-handed play.
Bringing this up is usually a straw man argument to dismiss entirely the
usefulness of studying game theory for use in poker. There are three
reasons I think this is overdone. The first is that even many-handed poker
hands often dwindle to heads-up before the showdown, and though the hand
sets of the players in the early multi-player rounds of betting are
affected, a decent approximation of a solution for late round heads up play
can be found. The second reason is that equilibria even for multi-way games
can be found when one makes simplifying assumptions about the opponents (in
particular, how they implicitly or explicitly collude with each other or
with you). And finally, when it comes to the practical use of game theory,
the margin for error for an individual's implementation is probably
significantly larger than the error in the approximations derived.
[end digression]

Of course, in playing in this optimal fashion, you eschew the option of
exploiting the play of your opponent as well. Many people are of the
mistaken opinion that this means optimal play is purely defensive, and is
therefore not profitable as a general strategy. I think there are several
reasons for this belief. The three that come to mind first are:

1. Someone who knows the basics of optimal play in game theory has seen many
examples where an opponent gets the same return no matter what he does when
you play optimally. For example, if you randomize between the three choices
in roshambo (rock/paper/scissors), your opponent can never beat you in the
long run - but you can't beat him either.
2. There is a macho "outwit and outplay" image associated with poker that
makes it unthinkable that some geek could come along and solve it like it
was tic-tac-toe. It's eat or be eaten, and if you resort to game theory you
are avoiding getting eaten, so it can't possibly allow you to eat.
3. Just as everyone seems to believe they are better-than-average drivers,
poker players all like to think they are winning players. When you believe
this, and you (and every other winning player you know) have been playing
exploitively, you refuse to believe that there is some "play by numbers"
method out there that works at least as well and probably much better than
what you have been doing (and which will without a doubt beat you if used
against you).

Well it turns out that poker is quite a bit more complicated than roshambo,
and there exist very, very common situations where if one player plays
optimally the opponent must do so as well, or he will play with -ev. All
the tricky, instinctive, fancy plays in the world won't help. For a more
detailed discussion of this, see my RGP experiment from a few years ago:


All of this naturally leads to the question, "So who will win more money,
someone who plays exploitively or someone who plays optimally?" This is a
very hard question to answer, because perfect optimal play is so difficult
to work out that it is impossible to achieve. And of course there are many
degrees of exploitive play as well. But here is my feeling...

As players get better at the game, their "basic strategy", if you will,
gravitates towards optimal. Therefore the tougher the game gets, the less
profitable exploitive play becomes. But in very weak games, optimal play
does not get all that it can from opponents' mistakes. The irony here is
that the people that "graduated" to the toughest games did so by being
better exploiters than their opponents in the softer (presumably
lower-limit) games, so they are widely of the opinion that you can't
possibly win in the big game unless you have that special exploitive knack,
when in fact an optimal player who doesn't try to do anything in an
exploitive manner is going to actually fare the best.

I have yet to explain how knowledge of this subject can be used in real
life, and I will save that for part 3. But what I will say is that the math
that has to be performed (by hand or by computer) is not trivial - it is
much more than calculating outs and pot odds like so many people think is
the extent of mathematics in poker.

Tom Weideman

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

"Poker passed the Larry Test in the biggest way possible, which is to say Larry showed up one day babbling about the game he’d watched the night before the way a 12- year-old tells his friends about discovering the Playboy magazine in his father’s closet. Poker, it seems, has gone mainstream."

Howdy all - thanks for stopping by this humble poker blog. Prepare yourself for quite possibly the funniest post ever by esteemed poker theorist, David Sklansky.

On one momentary serious note, Monty the cat heads out for major heart surgery tomorrow at Ohio State. If the animal lovers out there could please send positive vibes his way, I'd be deeply appreciative. It's not looking good that it's come to this but you gotta have hope, don't you?

Back to poker: it's still fascinating to me to think how far this has blogging thingy has come. I'm gonna be posting more often, so here goes a Guinness-fueled rant with random poker tidbits from across the spectrum.

Stream of consciousness posts rule.

It's funny, looking back. I still remember how thrilled I was to get a dozen regular readers. That seems like eons ago. It's taken about ten months to double my readership, and for that, I'm thankful.

So allow me to get nostalgic. I inadvertantly forgot to mention one of the original poker bloggers celebrating a one year anniversary last week. Mister Decker was a major inspiration for me to start my own poker blog and has given me permission to repost part of his birthday post. As a matter of fact, I think he & Hank were my only readers for several months. Click here to visit The Man, himself.

Here's a snippet, from his unique perspective, on the past year of blogging about poker:


Now, 201 posts later, here we are.

I originally started the blog as a way to keep track of my progress and results. But I also kept track of my progress and results in a little black date book. So, that kind of defeated the purpose of starting the blog after all. Back when I started Decker's Journal, there weren't very many poker blogs out there. I used to read WhiskeyTown's and Felicia's religiously. I enjoyed reading about their poker exploits and decided it would be cool to write about my own. I also kept up with several non-poker blogs (Here's one of my favorites). I guess all of the blog reading I used to do, inspired me to go out and start my own. Maybe someone would read and enjoy mine, like I did the ones that I read.

When it came time to name my Blog I developed a mind block, but eventually chose the name of a pet turtle I had in my backyard pond. He was no longer with us, as he had been scurried off late in the night by a possum or racoon or something. Anyways, that is where the name Decker came from: My little red-eared slider turtle who vanished in the night.

I've really enjoyed watch the poker blogging community grow. Once Iggy hit the scene the poker blogging community blew up! While Iggy became our one stop source for the days news, several more GREAT writers soon popped up like:

Dr. Pauly,
Boy Genius,
Poker Penguin,
Mean Gene and of course

I know there are more that I am not mentioning, so please forgive me. I have found many hours of entertainment reading all the various poker blogs out there. I've lost count of how many there are now and have given up on updating my links list. I simply hit up Iggy and work off his links list. I dont think he minds. I'm also happy to call many of these bloggers friends, and look forward to a day when we can tip a few beers and scoop a few pots together...

Amen, brother. Looking forward to that myself. I'm eyeing a September visit to Atlantic City....

So while I'm getting all retrospective and such, allow me to point out yet another outstanding post last week from Otis, at Up For Poker, summing up the great things about the poker blogging community. He writes far better than I, so allow me to share his words here:

I need to take a brief diversion from our regular poker passion to consider the value of our community of poker players and writers.

I've long believed green felt could've torn down the Berlin Wall. Few substances and even fewer fabrics have the ability to bring together such a wide variety of people, backgrounds, and mindsets. Maybe booze, but green felt is better to set your chips on.

If not for the inherent competition in the game, it could likely serve as the world's greatest relationship therapist.

I believed that even before CJ invited me to begin blogging here on Up For Poker. But once we started here I discovered something even greater. You don't even have to have the felt. You don't need chips. You just need a love of the game.

In the past year I've come to ethereally know some of the best players, writers, and thinkers out there in the poker world. In a few short months I felt myself actually thinking about these folks and talking about them to my wife. How one guy lost his job. How one guy was nursing his pet back to health. How one guy is on the road living a bohemian life.

That was pretty odd for me, to be honest. I typically care about a small circle of people and the rest be damned.

Then I figured it out. Most of the poker bloggers out there are the Northern Otis, The City Otis, The Backwoods Otis, The Left Coast Otis, etc. Or I am the Midwest/Southern version of them. That is, while all living different lives, we all spend, perhaps, an inordinate amount of time focusing on a game we love.

More than that, perhaps, most of us have an understanding that we're not only focusing on a card game. As we grow our game and our understanding of it, we grow our minds. We have a better understanding of how people work, how relationships exist, and how to make decisions based on experience. We are people who realize that poker is not just a means to play, or not just a means to a profitable end, but a means to some sort of greater understanding of our own minds. If we can understand why we make decisions in a game, we might better understand how or why we make certain decisions in our life.

Now, maybe that sounds a bit heady. Maybe I'm over-glamorizing the game. Maybe I've developed some romantic notion of poker that more experienced or more jaded people might view as an idealistic perception of an otherwise brutal pasttime.

Maybe. I dunno. But I know this: Since I started playing every day, I've started understanding a lot of things a lot better. Poker can be a stabilizing factor.

But even better, writing about poker is therapeutic. It helps me write about life, people, and stories through a lens that we all can understand. If I just wanted to write about anything, I'd stick to the blog I've been operating for the past three years. But here, CJ gives me an opportunity to filter many of my thoughts through a green-felt-lens.

It was in the writing and reading of other poker blogs that I came to know all these other folks out in the ether, the folks I appreciate, admire, and respect.

I wish I had the talent to write that. Damn, Otis eloquently sums up how I feel about our scene and makes it look so easy. We're damn lucky to have real writers in our midst.

I could spend this entire post pimping out the great poker blog posts. I'm continually amazed at the quality and diversity of our collective experiences. I'd highly recommend during your next folding streak at the online poker tables, that you start clicking on the blogs to the right and finding your own personal favorites. Personally, I dig em all, but I never tire of reading.

And on the note, it's time to share some of the nuggets I've discovered in my recent surfing travels.

A follow up to my last post about David Sklansky slagging Lee Jones and his poker book. David here provides the rationale behind his attacks:


Hit it and Forget it.That thread where I am a little nasty to Lee Jones. More than 10,000 people have now read it. So its hard not to believe that a little nastiness is the best way to get people to sit up and take notice; and is worth doing if the cause is as important as getting people to study math more (by pointing out that Lee's original book was flawed because of his probable lack of math studiousness.)

As I said, I will stop at almost nothing to get my point across. And that point is now read by more viewers than any other thread on this forum. Uh, I just double checked that. Not quite true yet. Which brings me to my other point. How many of you were aware that Marilyn Monroe sought out and had sex with Albert Einstein? And that it was not because of the way he dressed or or played the violin. Also how many of you were aware that there is a correlation between math and testosterone levels. Or that social evolutionary theory postualtes that most young women get PHYSICALLY aroused in the presence of intelligent men. I'm not talking money hungry here. It is rather a physical manifestation due to the awareness that the fellow in question will be a good provider for children. Those women who did not have this physical reaction were likely to have died off as their dumb mates couldn't protect their offspring. Thus the majority of those left, inherited an almost insatiable desire to make love to men who demonstrated knowledge in fields like logic or probability.

Dear Lord, I'm not touching this one. But it begs the question, what kind of poker groupie action is David Sklansky tagging these days?

Want more? Here's an apologist post I discovered about Phil Helmuth, Mike Caro & NL tournaments.

An argument for the Poker Brat (especially in tournaments)
Hey, y'all.

So I've been reading a lot of Mike Caro lately, and he, like a lot of other analysts, believes that the Phil Helmuth school of whiny losing is wrong, not because it's impolite or gives poker a bad name (though it is and does) but because it forces your opponents to play better. The argument goes that, when you embarass your opponent for drawing out on you after a loose call, he'll be less likely to make such loose calls in the future, and will therefore play better. Instead, say the Carolians, you should congratulate your opponent on his ugly beat, telling him how gutsy it was for him to call a pot raise pre flop with T8 offsuit, and then calling two more pot raises on the flop and turn with bottom pair and tripping on the river, thus encouraging such stupid calls in the future, and increasing (or maintaining) your long term EV against this player. Even Phil Helmuth has now disavowed his own style of losing, having been convinced of the error of his ways, and has retreated to his zen monastery to contemplate his navel and become a good sport.

Now, let me just preface this by saying that I think Mike Caro is one of the smartest people alive. Damned near everything he says, about poker or about life in general, is so scary smart that it sometimes takes days for the sheer genius of it to sink in, and yet is so clear and accessible that it makes you wonder why you didn't think of it.

However. . .

On this one point, I believe that, especially in tournament play, there is a good argument to be made for howling like a tortured Iraqi after you take a bad beat, and for explaining to the entire table just what a moron your opponent was for making that call. And when I say bad beat in this context, I mean a beat that wouldn't have happened had your opponent not been a live brain donor.

It is true that your opponent will then be embarrassed and MAY fail to make such idiot calls in the future. And that his game will therefore very slightly improve. My argument is that this is exactly what you want -- in fact, need -- particularly in tournament play, for two reasons. First, whether it's tournament or ring game, you won't improve such an imbecile's game enough to beat you in the long run, but you may improve it enough to give your opponent some small measure of readability.

Second -- and this applies only to tournament play -- any loss in long-term EV is even more outweighed by the gain in readability, because in tournaments, there is no "long term." While you could argue that overthe course of a five or six day tournament your long-term EV as to a given player may start to kick in, you're not going to be seated at the table with this dunderhead for all six days. What you need to worry about, at most, is the next 400 hands (40 hands/hour * 10 hours). It's true that if your opponent made that call 1 million times, you would be foreclosing on his house. But he's not going to make it 1 million times. He's not even going to make it one more time, because he's not likely to be in that exact situation with you again in the next 400 hands. But it goes further than that. The reason the long-term EV is so thoroughly outweighed in a tournament, is that he only needs to beat you once to knock you out.

Let's take an extreme example. I played in an online NLHE tourney once against a guy who would, at a full table and in the early stages, raise with any A and call with any pair, only I didn't know that about him yet.I potted it preflop with AK. He reraises, I call. Flop comes A, 8, 9 two hearts. I bet, he raises. I put him on AK, AQ, or a draw, so I reraise him all in. He calls with A8 offsuit. I had a lot more chips than him (fortunately). I ragged him aroung about that stupid preflop reraise fourten minutes, explaining that A8os is not a reraising hand, in fact, not even a calling hand, and doing my best to humiliate him for having made the call in the first place. When he tried to defend his idiot play, some of the other players joined in chiding him, and he was duly embarrassed. After that hand, when he reraised preflop, we found that it meant he either had a pocket pair (sometimes as small as dueces, but we hadn't gotten to that lesson yet) or AK or AQ. (I don't even call a raise with AQ at a full table, but I know some pretty good players who will sometimes reraise with it). He did not become a good player by any stretch, but he became slightly more readable.

Now, let's take the Caro approach, wherein I would have gritted my teeth (since he's online and can't see me) and said something to the effect of "Great hand. You know, it took a lot of guts for you to reraise with A8off before the flop. A lot of players just don't have the moxy to do that. Congratulations." This yammerhead would have then thanked me, patted himself on the back, and gone about reraising with any ace for the rest of the tourney. Or at least for the rest of his limited time in the tourney. It's one of those situations that Cloutier describes where you know the guy has zero chance of winning the tourney, but with one lucky hand (like the one I played against him if he had had more chips) and he takes away your chance of winning. I think that if you can force-feed him enough poker knowledge to keep him from making completely boneheaded (and therefore completely unreadable) plays, you help your own chances.

Yes, he's a slightly better player now. But that's what you want to play against: someone who knows a little bit about the game. If you're a pretty good tournament player, the only players you can't beat are the Mike Caro's and the Lenny Small's of the poker world. By embarrassing the Lenny's for boneheaded plays, you don't turn them into Caro's, you turn them into customers. Particularly in tournament play, where you don't care whether or not they will be a repeat customer, I think that any damage to the image of poker is worth the trade-off. I could be wrong, but I'm usually not.

HoldEm Tex

I've often pondered whether or not there is a 'method to the madness' about Phil Helmuth's behavior. I mean, he LOVES head games and from all accounts, is a world class player in that respect. Hell, who knows. Go hit my archives for in-depth pontifications on the Poker Brat.

While on the subject of poker pro's, I am deeply saddened to have missed Fox Sports live poker broadcast featuring a victorious Phil Ivey. I'm in awe of Phil and was happy to hear about this win. But I was shocked at the negative posts about him on many poker message boards. Telling him to smile, get a personality, a life. One guy called him the Rainman of poker in a backhanded compliment. Geesh.

I am dying to watch this episode and am deeply mired in global negotiations to acquire a tape of this show. The fact that Howard Lederer did the commentating makes this all the more tantalizing.

Quick side note: while on hiatus, I traveled deep into the South, to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to witness a very close friend marry a coalminer's daughter (true - she's from Hazard County, Kentucky).

The Friday night before the wedding, I was sitting in my hotel room drinking contraband Guinness in a dry county, channel surfing on cable. I immediately looked for Iron Chef on the Food Network to no avail. And then I hit it purely by accident: Fox Sports Net Poker! Woohoooo!!! Howard Lederer and Michael Konik (author of the interesting gambling book called 'Telling Lies and Getting Paid' that's worth reading) were doing the commentary. Best of all, the table featured Howard's sister, Annie Duke, and archrival Daniel Negreneanu sitting next to each other at the table. Oh Joy!

I only caught 20 minutes of this episode but it was riveting to watch. Riveting because I never get to watch poker on TV. But mostly because I was waiting for Danny to mention Annie's nasty feet. But imho, Howard was the best poker commentator I've ever heard. I want more.

Damn, all this talk about poker is giving me an itch to play. I know I promised to pimp the new blogs but it's gonna have to wait. This new blogger editor sucks.

So how to segue outta this post? Well how about a negative viewpoint on poker on TV, specifically the WPT, a trend I've seen seep into a few poker blogs out there?

Anyone else sick of the WPT?

Hello all,

Am I the only one who is completely sick of this pre-fabricated,
pre-packaged blatantly censored piece of shit program?

- The production is dogshit.

- The editing is dogshit.

- The commentary is repetitive dogshit.

- Tape on hats and/or shirts is dogshit.

- No mention of WSOP (when Moneymaker was on he won a 'major') or any
other poker entity for that matter.

- The rock-star stage is completely annoying with the lights and whatnot.

- That horrible "your opponent bets $80K on the river" commercial for
wpt.com every 20 minutes drives me fucking crazy.

- I'm a Bud man for sure. But that fucking AB World Select toast at the
end of the show is, by far, the most annoying thing on television. When
Sexton makes his miserable toast I want to cut my own dick off. There can
not be 1 person alive who buys AB World Select because of this god-awful
clusterfuck of an attempt at product placement.

- On the upside, Shana Hiatt is wicked hot. (thankin' you Playboy for the
girls of Hawaiian Tropic DVD.) But, even her little segments are forced
and overproduced.

- Finally, the constant reminders about the innovative WPT cams. They ram
this down our throats at least 15 times per broadcast.

Personally, (and I know you don't care) I can't wait for the WSOP on ESPN
to begin on the 6th. At least Norman Chad is witty enough to come up with
some funny one liners here and there. Nothing is forced down your throat
and the whole production feels like a real poker tournament...even the
featured table comes off as natural.

The whole forced excitement/hushed awe commentary in regards to the
brilliance of the "would-be rock-stars" of poker has already played out.
Last night VVP actually said (i'm paraphrasing) "Who will be the next
superstar in the world of poker."

I was tearing tile out of my bathroom last night while I listened to the
Reno show. I had to smack my thumb with a hammer when I heard the
aforementioned VVP comment just to remind myself that I hadn't died and
gone to hell.

A shitty stage with lots of lights, bad commentary, bad production and
mediocre poker does not a superstar make. Yes that boring "Idaho Idiot"
(or whatever VVP called him) had a nice payday, but he is absolutely no

If given a choice between the WPT tripe or the WSOP on ESPN. Well, I
would rather watch the 28th re-run of a WSOP broadcast on ESPN. Sure I
know every card and every comment that is coming, but even for the XXth
time, it is vastly more interesting and insightful.

The communists that run WPT need to re-evaluate their position and quit
force feeding their propoganda to the masses. Do they really think that
they are kidding anyone by calling the WSOP main event a major? On the
episode with Gordon they made no mention of his part time job on Celebrity
Poker. (It's hard to believe there is programming worse than the WPT, but
CP is it.) On the same episode they listed that Paradise Poker guy as an
"internet executive". Not to mention the tape, the blurry screen editing,
the horrible, over-excited, dubbed in commentary and constant reminders of
the WPT cam.

I know the argument...if you don't like it, don't watch it. Fact of the
matter is, I rarely do. I've only seen parts of 3 episodes this season.
But that is enough to cement my mindset. This shit sucks!

I mostly gave up on WPT near the end of the first season and will only
watch now if nothing else is on while I'm doing something else. I find it
nearly impossible to devout my full attention to this tripe.

Before you flame away (and I invite your flames or comments) I will let
you know the following:

1) I'm not a poker superstar, nor do I ever think I will be.
2) I have never won a substantial poker tournament.
3) I have never produced, edited nor commented on any tv program.
4) I'm just a consumer.
5) I find it hard to fathom that the WPT execs actually think they are
putting out a quality product. Yes, they are making money now, but this
cash cow is just about out of milk.

Flame away,


Well, he's right about that AB World Select beer. It's the worst freaking beer ever. Nasty stuff. I LOVE BEER but I could barely choke down one bottle of it. Tried to give it away to a homeless guy in North Dakota but he scoffed at me.

Oh the humanity. True story.

I'm sure most of you saw the latest WPT was robbed during the tourney:
Two guns beats four aces: armed robbers hit Paris poker tournament

And with that, I'm off. Thanks for humoring my nonsense once again. It's a futile request, but please consider supporting this poker blog with Bonus Code IGGY on Party Poker. It's safe to say if you are a Paradise or UB or whatever player - you are missing the boat. Sign up, try it, and prove me wrong.

Or more importantly, just say a lil good luck prayer fer my kitty.

Link of the Day:
Major in Carnal Knowledge
Make your parents proud with a diploma from Cozy Academy, the school for adult webmasters. Sadly, there's no lesson that covers meganeko, the fastest growing obscure sex fetish of the 21st century.

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."           

All Content Copyright Iggy 2003-2007
Information on this site is intended for news and entertainment purposes only.

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