Sunday, October 26, 2014

Bug's Been Busy


As feared, posts to this blog have been sporadic (read: non-existent) in recent weeks. I'm currently in the middle of a brutal 3-week long business trip, that includes seven day a week meetings and loooong work days. In fact, I made it a point to wake up early this Sunday morning (pre-5am) just to write this quick update before I get in the rental car to drive up the mountain to the construction site for another loooong work day. Quack quack quack.

While the blog has suffered, I have actually been working on poker in my limited spare time. Quite a bit, in fact. Le Monsieur and I are making relatively good progress on our ABC lessons. We're still in the midst of level-1 preflop instructions, but I have say I'm really pleased where the whole thing is heading. We have not only a good overall plan in place and are developing good, solid lessons, but I honestly can say my own poker is improving as a result of this effort. At the heart of our all our lessons is the question "why". There are many, many poker books and videos that tell you what you should do in different situations, but there are surprisingly few that actually tackle the question of why you should do the what.

Take starting hands for example. It's easy to say that you should open-raise KQs from the button if the action folds to you at a standard full-ring table. But do you know why? Do you want the two blinds to fold? Well, sure, taking down the blinds is always good, but KQs is a relatively strong hand, and if you get called by either blind there is a reasonable chance that you're ahead of their ranges. That means value, right? In other words, do you really want them to fold? Well, no, not really. We want more streets of value, above and beyond the blinds. But won't a solid playing villain in the big blind, who understand trap hands, tighten his range and therefore reduce your value? Well, sure. Glub glub. And so on.

I know poker theory pretty well. Better than most. But I also have to admit that Le Monsieur and the process of developing our lessons has really made me question everything. And I mean everything. And more to the point, these mental exercises have resulted in a deeper understanding of things I thought I had down pat.

And it's fun to talk and discuss and ponder poker like this. I'm getting better at the game, and I"m getting reinvigorated with poker in general, too. This is definitely a win-win situation.

Even if it is at 5am in the morning. Quack.

Ooops. Sorry, gotta run. A loooong work day awaits.

All-in for now...
-Bug

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday Sundries

The annual WRGPT (a.k.a. "Glaciers") online tournament by email is warming back up, with registration underway and the practice round just a week or two away. I registered a couple days ago for this free, very fun, very educational event. If you're at all serious about poker, I strongly suggest you do the same. This will be my fifth year playing in the event, and every time I get even more excited about the tourney than the previous time. Sign up here: http://www.wrgpt.org/registration. You won't regret it!

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As part of the process of developing Le Monsieur and my ABC training app, I've been noodling around a lot with starting hands, equities, hot-and-cold numbers, etc... The goal is to not only give a newbie safe and reasonable recommendations for starting hands, but to explain the why, too... which actually turns out to be fairly difficult. It sounds simple, but doing all the math properly to determine when a hand should or shouldn't be opened from different positions is tough, and if anything, I'm now a bit more confused than when I started... Lots of books and online guides give starting hand chart recommendations (and many of these contradict each other), but the confusing part is there is basically zero analysis of "why" a hand like KTs should be opened in MP. I'm doing all manner of analysis, and probably spent five hours on it yesterday alone.

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And speaking of starting hands, I watched an Ed Miller video on $2/$5 live poker earlier this week, and his recommendation was to treat the first five seats at a nine-handed table exactly the same, and to play no more than 15% of your hands in any one of those seats. Specifically: 66+, AXs, K9s+, 76s+, J9s+, AJ+, KQ. Then in cut-off seat, open raise: K7s+, 43s+, 53s+, J8s+, A9o+, KT0+, QJo. And really open up your game on the button... Seems a little extreme, but EM is the man, so he's got me thinking...

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Been on a bit of a downswing in cash games the past few weeks. I think I'm playing fairly well, so it's just variance at work. I'm getting sucked out on left and right by incredibly bad players. The bad (good?) news is I recently cashed out a large chunk of my bankroll, so my (now) small online 'roll is, well, even smaller. Looks like I will have to drop down a few levels to build it all back up again...

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Went deep in a big-field online tourney on Bovada yesterday. Starting field was 1078 runners, and I finished in 35th place after five hours of play. Was seventh in chips when I got it all in with a fifteen out straight flush draw and over cards holding KhQh on a Jh-Th-3s board. Villain snap called holding 9s8s for the idiot end of the straight draw. I had him covered by 30% or so. Of course he turned an eight and the river bricked, leaving me one of the shorties at the table. The rest of my money went in a few hands later with AKs and I was sent packing. Sigh.

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Am enjoying the Sunday night WSOP broadcasts, even with the ever annoying Norm on the microphone. Episodes #3 and #4 were particularly fun to watch, with an obnoxious amateur getting under the skin of a professional at the table with his incessant table talk. Lesson to be learned: don't wrestle with a pig. You both will get covered in mud, but the pig will enjoy the experience.

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Non poker news: I have a marathon set of biz trips coming up, starting this week. Will be gone 18 of the next 25 days. Ugh. Posts may be even more sporadic than they have been recently.

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Other non poker news: Watched this little guy in my backyard this morning for about 30 minutes. Cats will be cats, regardless of type:



All-in for now...
-Bug


Friday, October 3, 2014

Probable Outcomes of Doom

Le Monsieur and I had another short, but very productive session this week working on our training app. This week's lesson was focused on starting hands selection in early position (EP).

There are two major reasons why you should play tight in EP: 1) you're the first to act preflop and you'll be out of position (OOP) on all future betting streets, so you need a relatively strong hand to compensate for these positional disadvantages; and 2) there is an increased likelihood that someone else at the table has been dealt a stronger hand than yours.

I'd like to take a few minutes to work through the math on the second item to show what I mean. For example, imagine that you're dealt KTo under-the gun at a full-ring 9-handed table. This is one of those pretty-looking "trap hands" or "reverse implied odds" ("RIO") hands that get so many beginning players into trouble, especially from EP. Here's why it's such a bad hand from up front:

The hands that dominate KTo are: AA-TT, ATs+, KJs+, ATo+, KJo+.  In addition, the pocket pairs 99-22 all have higher equity preflop than KTo, and KTs also has higher equity (52.5% to 47.5%). Here's an image that shows this range of hands that have higher equities than KTo:


There are 1326 possible unique two card combinations in a deck of cards; i.e., there are 1326 possible unique two card hands that each one of your opponent will be dealt. Of the 1326 possibilities, the aforementioned combined range (22+, ATs+, KTs+, ATo+, KTo+) represents 190 of these.* Therefore, 190/1326 = 14.33%, which represents the probability that a single opponent at your table gets dealt one of these hands that are stronger than our KTo.

Now, 14.33% doesn't necessarily sound like a big number, but you have to remember that there are eight opponents at your table, not just one. What are the odds that at least one of these eight have a better hand than our KTo? Unfortunately, it's not just a simple matter of multiplying 14.33% by 8. The math involved with "and/or" probability questions like this can be quite complex... but there are some tricks we can do to simplify things and make the math easier.

For example, we can determine the probability that a player doesn't have a better hand than ours. Said another way, if there is a 14.33% chance someone has a better hand than ours, then it also stands to reason that there is a 100% - 14.33% = 85.67% probability that the player does not have a higher equity hand than ours.

Now, probability theory says that the total probability of two things both happening are their individual probabilities multiplied together. Same with three things, four things, and so on...  If the probabilities of those events are identical, then we can further reduce all this multiplying to just a power equation of P raised to the power of N, where P=Probability of an event and N=number of instances. I.e., Combined Probability = P^N.

So, getting back to our example, if you are first to act at a nine-handed table (i.e., UTG), then there are eight players who also have cards and have yet to act. The probability that a single one of these players does not have a stronger hand than yours is the aforementioned 85.67%. Each player has this same chance of being dealt a weaker hand than yours, therefore we can apply the Combined Probability equation: (85.67%)^8 = 29%. This means that there is a 29% chance that everyone has hands that are weaker than ours. Or, turning this around and subtracting the chance from 100%, we can say that there is a 100% - 29% = 71% probability that someone at our table has a better hand than our KTo.

In other words there's better than a 7 in 10 chance that at least someone has your KTo hand beaten.

And then you'll be OOP if they decide to play that better hand.

So how do you like that pretty-looking KTo now? Not so much, eh?

All-in for now....
-Bug
*To calculate this 190 value by hand, you have to sum up all the possible combinations of cards. For example, there are 6 individual ways to make a pair of Kings: KcKd, KcKh, KcKs, KdKh, KdKs, and KhKs.  Similarly there are 16 ways to make a non-pair two card combination. Adding all these up for the range shown above equals 190 possible combinations. (Note: a far simpler way to calculate these is to use a program like Equilab, Pokerstove, or Flopzilla to do it for you. If you look toward the bottom of the image above, you'll see a line where Equilab provides both the 190 hand figure as well as the 14.33% value.)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A Nice Way to End a Long Day...

Chopped first place with two other players last night in my monthly live tournament. Really felt I was on my game, actively hand reading the entire night and almost completely playing the other players and not my own cards. A few highlights/lowlights from the evening:

Second hand of the night I verbally called a players' holding. He's an older guy who only raises very big hands, limps everything else. Also is somewhat of a "tricky" post-flop players and has more than once in the past remarked that his monsters always get sucked out. He's in BB immediately to my right. I open raise UTG with 44 to 2.5x, get three callers, then he clicks it back from the BB with a min-raise. Ding, ding, ding... he's got a big hand. Probably something like QQ+ or AKo+.  Getting good implied odds, I call. Flop is K-rag-rag rainbow. He sits up vertical in seat... and then checks, first to act. I'm no dummy, so I check behind. Some mid-fielder comes in for 1/3 pot size bet, others fold, and villain promptly check raises big. I obviously fold. Mid-fielder then folds a K face up and Villain slumps in chair with a sad look. Another player not in the hand says to villain, "You bluffing this early in the game?" Villain starts to slide his cards to muck, and I say, "that was no a bluff. Why don't you show your big slick to the table." Villain looks at me, then sheepishy turns over AK and complains he never gets paid off. No, not when you're that transparent you don't. In hindsight, probably should have kept my big mouth shut, but my big mouth didn't cooperate.

Two hands later I take down a moderately big pot, calling off what is clearly villain's busted flush draw hopeless bluff on the river with my own ace high, which I table with just a dash of ego mixed in. Wooooooooot!  Losing player scowls at me and asks nastily if I'm new to poker. I respond by saying, "Oh, I thought I had a pair of aces. Guess I need to look at my hand more closely next time." In your face!

Had a couple of coolers then set me back (KK ran into AA, and QQ ran into AK), then hit a set of threes against a really aggro player (who has given me fits in previous games; I usually play terribly against him). When he bets the flop, he can have anything, but when he fires turn and river I know he has at least TPTK and he loves to put pressure on players along the way. I'm OOP, so I let him bomb away on all three streets, with me check-calling and thinking I'm Marlon Brando with my acting skills, pretending I'm chasing some kind of draw, which of course never gets there. I check-raise all-in on the river, however, and get paid off.

Me big stack. Be big stack bully. Me run over table. Me really like poker!

Me take a big beat with another flopped set getting runner-runnered for a crazy inside straight. Me back to average stack. Me not so happy with poker.

Me get AA two hands in a row. Me no get paid off on either. Me more unhappy. Boo hoo, me.

We final table around 8:30pm, with nine players left and only four spots getting paid. I'm sitting to the right of two really good players, each with big stacks. I go card dead, and just turn into a folding monkey for lap after lap. Meh.

We then get into a weird hand, where a player tanks for at least 5 minutes after facing a big turn bet. He tanks and tanks and tanks.... and then calls the clock on the other player in the hand!  He's been thinking all along he's the one waiting for the other guy to act. The entire table goes nuts, demanding that the game clock be reset the original five minutes, which in fact is what happens.

We're down to seven, and I get KQs UTG. I open to 3x. Action folds to a competent lady on the button, who cold calls. Both blinds call. I cover everyone, but not by much. The villain lady is a decent player and usually quite tight, fully understanding the gap concept. Ergo I know she has a real hand. Flop comes J-T-3 rainbow. Both blinds check. I lead 1/2 pot with a semi-bluff and she quickly re-shoves all-in on me. Blinds fold. Damn. I'm getting (barely) the right odds to call, but it's my tourney life on the line... so I decide to fold and live to fight another day.... when I literally hear one of the ex-players standing on the rail behind me whisper to another that this lady is the evening's secret player, with a nice cash bounty on her head in the tourney. When I factor that money into my pot odds, I realize I have to make the call. So I do. Not real happy when she turns over AA. Quite happy when the river brings a nine and I double up-- and win the bounty. Woot!

I go back into fold-my-way-toward-the-bubble mode due to terrible cards and super aggro action from two of the remaining players on my left.

I forgot to mention that this game takes place in the courtyard area of an upscale restaurant in town. The owner of the restaurant sometimes plays, but often just kibitz's around during the tourney smoking cigars, drinking wine, and acting like the big shot he feels he is. Anyway, we're down to five players at this point when said restaurateur sits down next to one of the big-stack aggro players at our table and literally starts looking this player/friend's hole cards and commenting on play, whispering in the player's ear, commenting on the action, etc.. The guy who runs the game  (who is also dealing (and is also still in the game)) says, "Uh, Bob, you can't actually do what you're doing. We have a one seat, one player rule." The restaurant owner gets very miffed and replies, "This is my fucking restaurant, Fred. If you want to leave, you can at any time."  Uh, okay. He makes a point of playing another couple of hands with his friend before standing up and pretending like he has other important business to attend to. Not cool. (At one point earlier in the night, the restauranteer came to another table that I was playing at and sat down in an empty seat (next to me) and commented on board texture and the like. The dealer at that table tried to shoo him away there, but big shot clearly didn't give a damn and just continued doing what he was doing. Weird.)

Some terrible bubble play ensues between two other players, who get into a dick-measuring contest with each other. Ther rest of us sit back and let one of them kill the other off. Which they do. And we're in the Money four-handed.

I bust out one of the other three finalists with TPGK on a very dry board, and we're now down to three.

We play a couple more orbits, but then the blinds really start sky-rocketing. Someone suggests a chop, so we do. I tip the dealer, then sit around and jaw with some of the guys for while. Drive home with windows down and moonroof open on a crisp fall night.

Nice way to end an otherwise long, tough day.

All-in for now...
-Bug



Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday Sundries

Tells. Attempted to watch/listen to the Zach Elwood poker tells webinar Thursday night. I say "attempted" because he used streaming videos to illustrate his demo material, and it was so incredibly jerky and jumpy that viewing it was essentially impossible. I'm pretty disappointed, too, as the audio was reasonable, and he was clearly saying all manner of really interesting things that I was very interested in. For instance, he takes strong exception to the standard Mike Caro advice of strong means weak, and weak means strong as it pertains to eye contact. He (evidently) showed a number of examples of this behavior via live poker videos, but I can't be certain, as it was essentially impossible to watch any of the demos. The webinar was a 3 hour affair, and because I bailed on it before the 1-hour mark, Elwood gave me a full refund the next day. He's a stand-up guy, and his material on tells is first rate, but he'll need to figure this aspect of the live webinar thing out before he does another one. (FWIW, it sounds as if about half of the attendees were in the same boat as me, while the other half had no difficulties at all watching. My internet connection speed was excellent, so I believe the problem was on his end...)

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ABC Training. Had another good app development session with Le Monsieur, but with all my recent work/travel commitments, I fear I'm becoming the weak link keeping this train moving forward on the tracks. Hopefully, I will have some time later today to push forward on generating the next lesson material.

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Losses. Made the mistake of trying to play this week while tired and jet-lagged. As a result, I'm down a couple hundred bucks, due primarily to bad/dumb/poor play. Looking in hindsight at some of the moves I attempted makes me cringe. Calling down with middle pair, chasing draws with terrible odds, yada yada. Online poker has gotten harder over the past few years, and you really have to be mentally sharp and alert if you want to beat the game. I was neither of those things this week when I sat down at the virtual tables. Dumb.

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Poker Book Redux. A few weeks ago, I wrote about two disappointing poker books I'd picked up at the local used bookstore (see here for that post).... Well, after some further reading, I'm starting to change my tune about one of them. Said simply, the book Killer Poker No Limit is actually much better than I implied last time. Yes, the style is still too "cute" for my tastes, but if you can get past his writing style, the substance is pretty solid. It's not a traditional poker how-to book, but it does have some interesting ways to evaluate hand and table dynamics. There's one passage a few chapters in that I have read literallly three separate times to get my brain around (it has to do with how you classify players at your table). I'm still only about halfway through the book as a whole, but based on what I've read thus far I can now recommend the book to intermediate and above players. Good, thought-provoking material. (Click on the book picture below to see more details...)


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WSOP Coverage. I believe coverage of the WSOP on ESPN begins tonight. Gotta go set the DVR to capture the action (woot!)-- and of course Norm (sigh). 

--- Non-Poker Related Content Follows---

Fatigue. Rough week for this Bug. Counting time trapped in airplanes and airports, this was an 80+ hour work week for me. I'm home now, but completely wasted and still have a ton of catch-up work to do today. Ugh. I'm not sure how much more sustainable this work style is, but so far my boss doesn't even want to discuss it, primarily because he's an even worse workaholic than I am. I keep thinking things will calm down "next month," but after six months of this hell it hasn't. Need to have a heart-to-heart with the man this week...

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iPad. I mentioned last week that I've been given an iPad Mini to evaluate at work. So far, I'm really liking the device. Mr. Multi, however, made a comment in passing that he prefers the Android tablets, so I'm now wondering why he thinks that's preferable to the Apple tablets. I plan to ping him later this week to ask specifics, but if any of you have thoughts in the meantime, please drop me a line. Would be interested in hearing different opinions on the matter...


All in for now...
-Bug

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Long time, no post. :-(

Sorry for the lack of updates and posts on the blog lately. Life is a tad crazy right now. In fact, I'm jotting this down while I have ten minutes before heading off to yet another airport. Three more days and I'll be home. Hallelujah!

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Have played only a little poker here and there this past week. Some $2NL zone poker, some stud hi/lo, and a little PLO. Made a few bucks, but nothing to write home about.

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The training app that Le Monsieur and I are working on continues to move forward. I'm actually quite pleased with the direction it's taking, even if we're still somewhat in the formative stages and tweaking/adjusting the direction we're going. So far, we've managed to crank out a rough draft of a lesson every week, and the goal is to keep doing so until we have a complete course put together. Based on his recent questions and knowledge, I believe Le Monsieur is going to be a game crusher by the time we're done. The effort has also served to make me think more deeply about poker in general. For instance, we Skyped today, and the topic was on why we bet-- which seems like a simple thing to address, right? Value or bluff.... but, it's not always quite so black and white. When you have the likes of AA UTG or 72o on the button and you raise preflop, you're clearly betting for value and as a bluff, respectively. But what about KTo in the cut-off? Do you want a caller or not?  Good question, and it's one we're working on in the course of putting the uh, course together.

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Signed up for Zach Elwood poker tells webinar tomorrow night. I'll be coming off a 2-day stretch with little sleep (i.e., redeye flight), so we'll see how engaged and alert I am. Still, I pretty excited about this, as I have Elwood's first book, and it's pretty good. Am looking forward to hearing what he says in person. It's a 3-hour seminar, and I'll report back afterward. Stay tuned.

--- Non Poker Content Follows ---

My Apple fanatic boss has convinced me to try using an iPad at work. I borrowed a small mini version yesterday from a co-worker, and am slowing coming to grips with the thing. I think I'll like it and fine it useful, but it's too soon to tell. Anyone out there have experience and/or apps for the iPad they want to share? Drop me a line if you do.

All-in for now...
-Bug

Sunday, September 14, 2014

"A-ha!" moment of the week...


The guest on the Thinking Poker podcast this past week was Andrew "BalugaWhale" Seidman, who is the author of the very good Easy Game series of poker books (click here to see the latest edition of the book). During the discussion, Seidman made a comment that caused me to literally stop walking (and therefore get bumped into by a guy who was walking too closely behind me at the Reagan International airport in Washington D.C. on Friday).  I didn't write down his exact words, but here's the essence of what Seidman said:

We always hear that value betting should be where you make the bulk of your money at poker. Bluffing is definitely part of your earn, but value should be the lions share. Why is this? Partly because fish tend to call more than they fold... but there's a deeper mathematical reason. When you make, say, a pot-size bet as a bluff (e.g., with pure air) on the river, the most you're going to win is what's currently in the pot. But when you make a pot-sized value bet on the river (e.g., with the nuts), you're going to win at least as much as what is currently in the pot. If your opponent comes back at you, you're going to win that additional money, too. Bluffing profit is capped at the current pot size. Value profit is capped by the effective stack size.

A-ha!

All-in for now...
-Bug