Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Barking Mad Differences of Opinion

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with a poker playing friend (who shall remain nameless). In the conversation, this friend remarked on a number of things I've blogged about lately, including the weekly Poker Quiz Question installments and my REDi system. In both cases, my friend felt I've missed the mark and/or have misrepresented myself and/or am overly complicating my approach to poker. His comments bothered me for most of the rest of the day, so I'm here to set a few things straight for the record.

First off, my friend seemed doubtful that I actually created the Read-Estimate-Decide-Implement (REDi) system all by myself. I surely must have cribbed this from somewhere, right? To this, all I can say is believe what you want; REDi is all mine. Google it and see what you find. Did I create it in a vacuum? Of course not. Essentially nothing man made in this modern world is created out of whole cloth. REDi has heavy influences from Sklansky's fundamental theorem of poker, Harrington's series on cash games, James "splitsuit" Sweeney's concept of lines, and of course Mehta/Flynn/Miller's writings on stack-to-pot ratios and their Range/Equity/Maximize technique.

A year or so ago, I took all this information and spent a few months chewing it over in my head, looking for and deriving REDi (originally called RED-M) as a systematic approach to deciding on the proper line to take in any given poker situation. I did this because I had concluded that essentially all modern poker books ignore this process. Sure, poker authors teach people how to calculate pot odds, and how important position is, and sometimes even give you some starting hand charts to kick start your game, but essentially nobody actually tells a beginner how to logically think about a poker hand. What is it you're actually trying to achieve? What matters in a hand, and what doesn't? What kind of logical steps should a beginner start with when facing a tough situation? Hell, what about even easy situations? It's all too facile to say raise KJ in LP when no one has entered the pot upstream of you, but fold if there's been a raise. But why is this so? And what happens if there are maniacs still left to act? What if they're nits? And so on... I.e., what is a pro thinking about in this situation that an amateur doesn't understand? Why does a pro call with one hand, raise in a seemingly identical situation a few hands later, and fold in another? The purpose of REDi is to offer up a process that a beginner can use to begin thinking logically about a hand. Is REDi perfect? Absolutely not. Is it good enough? Yeah, I actually kinda think so. 'Nuff said.

Anyway, my friend also pointed out that posting the Quiz Questions is a waste of time. I should cease and desist, mostly because most of my answers are entirely overly complicated. He implied that posting these long-winded explanations and analyses of poker hands do more harm than good to a newbie. He brought up a recent quiz question in which the answer I arrived at (via REDi) was fold. He said that folding was the obvious answer and didn't need such a complex derivation on my part. I think what he was saying is that one should just be able to read the question and intuitively know the correct answer. If you don't know, you will only really learn by trial and error. In a sense, if you get the wrong answer, over time you will be punished enough (by losing) to understand in your gut that it was the incorrect play. Similarly, if the play was correct, you will, over time, be rewarded enough to reinforce the right play.

Uh, okay. I personally hate learning like this. It feels too much like shock therapy. Worse, because poker occasionally rewards poor play and decisions, you occasionally get a cookie as a result of making the wrong play. Imagine training your dog this way. He urinates on the living room rug. Eight-five percent of the time you whack him with a rolled up newspaper and say, "bad dog." The other fifteen percent of the time, however, you give him a dog biscuit and pat him on the head. Sure, after a few hundred beatings, the dog will probably figure it out. But don't you think there's a more efficient way to learn? I do.

There are many different ways to play poker. Active vs. reactive; strong vs. weak; loose vs. tight; and so on. Are any of these superior to the next? Not necessarily; there is more than one way to skin a poker cat. In a similar manner, I also believe there are different ways to think about poker. Some people (my friend, for example) are highly intuitive. They've learned how to win at poker by sheer brute force, playing a million hands, and, in a sense, pattern matching situations to the correct responses. This is fine, but it's not for everyone.  I, for instance, am someone who thrives on organization and logical process; I'm terrible at "pattern matching" solutions. I don't just want to know what to do in a given situation, I want to know why and how. This is because no two poker situations are identical, and I'd like to have a system in my back pocket that I can use to analyze any individual situation to arrive at the most plus-EV decision and line....

...okay, enough of that little soapbox. To get things back onto a less contentious footing, here's a video my son sent me that points out another type of differences in player types: gamblers vs. EV guys:

All-in for now...

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