Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Writing in the Mud

I had a conversation yesterday with Mr. Multi, who ever so politely suggested that my blog sucked. Actually, what he said was, "I've been reading your blog, and lately your posts have been, uh, [not so] interesting." Translation: for the average let-me-read-about-a-cool-hand-or-strategy-tidbit reader, my posts on dry topics like bankroll management are about as exciting as watching mud turn into dirt.

And you know what? Mr. Multi is right. And you know what else? It's okay. Let me explain.

The purpose of this blog isn't to entertain. Nor is it to gather readers. Yes, based on site statistics and email feedback I receive, I think it's doing both of these things, but these are not the actual raison d'etres of the blog. The purpose of the blog is (now) twofold: a) make me, Herr Bug, into a better player; and b) help me develop a set of lessons that will eventually be used to create an "ABC Poker" training syllabus that can be used to turn a newbie into a pro (as written about here). Unfortunately, sometimes this is going to be dry and mud-like. C'est la vie.

Anyway, my current focus on both blog raisons is refinement of my poker pyramid of skills (as mentioned here). Specifically, I've tweaked a few of my categories, shifted others around, etc. I've also tried to organize this pyramid in terms of increasing "levels of thought" as you move up through the pyramid. As we all know, poker is a game of making fewer mistakes than our opponents, while at the same time capitalizing/exploiting the mistakes that our opponents do make. This is all just another way of saying we have to out-think our opponents, and this in turn starts with understanding what so-called "level of thought" those opponents are operating at. For example, if I know that my villain is playing level-2 poker (i.e., he's actively putting me on hand ranges and lines), then I have to operate higher than that if I'm going to outplay him (i.e., I believe that he thinks my hand range is X, therefore I need to adjust by doing Y...).

I've taken this whole concept and actually parsed it a bit finer, including intermediate levels of thought (e.g., level-1.5), as well as tying in the two edge categories of emotional control and off-table preparation into the pyramid. For instance, here's the latest incarnation of the bottom few rungs of the pyramid/syllabus:

Note: This Pyramid of Poker Skills is a work in progress, but it's also copyright protected by me. Please contact me in advance if you want to use it in another blog, format or endeavor.
The basic idea of my pyramid is to lay out and explain the key skills a person needs to master before moving up throughout the levels. It's basically a learn-to-crawl-before-learn-to-walk approach. As the player progresses higher in abilities, each subsequent level builds upon (and modifies as appropriate) the skills that were gained at the lower levels.  For instance, you can't really start to master even basic level-1 poker skills like preflop starting hand selection unless and until you grasp the fundamental rules of generic poker and the rules and mechanics of Texas Hold'em, etc.

Once the level-0 material is mastered, the student can then work on level-1 skills, such as basic BRM, ABC starting hand selection, understanding the power of position, etc.; i.e., the level-0 skills previously mastered are used to create and understand the level-1 skills. For instance, RDM is built  upon the luck v. skill understanding gained at the lower level of zero.

The same type of logical progression is adhered to as the student moves up through the pyramid, level-by-level, and skill set-by-skill set. The level-1.5 skill of proper blind defense, for instance, can't really be understood and internalized unless and until skills and concepts like position and starting hand selection from the lower level are fully grasped. And so on.  (A side benefit of this approach is that an intermediate player can join at any time, find his "rung level" of current skills in the pyramid, and go upward from there.)

Anyway, this is the direction I'm continuing to head with the project... and it's all as clear and exciting as mud, right? Right.

As usual, advice, commentary, and/or feedback is always welcome. I don't even mind if you tell me the blog sucks. No, really.

In other, semi-related news: the prick, er, casino owner Sheldon Adelson continues his attack on online poker, arguing that it's clearly not a game of skill at all. Seriously. No, really, he said this. There is no edge one player has over another at a poker table, and it's really just a big game of chance. His reasoning is garbled at best, but it revolves around the idea that players don't control what cards they get, and that the cards speak at showdown, so therefore it's a game of chance. Uh, okay. If he truly believes this, then I would love to offer a wager to the esteemed Shelly: If poker is indeed a game of pure chance, and skill is not involved, then he shouldn't have a problem with the following bet: Let me take Phil Ivey and pit him against any 10 year old child new to the game that Shelly wants to hand select. Then let's let these two play limit poker for a full day with 1000bb stacks. I'd wager a large fraction of my net worth that Phil will have all the chips at the end of that day. I'd even give 10:1 odds. I'm assuming Shelly A., who claims poker is a game of chance, would gladly take this bet, right? And if he wouldn't, then why not? I guess because it would imply that he also actually believes that a more skilled player will take the money off a less skill player given a fair game and enough time, right? Oh, Shelly, where for art thou and any common sense?

All-in for now...

1 comment:

  1. I googled the term self-serving prick and Adelson's photo popped up on my screen.