Saturday, March 7, 2015

Love those a-ha moments...


Did a fun online $0.25/$0.50 6max session/lesson with a student today. We were in mid-position and opened with a pair of eights to $1.40. The action folded to an aggressive recreational player on the button who flat called. Blinds folded. Flop came out 9-2-2 rainbow. We c-bet to roughly 60% of the pot. Villain re-raised us 3x.

My student's immediate instinct was to fold, but before we did I asked what was the villain's preflop range? Remember, they just flatted an MP open raise and we're ~100bb deep. Student's answer: small- and mid-pairs and suited connectors.

So the next question was: Good, so what are you afraid the villain has here? Answer: a nine? Maybe a two? Or an over pair?

Name the deuces that are in his range? Answer: Uh, there's only one pair of deuces.

Good. Now name the nines that are in his range? Answer: There are a few combos of pairs of nines. Or he could have T-9.

And what over pairs are in his range? Answer: Uh, tens?

Really? At this aggro 6max table? Answer: No, he'd probably re-raise us with those pre.

And how many other cards in his range missed this flop? Answer: Uh, a bunch.

So what are you afraid of? Answer: Uh... uh... not much.

Based on his stats, is the villain aggressive post-flop? Answer: Uh, yes.

Does he multi-barrel? Answer: Uh, yes.

So do we have the best hand the vast majority of the time here? Answer: Yes. 

Will he bluff a lot in this situation? Answer: Yes.

So, when we have the best hand against a bluffer, what should we do? Answer: let him bluff.

Good. 

So we called. Turn was a three that completed the rainbow.

So, did this improve villains hand? Answer: No!

So has anything changed? Answer: No!

Do we still have the best hand the majority of the time? Answer: Yes!

Are there any draws we should be afraid of? Answer: No!

Is the villain likely to continue bluffing? Answer: Yes!

So what-- Answer: Let's let him keep bluffing us!

We check. Villain fires another barrel. 

So should we call or raise? Answer: If we call, he'll have about a pot size bet left to bluff again with.

Do you think raising here is going to get worse hands to call? Answer: No.

Do you think he'll fold those few better hands in his range if we raise? Answer: No.

So raising accomplishes what? Answer: Nothing good!

So, what should we do? Answer: Call!

River was another blank. 

Should we--  Answer: Nothing has changed! The only way he can win is to bluff us again. We should check!

We checked, villain shoved, my student snap-called, we doubled up.

A-ha, says the student. A-HA!

All-in for now...
-Bug


Friday, February 27, 2015

Mr. Multi Weighs In - The Nuts

In my last blog post (here) I wrote:

In Hold’em, once all five cards are on the board, the nuts will always be three queens or higher. If you’ve figured out what you think is the best possible hand and it isn’t three queens or better, then look again because you missed something. 

This morning, Mr. Multi sent me an email with his proof of this statement. With his permission to repost that email, here's today's guest post from MM on the subject:

Here's my proof of this factoid, which I believe to be true. We have a full board and a two card hand. 

First, it should be apparent that the worst nut hand has to be at least a set. That's because you can hold a pocket pair and hit your set on the board. It's why set mining is so powerful--a single card on the board can give you a much better hand. And it's why we hope that the board pairs, because we understand how weak it may be. 

But which set is the lowest nut hand? 

Let's find a board that is as weak as possible. We need to eliminate the potential flushes, quads, full houses, and straights. Flushes are easy, there are no three cards of the same suit on the board. For quads and boats, there can be no pairs on the board. That leaves straights. 

To eliminate straights, the board needs to avoid two gaps that could be filled by a hand. The 2 and 3 are the lowest cards on this board, but a following 4, 5, or 6 would allow straight possibilities (e.g., a 532xx board could be filled with an A4 or 64 hand). The next cards then must be 7 and 8 so that there are three ranks between the board cards. Similarly, the 9, T, and J would allow straight possibilities, making the next lowest card a Q. That means a Q8732 (rainbow) board cannot have a straight, a quad, or a boat possibility, leaving only a set of queens as the nuts. 

Note that the Q8732 is the worst board for the trip queens, not necessarily the only board. It turns out there are 16 such boards, ranging from QJ762 down to our original Q8732. In every case the board contains a queen, a seven, and a two--each five ranks apart from the next to prevent straights. If you've ever heard the maxim that all straights must have a ten or a five, then this is the converse: there cannot be a straight if the board contains Q72. Or K72, K82, K83, those three cards each separated by at least five ranks. That's a total of 64 board where a set of kings or queens is the nut hand. 

Amusingly, an ace on the board assures that the worst nut hand is at least a straight. Since the ace plays both high and low, there's always a straight possibility. 

Having determined the ranges of sets as nut hands, should we concerned about remembering and using this. In short, no. We've found 64 boards where a king or queen set is the worst nut hand. There are 2,595,960 possible boards. Don't count on a set being the best hand; you're not losing much equity.

'Nuff said.

All in for now...
-Bug

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Some Miscellaneous Ramblings...

In my last post (here), I stated that one of the best ways to get better at poker is to write about it.  You might be wondering whether my own poker game has been suffering due to the lack of blog post appearing here-- well, yes and no. It's true that it's been over a month since I posted here, but I have in fact been writing and working on poker quite a bit in my spare time. I'm traveling like a fiend for work lately, but in my limited spare time in airports I've been working remotely with Le Monsieur on the ABC lessons. We're making slow-but-steady progress, and in fact I may have a announcement related to the project that I'll post here in a few days from now on the blog. Stay tuned.

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And speaking of Le Monsieur, he was in fourth overall place with a few hundred players let in the WRGPT "glaciers" event the last time we spoke, which is absolutely awesome. Mr. Multi is also still grinding up a chip stack in the event, tripling up overnight in fact when his AK held up multi-way. Wooot!

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And speaking of writing, long time readers of this blog know that I'm an Evernote evangelist. The software has really changed (mostly for the better) how I work and store information at work and at home. I've also been writing ABC lessons from within Evernote, but honestly it makes for a poor word processor. I've been a long-time Word user for any serious writing, but the formatting limitations (that they call "features") of that package has always left me wanting. Enter the program "Scrivener," which is a word-processing/publishing package that many professional fiction and non-fiction authors use. A few weeks ago, I downloaded the trial version, and after a somewhat rocky start, I bought the program and am now hooked on it as my de facto way of writing articles, books, and, yes, ABC poker lessons. Exporting to a myriad of formats after getting a document written and looking pretty is dead simple, and there are a ton of little cool features that make writing a pleasure in the software. Be warned, however, if you decide to give it ago-- the learning curve is steep.

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Saw an interesting poker fact the other day that got stuck in my brain. I even bounced it off Mr. Multi, who also found it thought provoking. I am still wrapping my head around the veracity of it, but here it is for you to ponder, too:

In Hold’em, once all five cards are on the board, the nuts will always be three queens or higher. If you’ve figured out what you think is the best possible hand and it isn’t three queens or better, then look again because you missed something.

Weird if true, eh?

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Gotta run.
All-in for now....
-Bug

Monday, January 19, 2015

Want to get better at poker? Write about it.

"Learn as much by writing as by reading." - Lord John Acton


Long ago, one of the best things I ever did for my poker game was start this blog. Writing about poker means thinking about poker, which in turn means learning-- which means improving. Other players that I know who have taken up similar habits of blogging about poker, or even just writing down hands and situations and analyzing what they did right and wrong, have similarly benefited from the process. Writing about poker helps your win rate.

Lots of poker coaches feel the same way. They encourage their students to keep records, write down key hands, and, yes, blog. Recently, poker author and coach Nathan "BlackRain79" Williams posted on his blog about the benefits of blogging. He wrote: "It doesn't even matter if anybody is reading [what you write] or not. I had literally zero people reading this blog for the first three years. It didn't matter..."

There's an old adage that the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else. I personally learned this years ago in college when I took a night job teaching calculus at a local community college. I thought I knew math before I started that job-- and boy, was I mistaken. Yes, I could solve problems, but no, I couldn't not explain the how or the why very well. The good news is that by the time that first semester was over I easily had increased my knowledge of calculus by more than 100%, and I did so by learning how to explain to others. I literally became an expert by teaching.

I think it was Albert Einstein who famously said, "You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother." Whenever I post to this blog, I essentially put on my "explaining hat" and imagine that I'm teaching an imaginary reader something. If I can coherently articulate a concept or idea in writing so that a generic reader can understand it, then by definition I also get it. Which means my game has gotten better.

Way up at the top of this very web page, right underneath the title "PokerBug" are the words Docendo Disco, Scribendo Cogito -- Ship It. The Latin part of this phrase translates to "I learn by teaching, I think by writing."

I'll leave it to the reader to figure out the "Ship It" part. :-)

All-in for now...
-Bug

Monday, January 5, 2015

Bug's Poker Tip #45

Accept Variance


This might just be the hardest concept for poker beginners to understand. Or accept. Hell, I know plenty of experienced players who have trouble accepting it. I've blogged about Variance off-and-on over the years, but it still bears repeating: just because you are a good player does not mean you will win at this game-- at least not over the short term.  Poker may be skilled based, but only over the long run. The Guru used to teach to his class--quite emphatically--that poker is 100% skill-based, but what he meant was it was skill-based over the lifetime of a player. Whether we like it or not, Lady Luck plays a significant role over the course of a session, a week, a month. You can be smart enough to get all your money in preflop with aces against deuces over and over, but luck is going to determine if your Rockets hold up or not against the Ducks. Over time, Aces will win a significant fraction of the time, but on a hand-by-hand basis there are no guarantees. 

It is important to understand that just because you are currently winning at poker, it does not mean you are actually playing well. Conversely, losing does not necessarily mean you are playing poorly, either. Variance can greatly skew your short term results. You have to evaluate all your hands--both winning and losing--to determine if you're making good decisions. And that's all you can do. The results don't really matter. Why? Because of Variance, my friend. Accept it.

All-in for now...
-Bug

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Guest Post - Poker Books

Today's guest post is brought to you by Jason F. over at www.YourHandSucks.com. Take it away, Jason!

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As 2014 has come to an end so does a fantastic year of poker. While we were flipping chips at the tables a lot of new awesome poker books hit the shelves this year. 


But the real question arises - what poker books sold the most in 2014?

It's a bit surprising to see that a lot of oldies still make the list. And one might wonder how Colson Whitehead's book can make number two.

Anyway, here is the top 10 best selling books of 2014 (click to enlarge):



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Thanks, Jason. What surprises me the most about this list is:
  • Colson Whitehead's book is at number two. It must be because it's more of a "literary" book than a true poker book, and major entities like the NY Times reviewed it when it came out. I own a copy, but still haven't managed to finish the book myself. Some day....
  • Mike Caro's book of tells is still selling so well after (literally) decades.
  • Moorman's book kind of came out of nowhere this year. I don't own a copy, but might consider picking one up now...
  • The Dummies books. They're actually not bad (I own both), but I'm surprised they sell so well with that name. Or maybe that's why they sell. Still, it's weird.
All-in for now...
-Bug

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Coming Year


New Years Resolutions for 2015 look surprisingly similar to previous years, but with some twists and turns and tweaks thrown in along the way:
  1. ABC Training App. The highest priority poker resolution for the coming year is definitely this one. It has taken Le Monsieur and me a little more than six months to get the basic lesson template, syllabus, and overall plan in place, and then of course create the first twelve or so lessons. I honestly believe we have a really solid foundation in place, with some innovative and useful instructional material written-- but there's a lot more to do. A whole lot. In the coming year, my resolutions on this front are to continue meeting with Le Monsieur and cranking out lessons, with a goal of generating at least three lessons per month. I also resolve to work with Le Monsieur to prototype the app itself, test it on some willing participants, and then... well, I'm not really sure what comes next. Stay tuned!
  2. The Blog. As usual, I'm going to try to post on average 1x or more per week. This coming year looks pretty horrible in terms of biz travel, which always has a negative effect on both the quantity and quality of posts-- but I'm still going to give the 'ole college try. Posting helps my game, period. Ergo, I resolve that I will continue to post as much as possible. 
  3. WSOP 2015. I missed last year's WSOP due to work, and there's no guarantee a big conflict won't happen again... but I really, really want to play again in the circus in Vegas that is the WSOP. I'm kind of intrigued by the $565 Colossus event they're planning this year, but of course the $1K Seniors holds special appeal, too, as does the $1500 Monster Stack event. Ergo, I hereby resolve to enter at least one event this coming year. 
  4. Leak Plugging. I feel like I'm playing pretty sound poker, but there is always room for improvement. I hereby resolve that I'm going to keep better and more regular records of my play (maybe here on the blog) and see what, if anything, I can improve upon. 
  5. SnG and MTTs. As practice for the WSOP, I need to find windows in my schedule to get in MTT and SnG seat time. Ergo, I resolve to play at least 2 MTTs and 4 SnGs every month. 
  6. Fitness. All I can say is: Ugh. I have to do something drastic on this front. My biggest issue is excess body mass, which stems from two key things: diet and exercise. Not very earth shattering, is it? Nope, but this isn't really rocket science. Our bodies are nothing more than energy processing devices. The engineer in me tends to think of the human form in terms of free body diagrams. Energy can't be created or destroyed, so what goes in the mouth that isn't used up by the body for basal metabolism needs, either comes out in the form of useful work performed or as waste, and what's left over gets stored away as fat. It's an energy balance thing, and of course there are lots of variables (e.g., efficiency of the body, types of calories consumed, etc.) but... well, like I said, it's not rocket science. I hereby resolve to eat better and exercise more. I might also dedicate a couple of off-topic blog posts in the coming year to just how I'm going to tackle this gorilla.
  7. Poker Training Materials. I always *want* to watch videos, but the honest reality after a few years of including this on my resolution list is that I just don't watch them regularly enough. Podcasts, on the other hand, I am almost always able to find time for (usually on lunch-time walks at work). Poker books also remain a staple on my education front, but the truth is I'm using them lately more as reference materials for the ABC App than I am as true learning media. Therefore I resolve to keep up the podcasts on a regular basis, and fit in whatever else I feel like as time allows. 
  8. Perfect Practice. With time so short, I often find myself multi-tasking when playing online. Email, surfing, researching, even writing blog posts, often occurs in parallel with play time. Not good. I think the key is to shorten my play sessions, and then close all windows on the machine and just focus on playing. Again, I don't have any major leaks in my game-- except perhaps this one. Ergo, I resolve to shorten play sessions, and to focus better when playing. 
  9. PLO. I'm still really enjoying the process of learning to master Omaha, and while I'm now a modest winning player the small stakes, there is a ton of room for improvement. Ergo, I resolve to study the game more diligently, including some posts on the topic herein this blog. 
  10. Have Fun. My perennial favorite resolution is this one. I enjoy poker, still, and as long as I continue to enjoy the madness, I will continue it. When it ceases to be fun, I won't play. That's my resolution: have fun while the getting is good. 
Hope you all have a fun and profitable 2015.
All-in for now...
-Bug