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dilanesp
12-27-2013, 05:09 PM
I'm a longtime not very successful horseplayer turned decent poker player. Having a foot in both worlds, and with horse racing in its winter period when there aren't a lot of championship races being run, I thought I might do a post here with some suggestions for horseplayers who want to play poker. I will start with some basic information about poker strategy that every poker player needs to know if they want to try to be successful, and then double back at the end and talk about what playing poker well can teach people about playing the races.

1. POKER IS EXTREMELY MATHEMATICAL GAME PLAYED OVER A LONG RUN, AND NOT, IN GENERAL, ABOUT "OUTSMARTING" YOUR OPPONENTS AT THE TABLE OVER THE SHORT TERM.

This is the biggest misconception that almost all non-players and most poker players have about poker. Poker winrates are governed by the mathematical relationships of the number of cards in the deck, the strength of your hand relative to other hands, the size of the bets and the pots, and the odds that you and other players are offered to play particular hands in particular situations.

Thus, to be a winning player you must play a mathematically sound strategy in terms of what starting hands you play. In games where position is an issue, you need to play more hands in good position and less hands in poor position. If there are blinds rather than antes, you have to take into account the better odds you are being offered to call in those positions.

Further, you must know the likelihood that you are ahead, the chances of drawing out if you are behind, the odds being offered by the pot and by any bets that you might collect after hitting your hand, and the chances that any hand you make will be a second best hand.

You will note that none of this is about besting your opponent in some psychological contest. Over the long term, staring your opponent down and inducing an incorrect fold wins you one hand. But consistently playing a stronger range and not betting hands where the odds offered are insufficient wins you lots of money over the long term.

Now, does that mean that you shouldn't care at all about your opponents? Not at all. But the way you exploit opponents is not to psychologically best them in a single hand, but to pursue strategies that mathematically exploit their weaknesses. You do this by using the information they have given you through the manner they have played previous hands to put them on a range of hands. If their range of hands includes a lot of hands that they will be willing to fold, you bluff more. If their range of hands is super strong and contains very few hands you beat, you fold more. If their range of hands includes a lot of hands that they will be willing to call a bet with even though they are beat, you value-bet more. If their range of hands includes a lot a hands that they will bet if checked to and that you beat or can get to fold through a check-raise, you check-raise more.

You do these exploitative strategies not to win one hand-- indeed, any particular hand, the opponent may hold the monster or the hand he can't fold, or may be making a rare bluff, and you lose a pot. But over time, by learning your opponents' tendencies, you adjust your play when heads-up against them towards an exploitative strategy that makes money over time against their weaknesses.

Note I also just said "heads up". This is important. When you are in multi-way pots, generally you can't do as much exploitation and should not do so. Rather, since it is harder to get many players to fold than it is to get one person to fold, and the pots are bigger and encourage calling even with weak hands and draws, you should play fairly honestly and just value-bet your made hands and very strong draws.

2. RAKE IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT AND CAN DETERMINE WHETHER A GAME IS BEATABLE.

If you just want to play for fun and get better, you can play in any live game your cardroom offers. But if you want to win money, poker has a takeout problem just like horse racing does. The takeout in poker is generally taken one of two ways-- through "rake", dropped out of the pot of each hand, and through "time charges", collected from players who rent their seats.

Time charges are generally only seen in higher limit games and basically just about any game with a time charge in the US is going to be beatable. But rake in lower stakes games is a very significant impediment to winning. For instance, in Southern California, where I play poker, both 8/16 and 20/40 limit hold 'em generally drop $6 per hand. A typical winrate of one of the top players in limit hold 'em (data we have from online play, where rakes were always reasonable pre-April 2011) is 2 "big bets" per 100 hands. At an 8-handed table, each player is paying 75 cents in rake per hand. In the 20/40 game, that works out to 1.88 big bets per 100 hands. At the 8/16 table, that works out to 4.69 big bets per 100 hands. That's enough to turn even pretty decent winners into net losers. So if you think you want to try to play poker for a profit, you need to play high enough where you can beat the rake. Which means you better be good enough to play high enough where you can beat the rake!

3. GAME AND SEAT SELECTION IS CRUCIAL

There's an old saying that if you are the 9th best poker player in the world, you will still lose a ton of money if you constantly play at tables with the other eight. You need to seek out games with bad players. At low stakes this is not a problem; most players are bad. But at higher stakes, you need to make a sober assessment of the skill of your opponents. If they are all good, find a softer game.

Further, once you find a soft game, seats are important. Money flows clockwise around the poker table, and poker is a positional game. You want to sit to the left of bad players who play too many hands, so you can raise them and take their money. You want to sit across from good players so you get into fewer pots with them.

4. YOU NEED TO HAVE ADEQUATE BANKROLL, CONTROL TILT, REVIEW SESSIONS, KEEP ACCURATE RECORDS, AND PLAY A LONG TERM STRATEGY.

Poker has enormous variance. Some forms of poker (particularly Omaha and Limit Hold 'Em) have even more variance, but even the lower-variance forms of poker can produce weeks-long downswings, situations where all the good players at a table get creamed and the bad players walk off with all the money, and tons of bad beats. Online, people used to say that you needed between 15,000 and 35,000 hands to get a statistically significant sample of hands to determine whether someone was a winning player. Live poker tables deal 25 to 35 hands an hour, so we are talking about hundreds or even thousands of hours. Whatever happens in a session, or in a particular hand, is totally irrelevant to your winrate. Good players almost never tell bad beat stories, and when they do tell them, they involve occurrences so freakish that you would never imagine they could happen.

You will hit big downswings, even if you are good, so you need to be prepared and have a big enough bankroll to survive them. And you need to have the patience to play a long, long time before you assume you are a winning player (or a losing one). Use that time to get better at poker. Record and review your sessions. Revisit decisions you, and other players, made. Focus on the process and not the results.

And never, ever tilt. You need to play the same way whether you are up or down for the session. Never target another player just because they got lucky against you. Don't play when you aren't at your best, and don't chase your losses. Decide how long you are going to play for before you go to the cardroom and hold yourself to that.

5. USE POKER WEBSITES TO GET BETTER AT POKER.

There are a number of good ones, including Two Plus Two, Flop Turn River, and Deuces Cracked. The sites with message boards are especially good-- you can post hands and get feedback from more experienced players. Some of the sites have large archives of posts which you can study. All of the information you need to be a good poker player can be found somewhere online; you just have to put in the work and study it.

6. WHAT POKER CAN TELL PEOPLE ABOUT PLAYING THE RACES.

If you do play poker well, one of the things I am convinced is that it will get you better at playing the races. Because good poker play requires an intellectual rigor that will carry over to horse racing. For instance, the long-term thinking (not worrying that I outplayed a player this particular hand or that I won this particular pot, instead looking at results over the long term and thinking about the correctness of a play against someone's entire range) of poker carries right over into horse racing. Instead of thinking "my horse didn't win, therefore I was wrong" or "my exacta came in, therefore I was right", focus on your decisionmaking process. Your exacta may have actually come in because the best horse in the race got blocked at the top of the stretch and was unlucky. That's just like sucking out on the river in poker.

Another useful concept from poker play is the overriding importance of odds. It isn't enough that you pick winners; you need to make bets that will pay off often enough to justify the odds you are offered. That is easier to do in poker, where the odds of drawing out to make a hand are fixed. But you still should be thinking about it every time you place a bet in a horse race.

And finally, variance. Variance has actually got to be even higher in horse racing than poker. For one thing, there are far fewer horse races than poker hands. For another, live animals and their jockeys and trainers are NOT governed by hard mathematical truths. A trainer statistic in horse racing is helpful, but it isn't a hard and fast rule the same way that there are 13 spades in the deck is one. So if you need 35,000 poker hands to know you are a profitable player, you may need even more races. I suspect a lot of successful horseplayers have just found themselves on the right side of the variance curve.

At any rate, I'll post more on this if there is interest.

wiffleball whizz
12-27-2013, 08:33 PM
Tons of poker threads here with the big dogs of poker

Proximity
Thaskalos
Robert goren
Wifflepiss whizz

Grizzled poker players that can always give good advice

thaskalos
12-27-2013, 09:49 PM
Poker is the ultimate betting game...IMO. The players square off against one other...with their destinies held firmly in their own hands.

And, as an added bonus, there is plenty of reliable and inexpensive tutorial information out there, to guide the player during the most vulnerable stages of his journey to success...which is something that you can't say about horse racing.

badcompany
12-28-2013, 11:32 AM
Poker is the ultimate betting game...IMO. The players square off against one other...with their destinies held firmly in their own hands.

The ultimate game is the financial markets. By comparison, poker and Horseracing are Nickel and Dimers.

thaskalos
12-28-2013, 01:12 PM
The ultimate game is the financial markets. By comparison, poker and Horseracing are Nickel and Dimers.

Yeah...I do hear talk like this from time to time. Usually during the bull markets... :)

But those comments are negated by other comments which deny that the financial markets even belong in the arena of "betting". They say that the financial markets are better described by the terms "investing"...or "speculating".

So I leave the financial markets out of the equation...until the participants there agree on whether they are really "gambling", or not...

badcompany
12-28-2013, 02:24 PM
Yeah...I do hear talk like this from time to time. Usually during the bull markets... :)

But those comments are negated by other comments which deny that the financial markets even belong in the arena of "betting". They say that the financial markets are better described by the terms "investing"...or "speculating".

So I leave the financial markets out of the equation...until the participants there agree on whether they are really "gambling", or not...

It's actually both, but the overwhelming majority of the transactions are nothing more than bets on price fluctuations.

thaskalos
12-28-2013, 03:52 PM
It's actually both, but the overwhelming majority of the transactions are nothing more than bets on price fluctuations.
It's ALL betting, IMO...and I can't, for the life of me, understand why trading enjoys an aroma of respectability which is denied to other forms of "gambling".

They are all "money games"...and all the winners should be respected equally.

Saratoga_Mike
12-28-2013, 03:57 PM
It's ALL betting, IMO...and I can't, for the life of me, understand why trading enjoys an aroma of respectability which is denied to other forms of "gambling".

They are all "money games"...and all the winners should be respected equally.

Look at a 100-yr chart of the Dow - it's up and to the right. Over the long term, it's much, much easier to make money in the market than playing horses. Of course you said "trading," not investing. As for "trading," if you look at the qtr'ly filings from Goldman or JP Morgan, you'll see fairly consistent profits from trading over time.

thaskalos
12-28-2013, 04:13 PM
Look at a 100-yr chart of the Dow - it's up and to the right. Over the long term, it's much, much easier to make money in the market than playing horses. Of course you said "trading," not investing. As for "trading," if you look at the qtr'ly filings from Goldman or JP Morgan, you'll see fairly consistent profits from trading over time.
And yet...it's been documented that 90% of the traders lose money.

proximity
12-28-2013, 07:38 PM
nice post dilanesp.

give us some perspective though... where do you play live??

dilanesp
12-28-2013, 08:43 PM
nice post dilanesp.

give us some perspective though... where do you play live??

LA. Hustler, Commerce, and HG mostly. I also have played in Northern California and Vegas.

badcompany
12-29-2013, 12:34 PM
It's ALL betting, IMO...and I can't, for the life of me, understand why trading enjoys an aroma of respectability which is denied to other forms of "gambling".

They are all "money games"...and all the winners should be respected equally.

The respectability in the stock market comes from the underlying companies which actually provide goods and services. These legitimate businesses give cover to the gambling aspect, which, as I said earlier, represent most of the transactions.

Poker doesn't have this. Any way you slice it, it's just a bunch of guys sitting around a table/computer trying to take each others' money.

dilanesp
12-29-2013, 02:33 PM
The respectability in the stock market comes from the underlying companies which actually provide goods and services. These legitimate businesses give cover to the gambling aspect, which, as I said earlier, represent most of the transactions.

Poker doesn't have this. Any way you slice it, it's just a bunch of guys sitting around a table/computer trying to take each others' money.

Yeah. We actually need a stock market for capitalism to work. It shouldn't be run like a casino, and con artists shouldn't be on television convincing ordinary Americans they can beat the market, and active traders should be seen as the gamblers they are. But we still need a market.

Poker is a recreational activity. Doesn't make it bad, but it will never have the respectability of the stock market.

dilanesp
11-12-2014, 10:53 PM
Bumping this thread with a discussion of discipline:

Discipline is the single most important skill required to be a winning poker player.

What is poker discipline? It is a set of several related skills: (1) acting consistently and according to a mathematically justifiable strategy, (2) ensuring that logic rather than emotion rules your decisions at all times, (3) ensuring that you are concentrating, paying attention, and focusing on the game and your decisionmaking at all times, (4) understanding the role of variance in poker, and avoiding undue focus on results of individual hands, sessions, and upswings and downswings, (5) using objective criteria to determine when to start and end sessions, (6) reviewing sessions and keeping records, and (7) sound bankroll management. We will discuss these in turn.

1. ACTING CONSISTENTLY AND ACCORDING TO A MATHEMATICALLY JUSTIFIABLE STRATEGY

Poker, is, at bottom, an extremely complex mathematical problem. Think of an algebra problem, but instead of two variables like x and y, there are numerous variables. And your job is to “solve” the problem. The very best limit hold ‘em players, who play against difficult opponents, literally do this. They adopt a mathematical strategy, which is called “game theory optimality”, or “GTO”, designed to ensure that no move that they make can be exploited by the other player. “Exploitation” is another poker term of art, which refers to when a player takes advantage of an incorrect play made by an opponent. GTO essentially is a mathematical solution to poker games played under certain conditions (2 players, playing wide ranges of hands in limit hold ‘em). However, in addition to being very difficult to learn, GTO play is actually sub-optimal when playing in more typical games. GTO is effectively a defensive strategy that prevents the other player from winning money against you in the long term. But against weaker players, you make more money playing offense, not defense. In games with large multi-way pots and bad players, getting value is much more important than deception. GTO strategies rely on deception to conceal the strength of the player’s hand, so that the chances that the player’s hand beats the other player correlates with the odds that the other player is getting on his or her bet. In simple terms, you never know whether a GTO player is bluffing or value-betting. In games with large, multi-way pots, however, that is often far less important than simply getting value. The pot is big and they have to call your value bets.

Nonetheless, the GTO people are right about one thing– poker is fundamentally mathematical. And that means that it is NOT, fundamentally, about looking for “tells”, staring people down, “soul reading” other players, etc. Now, my use of the word “fundamentally” is deliberate– tells have a place in live poker. Sometimes you will look to your left and see the cut-off and the button players ready to fold their hands, telling you that your hand in the hijack is actually effectively on the button. That’s definitely useful information to have. But the real key to the game isn’t “reading” people’s minds– it’s reading the situation and applying the concepts of mathematics to determine the proper betting action.

Because poker is mathematical, players must act consistently to win. 2 plus 2 isn’t 4 today and 5 tomorrow. And more to the point, it isn’t 4 when you have been winning and 5 when you have been losing. Your plays must be the same no matter how you are doing, how you feel, what you had to eat, how you are running in the game, and what your money supply is. There are caveats even here– obviously, your plays can change against opponents with different ranges. And there are some situations where a bit of randomization– say, doing one thing with red cards and another with black ones– can be correct. (That, again, is part of GTO play; to make the math work out, sometimes it is correct to do one thing 75 percent of the time and another thing 25 percent of the time.) But those judgments must be objective. If you are calling a hand that you would normally fold on the river, it had better be because of an honest, realistic read that this particular opponent has a wide enough range to justify the call, not because you are on tilt from losing 3 racks of chips during your current session.

Fundamentally, poker requires that the player be completely honest with him- or herself. You have to learn to distinguish between what you should do and what you would like to do.

This is, I am convinced, the single biggest impediment to successful poker play for most players. They start out OK, playing at whatever skill they are capable of. Then they start losing money and get desperate. They only have a couple of hours to play before they get home, and they can’t wait for a hand. So they start playing hands they shouldn’t play. Or they are card dead for two hours and then finally get a respectable hand, but get it in a situation, such as out of position or where there has already been a raise and a 3-bet, where the hand should not be played. I see this all the time. We get to see their cards when they show it down. And the tilting opponent invariably has some hand that should have been folded pre-flop, or which should have never gotten to the river.

It’s not fun to fold all the time. But part of the variance of poker is that even a relatively loose, aggressive player who is decent will face long stretches from time to time when they have to fold every hand. And sometimes these will occur during a losing session.

So once you arrive on a poker strategy, you must stick with it. Hands that go into the muck when you are up a couple of racks and feeling good should still go into the muck when you are way behind and really want to make a comeback. Because poker is governed by mathematics, and expected value. -EV plays do not become +EV just because you are behind and chasing losses.

dilanesp
11-12-2014, 10:55 PM
2. ENSURING THAT LOGIC RATHER THAN EMOTION RULES YOUR DECISIONS AT ALL TIMES

Related to consistency and the fundamentally mathematical nature of the game, a poker player must always make decisions based on logic and not emotion. Poker players face numerous decisions every time they play. What hands to play, how to play them, when to pay people off, when to fold, what food and drink to order, what table to sit at, what seat to sit in, whether to take personal calls and texts, etc. Every one of these decisions must be made logically.

Most poker players fail at this simple test. Players desperate for a winning session will start playing bad hands or making bad calls or bluffs. Sometimes it will work in the opposite direction too– a player distracted by repeated losses starts folding hands that have proper odds to call, on the grounds that he or she “never hits draws”.

Another example of emotion ruling logic is where a player delivers a bad beat, or a series of them, and an opponent starts thinking in terms of “getting that guy”. In multi-way poker, it really doesn’t matter where your money comes from on the table. And you can’t force matters to “get” someone. If that player keeps on getting better cards than you do, that player is likely to make a lot of money because of your decision to try and get revenge.

But it’s not just in-game decisions that matter. If you decide to drink alcohol, that might make the game more fun, but it almost certainly affects your judgment. I don’t think players should drink at all, really, but if you do drink, do it in moderation. Drinking to excess is almost certainly -EV. Also, outside of Las Vegas, they probably aren’t comping those drinks, and the cost of alcoholic beverages can slash or decimate a player’s winrate. (This same point is applicable to massages and casino food in establishments where it is not free.)

Players also need to make table and seat selection decisions based on logic. The basic principles are that you want to play in games against bad opponents, and you want to sit to the left of bad opponents and across from any decent ones. That means you may not get the seat next to the cute dealer or the hot-looking player whom you want to chat up and perhaps meet outside the poker room. It may mean you shouldn’t sit next to your friends.

And it definitely means you should not change tables or seats just because you are running bad, or because a seat was vacated by someone who ran good. There is no such thing as a “hot” or “cold” seat. There are better and worse seats, but that is based on the skills of the players next to them, not the short term results of the occupants. If you change tables or seats, it must be for one reason and one reason only– because the new table or seat is more likely to be +EV, or is likely to be +EV by a greater margin, than the one you left.

Similarly, don’t ask for new set-ups, or for the dealer to scramble or wash the deck, because you are running bad. Shuffles adequately randomize the cards. You are wasting time, and if you are a winning player, time is money. (If there’s a bad beat jackpot, you are also costing the table chances to hit the jackpot.) Get a set-up only if there’s a damaged or marked card, and get a wash only if you need to see the backs of the cards because you suspect marking.

And don’t ever blame the dealer for your bad beats. The dealer is doing you a big favor– how would you like to (1) have to deal the cards yourself every several hands and (2) worry about opposing players cheating on the deal? The dealer is no more responsible for your bad beat than the company that manufactured the shuffling machine.

Also, while on the subject of dealers, you should have a tipping policy that balances the fact that casino employees provide valuable services against the fact that tips come out of your winrate. You should tip dealers $1 for a pot. You can tip more in a big pot if you want to, but you don’t have to. You can also tip nothing if the pot is tiny, say if you just stole the blinds. If you win a jackpot, give the dealer a significant tip. Not because the dealer is “responsible” for your winning the hand, but because tips are part of their compensation. Like restaurant employees, they are often underpaid and they rely on their tips to make a decent income. Tipping casino staff such as waiters, porters, brushes, chip runners, and cashiers is also reasonable. They make their living on tips too. Finally, if your casino allows you to tip the floorperson, you should definitely do it. I hate this aspect of poker– imagine a professional sport league that allowed players to tip the referee!– but the reality is that usually if they accept tips, it means they too are underpaid, and, of course, you don’t want floor rulings to go against you.

Try not to antagonize other players or casino staff, while at the same time training yourself not to be bothered by the idiotic things that other people do at the casino. Obviously, there’s a limit to this– I will stick up for a dealer, seek to enforce a rule where I think it is really important, and remonstrate a player who does something really awful. But you can’t get bothered by every single thing your fellow players do. Slowrolls, deliberately ambiguous bets, dumb jokes, offensive table talk, and minor rules violations (such as string bets that don’t confuse anyone) are a part of poker, and if you get upset at these things, it will be harder to play your best game.

Another thing to watch out for is when you make a bad decision. You will make one. For instance, you will call with a hand that is never good in a particular situation, or you will fold a hand that had sufficient outs to call. (Oftentimes, the poker gods will respond to the latter mistake by making sure your draw comes in and you know it!) Bad decisions happen. We are human beings, not robots. But the most important thing to do with a bad decision is not dwell on it. You can come back to it when you review your session. (The same thing is true of tough decisions where you were not sure you did the right thing. Take a note, set it aside, and review it later. Stay focused on the next hand. And remember, sometimes there really isn’t a single correct decision in poker, or it is impossible to determine the correct thing to do due to insufficient information. In that situation, so long as you make any reasonable, defensible decision, it’s probably fine. Sometimes, the EV gain of a correct decision in limit hold ‘em over the second best decision is too small to even be noticeable.)

3. ENSURING THAT YOU ARE CONCENTRATING, PAYING ATTENTION, AND FOCUSING ON THE GAME AND YOUR DECISIONMAKING AT ALL TIMES.

This one is self-explanatory. Poker requires concentration. You have to be able to concentrate on your own decisions, and also on the decisions of other players. You need to know when the action is on you. You need to know how many bets you need to call. You need to remember what your hand is, including suits. (Seriously. I’ve seen countless showdowns where a player believably miscalls his or her hand and then says “Oh my God! I thought I had _____”.)

You also need to pay attention to the betting patterns of other players, and to put people on ranges. And this includes when you have folded a hand. You need to watch every hand play out, not just the ones you are in. That’s how you find out what players’ tendencies are.

Now obviously, there are situations where you legitimately have to divert your attention. Nobody’s saying that if you fail to watch 100 percent of the action at your table, you are doomed. You might get an important text or call you have to respond to. You may get hungry and want to order food, or get a cup of tea from a porter. And, of course, a certain amount of friendly table talk is probably good for the game and good for your winrate, even if it means you get a little distracted and don’t see what a player did in a particular hand. But let’s be honest here– 95 percent of players simply zone out completely once they fold a hand. And they are missing out on a ton of information.

Further, when making decisions yourself, you also need to focus. I have a few close friends whom I discuss poker with, who are good players, and I know this is a problem that even good players have. You have to put the hand together and continually put your opponents on ranges. You have to value your outs. You can’t just rashly fold to a raise because you are pissed off– you need to ask what the raise could mean. And you have to go through this process every time and not shortcut it unless the decision is truly bloody obvious.

And once again, sex and alcohol are big distractions. The cocktail waitresses are often very pretty. So are many dealers. But flirting with them while you are playing is -EV if it takes your mind out of the game. Similarly, alcohol can salve the boredom inherent in playing poker. But it can also cause you to miss important details of what is happening. The less of it consumed, the better.

dilanesp
11-12-2014, 10:56 PM
4. UNDERSTANDING THE ROLE OF VARIANCE IN POKER, AND AVOIDING UNDUE FOCUS ON RESULTS OF INDIVIDUAL HANDS, SESSIONS, AND UPSWINGS AND DOWNSWINGS

Poker a very high variance game. Chess is a low variance game– the best players almost always win. But in a poker game, the best players often lose in a single session or even in a single week or month. Understanding this is key to many of the discipline issues in poker.

The first thing you should understand about variance is that it means that the result of a particular hand is basically entirely meaningless. The only issue is whether you played it correctly, and that depends not on what your opponent had but what he or she could have had. We call that latter concept the opponent’s “range” of hands.

Here’s a simple example from no limit that everyone understands. You have king-queen of spades and flop a flush. You bet your hand and get raised all-in. You call with the second nuts, and react with dismay when your opponent turns over an ace-high flush. Now, you lost the hand. But would anyone say you played it improperly? So long as you don’t have a read that the player will only raise with the nut flush (and really, is there a single poker player on the planet who would play that way?), there is nothing you can do but call. Your opponent has a range that includes a lot of flushes that you beat, as well as other strong hands such as sets and 2 pair hands. He or she might also make the play with ace-high flush draws. You played the hand correctly and got burned. Fundamentally, this is the key to understanding variance in a practical way– variance is an uncontrollable reason why you can play properly and still lose, or play improperly and win. It diminishes over the long term, and thus the way to win at poker in the long term is to evaluate whether you made correct plays based on the information you had at the time.

Another form of variance relating to specific hand results is based on whether you have information about a player when you play a hand. I can remember situations where an unknown player sits down, and, for instance, immediately 3-bets or 4-bets a pot. I respected the raise, put the player on a narrow range, and didn’t go to showdown, only to find out within a few hands that the player was a complete maniac and my hand was likely good. It’s completely random that you pick up your hand that you might play against the maniac before you realize he or she is a maniac, as opposed to later on.

There is also no such thing as a “rush”. Yes, it sometimes seems like one player starts running over the table. But that’s usually because that player is catching good cards, i.e., benefitting from random variance, not because the player is playing a brilliant, aggressive strategy of raising. I don’t care if you have won the last 7 hands, you can’t raise 72 under the gun just because of a rush. You still don’t have a high enough likelihood of winning the hand to justify the play. Evaluate each hand without reference to how you have been running.

I do know that some players believe that other players will change their play based on whether you are running good or bad. That may be true. However, if you are not playing heads-up, this really shouldn't be a big consideration. It is very difficult in multi-way pots to significantly shift the odds inherent in playing starting hands. In other words, you might pick up a bit more fold equity (a term for the probability of winning the hand by making your opponents fold) when you are running good and lose a bit of it when you are running bad. But that's only going to affect things on the margins. Most hands should be played exactly the same. Being on a rush, or running cold, just doesn’t change things very much. (The more sophisticated argument holds that bad players may play more aggressively against you (and thus slightly better) when you are running bad. This, again, might be true in some abstract sense, but I doubt it really hurts your long-term winrate very much, because it isn’t as though they will suddenly understand the mathematics of poker. They will at best turn into slightly more aggressive bad players who still donate money to the rest of the table. At any rate, this argument proves too much– bad players will also, presumably, play more aggressively if anyone else at the table is running terrible. And yet nobody worries about being at a table where someone else is running bad. I think this sort of thinking is best ignored. As basketball players like to say, shoot yourself out of your slump.)

Session results are also basically meaningless. Indeed, if they weren’t, it wouldn’t be worth it to play poker. As I noted earlier, in chess, if you repeatedly play a grand master, you will lose every time. But in poker, that is not true. Whoever the best cash game player in the world is– Phil Ivey, perhaps?– it is possible to beat him in any particular session. You just have to catch all the cards. And this fact is what keeps fish in the game. On any given day, the fish can come home a huge winner and all the pros and decent players can lose big.

Accordingly, for fish, poker is not any different than any other casino game. They will lose over time, but not on every individual session. A big score is always a possibility.

But this also means that decent players cannot worry about session results. It literally does not matter one bit whether you are ahead or behind in a session. One of the great poker authors of all time, David Sklansky, said it well: “life is one long session”. Terrible session losses are the price you pay for keeping the fish playing. They have to have the hope that sometimes they will win. And they sometimes will! Just not over the long term.

And this means you can’t play differently because you are behind and “chasing your losses”. You shouldn’t extend sessions just because you don’t want to go home a loser. You shouldn’t assume that if you play longer you are going to make your money back. You shouldn’t “lock up” winnings by leaving a juicy table when you were intending to stay hours longer. Your result at the end of a session simply doesn’t matter. It is basically a random number. Yes, of course, it might be somewhat higher or lower because of particular plays that you made, but its main determinant will always be the luck of the draw.

Variance, however, goes farther than even that. Variance in hold ‘em, depending on who you ask, probably plays itself out over 15,000 to 35,000 hands. An average limit table deals 35 hands an hour or so. That means we are talking about somewhere between 430 and 1,000 hours before the swings play themselves out. 430 hours is 54 eight hour sessions, or almost three months of full time poker. 1,000 hours is half a year for a full time player. And most players don’t play 40 hours a week– if you are playing 20 hours a week and use the 35,000 hand criterion, you may need to wait a year before you really know whether you are playing winning poker! No limit tables, which only deal about 25 hands an hour, stretch the variance curve out even longer. (And that is assuming that your game conditions are static. In fact, other players shuttle in and out of the games, as some players bust out and other players enter the pool. Plus, the regular players might be learning and getting better. If the game conditions are changing, you may not even be getting an accurate picture at the end of 35,000 hands.)

So if you are a part-time player who needs to wait a year to determine a reasonably accurate winrate, a session result is clearly truly meaningless.

This is one of the hardest things for poker players to deal with, in my experience. When you run bad, it hurts. When you run awful, you question yourself. You wonder why you do it. The largest downswing I have ever had in live poker was 475 big bets over the course of months. I also have had other big live downswings– 440 big bets over the course of less than a month, and 275 big bets over the course of just nine days. During those periods, everything seems to go wrong. You never get dealt big hands and have to fold and fold and fold, and then when you finally hit something, someone inevitably sucks out against you or has something better. This is where session reviews, which we will discuss later, are truly important. Because you can go back and replay important hands in your mind, or discuss them with a fellow player you trust. And those reviews help you realize that you aren’t losing all that money because you are playing poorly.

At the same time, overconfidence is as big a threat as underconfidence. A lot of weak players ran good when they first got into poker, and assumed they had all the skills they needed. And then when variance turned around, they had a heck of a surprise. Many players also calculate optimistic winrates based on a few thousand hands where they make some huge amount of big bets per hour. Those winrates always come back down to earth, but unfortunately, not before some of these people drop everything and assume they can “make a living” playing poker.

Further, even players who run bad can be overconfident. One reaction to a bad session is to just look at all the bad beats, which are usually hands that were played reasonably well, and declare “that’s the reason I lost!” and leave it at that. But while that is true on its own terms (it usually is a result of bad luck when you lose big and good luck when you win big), oftentimes there are other hands in that same session that do need to be reviewed. While there was nothing you could do about your pocket kings running into aces in a huge pot, there’s a lot you could have done about your 3-betting queen jack offsuit against a tight player’s early position raise later on in the session.

Similarly, overconfidence can also lead a player to ignore bad plays that worked out. Let’s say a little old lady with a very narrow range raises under the gun, and you, Mister Loose Aggressive, decide to 3-bet your jack-ten suited on the button. The fact that you sucked out on her pocket queens by flopping trips does not make your play a good one.

The bottom line on variance is that until you play tens of thousands of hands, the only real information you have about how well you are playing is your session reviews and the input of any coaches or other players that you discuss your play with. You have to focus relentlessly on that and ignore results, no matter how bad they seem to get.

5. USING OBJECTIVE CRITERIA TO DETERMINE WHEN TO START AND END SESSIONS

There are a number of valid ways to determine when to end a session. For instance, you can simply play until the game breaks– which may be the only option for people who play in locales where only a single table is available. You can set stop-losses and stop-wins, which are a reasonable reaction to understandable human psychology. Since humans do, in reality, want to chase losses and lock up wins, saying that if you win or lose, say, 40 big bets, you will pack up and go home deals with this issue in a reasonable manner.

My preference is to simply decide when I will stop playing. If I sit down at 3 and say that I am going to stop at 10, then I stop at 10, period. This keeps me honest and keeps me from focusing on short term variance. (I suppose I do have a theoretical stop loss in that I tend not to bring more than 3 1/2 full limit hold 'em buy-ins to the casino (87 big bets), and I will stop if my stack gets below 12 big bets. But I have never had to invoke this.) I know that there will be sessions where I start out a winner and lose, or start out a loser and win. It doesn’t matter. I have a winrate, it’s X dollars per hour, and the way to achieve that is to play enough hours.

One other objective criterion deserves discussion. It’s the one experts use. Experts will continue to play in a game as long as it is good, and will leave it if it gets bad. This is fine, ONCE YOU HAVE DEVELOPED THE DISCIPLINE TO APPLY IT PROPERLY. It is not fine for beginning players who have not mastered poker discipline. It is too easy for a player who is stuck to tell him- or herself that the game is good when it isn’t, and too easy for a player who is up to tell him- or herself that the game is bad. We humans are very good at telling ourselves what we want to hear. For novice players, I recommend playing to a time.

The worst decisions about starting or ending sessions involve short term variance, as you might imagine. Other than an objective stop loss or stop win, or losing to the point that you have less than 12 big bets left (you should never, ever, go all-in in limit; top off your stack any time it gets under 12 big bets), you should never stop playing simply because you are running good or bad in the short term. Extending a session to chase losses is terrible. If you wouldn’t extend the session if you were winning, you shouldn’t extend it when you are losing. Further, continuing to play when you feel awful, or sick, or can’t concentrate, or simply because you are waiting for a ride home or for alcohol to wear off are all bad. If it’s past your stop time, bring a book to the casino and wait. Or rail another game and see if you can learn something.

And this sort of reasoning can also apply to decisions as to when to start a poker session as well. People decide to play poker because they “need to make $500″. Sorry, poker is not a reliable source of income like that. You need to get a real job for that sort of thing. Similarly, deciding to play the next day either because you think you are on a rush or you want to win back yesterday’s losses is bad. If you were going to play, play. If you weren’t, don’t, unless the reason you weren’t going to play dematerialized.

dilanesp
11-12-2014, 10:57 PM
6. REVIEWING SESSIONS AND KEEPING RECORDS

I have alluded to these issues several times already. A session review is one of the most powerful tools in the poker player’s arsenal. Online players have it easy. Their tracking software stores all the hands, making it easy to go back and reevaulate one’s play, e-mail the hand to a friend, or post it to an online poker forum. Live players have to remember key hands. If you don’t have a good memory, write things down. I have literally been in situations where I was sweating another player and he or she didn’t remember the action in the hand and argued with me about what happened. With smartphones, it’s easy to take a detailed note about a hand without your opponents knowing what you are doing. It will just look like you are sending a text.

When taking a note about a hand, whether mental, on pen or paper, or via smartphone, be sure to note everything that you can that is relevant. All 5 community cards, what you had, what any other players showed, any exposed cards, the betting on each street, any players who either went all-in or were close to it, and any relevant reads or tells. That way if you want to post it to a poker forum or ask a poker playing friend about it later, you can get a good answer.

What you are looking for is not bad beats, or obvious pay-off calls on the river, but hands where you either faced tough decisions or made bad ones. Additionally, you should look for other players who face tough decisions. (This can sometimes have limited utility, as oftentimes fish get themselves into sticky wickets by playing badly. But even bad players will sometimes play hands well and face tough decisions. And if there are good players at your table, they will too. Take note of any situation that is tough, whether or not it is your hand.) And you should also think about hypothetical decisions– what if that turn card was a heart? What if I had J9 rather than JT? Get as much out of your session reviews as you can.

There are excellent online tools for use with session reviews. I personally use the pokerstrategy.com Equilator. It allows me to determine the chance that I had of winning the hand against whatever range I put the opponent on. I can also give an opponent a generic range (such as top 50 percent of all hands) and make the same calculation. The chance of winning, plus your share of any chops, is called “pot equity” or “equity” (remember, fold equity is the chance of inducing your opponents to fold). The basic calculation is to compare the amount of equity you have in the hand to the share of the pot you will be putting in. For instance, if you have 10 percent equity and there are 10 bets in the pot, you will be putting in 1/11th, or 9 percent, of the pot with what is essentially a 10 percent chance of winning, making it a good call. If you have 10 percent equity with 7 bets in the pot, you should fold.

While Equilator is an important tool, it is important to understand its limitations. It measures what is called “hot/cold” equity, i.e., the absolute chance of winning the hand if it goes to showdown with no more bets. But that’s not always the best calculation. For instance, sometimes you will be forced to put in additional bets when you miss your draw on the turn. You can also have a situation where when you are behind you will have to pay off more bets than you will win on future streets if you are ahead. (This is called “reverse implied odds”.) Equilator doesn’t calculate those additional bets. On the other hand, sometimes you will be able to win more bets with your hand if it hits (“implied odds”). Equilator doesn’t count these either, and they can turn a marginal fold into a call. Finally, Equilator says nothing about position. Generally, your hands in late position are better able to realize value than hands in early position, where you have to donk and give away the strength of your hand or wait for a check-raise that may never come. Equilator measures your equity equally no matter what position you are in. Still given the weaknesses, it is a marvelous tool.

Everyone should have someone to talk poker with. Luckily, in the modern world, even if you don’t have poker buddies or coaches who are as interested in playing well as you are, online fora such as twoplustwo.com and flopturnriver.com fill the gap. You can post your hands there and get nearly instant feedback from experienced players on what you did right and wrong.

In addition to session reviews, good players keep good records. Again, there are now smartphone applications for this. But spreadsheets and pen and paper also work fine. Records should include the date of each session, the stakes played, the length of the session, and the result. Take note of any jackpots or promotional cash awards as well. This way you can calculate your winrate once you get enough hours, as well as sorting your database to see if you do better at certain times, or at certain stakes, or playing certain numbers of hours. (Detailed records will also help you stay in good stead if your taxes are audited.)

7. SOUND BANKROLL MANAGEMENT

As I said, I have had downswings of up to 475 big bets. This would suggest to you that you need an inviolable bankroll of at least 550 or so big bets to play live limit hold ‘em. And in a sense, I agree with that. You need enough money to absorb any reasonable downswing and be able to keep playing at the limit you play at.

But that obvious point about bankroll conceals more than it reveals. Most bankrolls are not inviolate. But this is true in both directions. A professional player with no other source of income has to maintain a full, inviolate bankroll, along with additional money to cover expenses. But a player with a job and disposable income does not. That player can supplement his or her bankroll, and can also take money out.

Thus, if you have a real job which pays you disposable income, you have far more freedom to take shots at higher limits. A full time player with no other income should not- that player is placing the roll at risk.

Further, no player should take a shot in an attempt to recover losses. Losing is not a reason to increase the stakes, even if we assume the player is playing his or her best game during the downswing. In fact, the personality type that wants to move up probably is more likely to have discipline problems and may fail to play well at the higher limit.

If you do take a shot, make sure game conditions at the higher limit are favorable. Don’t move up to face better players.

Don’t expect to build a bankroll by moving down to small stakes. This was doable online, but live poker rooms have fixed costs and can’t give 4/8 tables a big break on the rake. As a result, the percentage taken out in low stakes games is much higher, and it is extremely difficult to beat games with oppressive rakes.

Bankroll management is the final arrow in the disciplined player’s quiver. By always having enough money to play, you ensure you can outrun the variance and win money, if you are good enough. Risking an undersized bankroll is risking ruin.

Robert Goren
11-13-2014, 12:54 AM
The first thing you must do is learn how to figure out what your opponent has. If you can't do that, quit. The second thing you need to do is figure out to get your opponent to do what you want him to do. If you master the first, but you have trouble with second, you can be a break even player in small stakes games if you play tight. The one of the secrets to poker is that it is more about your opponent than it is about you. My dad use to spend the whole session setting a sucker for big pot. He was a much better player than me.

thaskalos
11-13-2014, 01:25 AM
The first thing you must do is learn how to figure out what your opponent has. If you can't do that, quit. The second thing you need to do is figure out to get your opponent to do what you want him to do. If you master the first, but you have trouble with second, you can be a break even player in small stakes games if you play tight. The one of the secrets to poker is that it is more about your opponent than it is about you. My dad use to spend the whole session setting a sucker for big pot. He was a much better player than me.
I don't understand your thinking here, Robert. If I master your first requirement, and learn how to figure out what my opponent has...then I don't need to master anything else. I'd never lose, even against strong competition. Knowing what your opponent has is the key to the mint.

thaskalos
11-13-2014, 01:51 AM
7. SOUND BANKROLL MANAGEMENT

As I said, I have had downswings of up to 475 big bets. This would suggest to you that you need an inviolable bankroll of at least 550 or so big bets to play live limit hold ‘em. And in a sense, I agree with that. You need enough money to absorb any reasonable downswing and be able to keep playing at the limit you play at.


This is the only part of your essay that I disagree with. I believe that the bankroll needs to be re-evaluated periodically...in order to make sure that we still have enough money to keep playing at the stakes that we've become accustomed. Let's say that I have the $11,000 that you suggest I need for the 10/20 game...and I suffer a similar downswing as yours, losing 475 big bets. My original $11,000 bankroll has now been reduced to $1,500...and I no longer belong in the 10/20 game. In fact...I should have dropped to the 5/10 game as soon as my bankroll hit the $5,000 mark. You are not "due" to start winning just because you've experienced a dramatic downswing.

Hoofless_Wonder
11-13-2014, 04:19 AM
I don't enjoy poker nearly as much as the ponies, for a couple of reasons. It's the same 52 cards every hand, and it really exposes my lack of discipline. On the other hand, playing it online and gaining a better understanding of the variance as well as the "real time" measurement of success can only improve one's skills as a horseplayer. Or, even a sports bettor.

What I need is to play poker while hooked up for remedial electro-shock behavior correction when making a mistake, something like the "There's No Disgrace At Home" episode of the Simpsons, when their family therapy session with Dr. Marvin Monroe went awry.....

dilanesp
11-13-2014, 04:24 AM
This is the only part of your essay that I disagree with. I believe that the bankroll needs to be re-evaluated periodically...in order to make sure that we still have enough money to keep playing at the stakes that we've become accustomed. Let's say that I have the $11,000 that you suggest I need for the 10/20 and I suffer a similar downswing as yours, losing 475 big bets. My original $11,000 bankroll has now been reduced to $1,500...and I no longer belong in the 10/20 game. In fact...I should have dropped to the 5/10 game as soon as my bankroll hit the $5,000 mark. You are not "due" to start winning just because you've experienced a dramatic downswing.

Online you would be 100 percent right. But rake changes things live, because lower stakes games tend to have the same or similar rakes to high stakes games. So moving down often puts one in an unprofitable game, which means you are basically forced to risk your entire bankroll at the limit you establish a winrate in. So have a contingency plan!

barn32
11-13-2014, 05:40 AM
Interesting dissertation. Agree with most of it, disagree with some. But that's poker (or horse racing.)

A few points:

1. Rake: Obnoxious (enough said, well not quite.)

2. Mathematics: Highly overrated. The kids these days are all into "ranges" and such. Reading hands and psychology are the most important elements to master (in my opinion).

3. Bankroll requirements: Highly underrated. You need much, much, much more money than you actually think (plus one year's living expenses) in order to even begin playing, and most players fail this test.

4. Knowledge of the game: Critical

5. Session review: Ongoing. When I was playing lots of poker most of what I did was review, review, review. Every hand I played. I replayed every hand over and over in my mind, and I did this while the game was ongoing. Did I over bet? Could I have saved a bet (or two, or three). Should I have even played the hand. Should I have raised. Should I have just called, etc., etc., etc.

6. Player analysis: Some people call this putting someone on a range. But I personally think that ranges fail. You just have to have a good "feel" for what someone will play in certain situations, and with experience and knowledge you can get pretty damn good at it. Many times you can narrow down someones holding to one or two hands. Most "ranges" are way too wide. Dewey Tomko said it best: "Poker is a game of feel."

7. Chip Reese was so damn good because he had a talent for the game. His worst game was someone else's best game.

8. Paying off: bad players pay off, and good players make value laydowns.

9. I've never played with Chip, but I played a lot with his former partner Danny Robison. Talk about making value laydowns. Danny played stud, and the pots are usually bigger because of the extra betting round. But Danny had no problem folding a nice pot on the river if he thought you had him beat. He was also a master at extracting extra bets when the situation was reversed.

10. California Poker: The rake in Las Vegas used to be unsurpassed. $2 max rake for a 10-20 limit Hold'em game--and that was the max. It didn't always get that high. Times have changed. The rake is so oppressive in California, it takes all of the fun (and profit in many cases) right out of the game. It used to cost $8 a half an hour to play 20-40 limit, $9 for 30-60 and $10 for 40-80. It's probably more now. That's a lot of money coming off the table every hour. Hard to overcome.

11. Stock market: I can buy 100 shares of stock for $1.00. Same when I sell. That's $2.00 to control as much as well, $10,000 worth of equities. These days it's about as much bang for your buck as you're likely to get.

12. Time: Poker is a time consuming game (so is horseracing for that matter). It requires effort. You have to fight. You have to beat the rake. You have to put up with a lot of obnoxious people. You have to commute, tip people, travel, search for games, wait for seats, and get out with your money. It's work. It's a job. If it's a job you want, fine. If not...

Robert Goren
11-13-2014, 09:07 AM
I don't understand your thinking here, Robert. If I master your first requirement, and learn how to figure out what my opponent has...then I don't need to master anything else. I'd never lose, even against strong competition. Knowing what your opponent has is the key to the mint. Knowing what your opponent has is not the key to the mint! Getting him to put in his money when you have him beat is. Otherwise you end up playing for the blinds. 30 years ago you could do really well if you were good at hand reading. Not so anymore because bluffing is far less frequent. Hero calls was where the money was in 1985. Nobody but the very best poker players worried about pot management. Like with everything else, the internet has forced the spreading around of learning basic skills of playing poker. The raising of the educational level of gamblers by the internet was something few saw coming(including me). Even if it didn't do it directly, it created a market for books that did. But I digress.

DeltaLover
11-13-2014, 09:18 AM
Nice thread :ThmbUp:

One thing I might add, is that what I find to be the most critical skill in poker is nothing else that game selection. The only way you can consistently beat poker is to play against inferior competition, if this is not true and you place yourself among equal (or even worst superior) competition, you will end up losing both your money and your time.

Also, it is my impression that as you become older, you are becoming a gradually easier target for younger gamblers, as your speed of thinking is slowing down, your skill does not evolve and your physical condition does not allow you for long gambling session, that in most of the cases are required..

Robert Goren
11-13-2014, 10:15 AM
Nice thread :ThmbUp:

One thing I might add, is that what I find to be the most critical skill in poker is nothing else that game selection. The only way you can consistently beat poker is to play against inferior competition, if this is not true and you place yourself among equal (or even worst superior) competition, you will end up losing both your money and your time.

Also, it is my impression that as you become older, you are becoming a gradually easier target for younger gamblers, as your speed of thinking is slowing down, your skill does not evolve and your physical condition does not allow you for long gambling session, that in most of the cases are required.. You are right about game selection. The problem is these days you can't do much of that. In the old days of internet poker, you could pick and chose.
Young people don't preconceived notions to hold them back in developing new ideas. That is why you see big leaps of knowledge when they get interested in a subject. Experience is not always a good thing.

thaskalos
11-13-2014, 01:03 PM
Online you would be 100 percent right. But rake changes things live, because lower stakes games tend to have the same or similar rakes to high stakes games. So moving down often puts one in an unprofitable game, which means you are basically forced to risk your entire bankroll at the limit you establish a winrate in. So have a contingency plan!
IMO...online poker was the vehicle responsible for poker's recent meteoric rise in this country. Live poker was dead in this country before the internet version was introduced...and it will die again if the live version of poker is the only one that remains. The rake is only one of the reasons; the other reason is the slow tempo of the live game. The young players today want to stay home and multi-table; traveling far just so they could sit there and fold hand after hand will not hold their interest for long.

If internet poker is not legalized soon...then tournament poker will be the only form of poker to survive the decade...IMO.

_______
11-13-2014, 02:59 PM
IMO...online poker was the vehicle responsible for poker's recent meteoric rise in this country. Live poker was dead in this country before the internet version was introduced...and it will die again if the live version of poker is the only one that remains. The rake is only one of the reasons; the other reason is the slow tempo of the live game. The young players today want to stay home and multi-table; traveling far just so they could sit there and fold hand after hand will not hold their interest for long.

If internet poker is not legalized soon...then tournament poker will be the only form of poker to survive the decade...IMO.

Internet poker hasn't disappeared in the U.S. anymore than alcohol did during prohibition. It's somewhat harder to move money on and off and you have to wait a little longer for games to fill than before Black Friday but otherwise it rolls on unimepeded.

If internet poker isn't legalized soon, then the unlicensed sites will continue to grow. That's what makes Sheldon Adelson's campaign against it so transparent. A regulated site is much more likely to work with mitigating addiction than one offshore and unregulated.

I also want to give a thumbs up to the OP on a great series of essays.

I play online because the rake is 5% capped at $3 regardless of the limit. You also have the benefit of tracking softwear which makes understanding your opponents style much easier.

I still go to the local poker room 2-3x/year because I miss the social aspect at home. But the future of poker is online regardless of whether it's taxed and regulated or not.

thaskalos
11-13-2014, 03:53 PM
Internet poker hasn't disappeared in the U.S. anymore than alcohol did during prohibition. It's somewhat harder to move money on and off and you have to wait a little longer for games to fill than before Black Friday but otherwise it rolls on unimepeded.

If internet poker isn't legalized soon, then the unlicensed sites will continue to grow. That's what makes Sheldon Adelson's campaign against it so transparent. A regulated site is much more likely to work with mitigating addiction than one offshore and unregulated.

I also want to give a thumbs up to the OP on a great series of essays.

I play online because the rake is 5% capped at $3 regardless of the limit. You also have the benefit of tracking softwear which makes understanding your opponents style much easier.

I still go to the local poker room 2-3x/year because I miss the social aspect at home. But the future of poker is online regardless of whether it's taxed and regulated or not.
Internet poker hasn't totally disappeared, but it's hard to trust any online poker site with a sizable deposit right now, if you are a USA resident. Plus...some states - Illinois included -- have ambiguous laws in the books which may lead to incriminating charges being filed against the act of poker playing itself. This was never the case before; the illegality surrounding online poker was restricted to the act of running and supplying the game to USA residents.

My own lawyer has advised me to stay clear of online poker until the situation improves.

ReplayRandall
11-13-2014, 04:01 PM
Nice thread :ThmbUp:

One thing I might add, is that what I find to be the most critical skill in poker is nothing else that game selection. The only way you can consistently beat poker is to play against inferior competition, if this is not true and you place yourself among equal (or even worst superior) competition, you will end up losing both your money and your time.

Also, it is my impression that as you become older, you are becoming a gradually easier target for younger gamblers, as your speed of thinking is slowing down, your skill does not evolve and your physical condition does not allow you for long gambling session, that in most of the cases are required..

A poker players skill level and playing capability is never "static". They are either in decline or rising in form, just like t-breds do. When playing sharp, focused poker, and the cards are breaking fair, a player has to play at higher limits and against tougher opponents to know if they are indeed rising in skill and can hold their own, thus increasing their win rate. How do you think you become the best at anything? By continually playing against better players until those players are in your rear-view mirror. If not, go back down a level or take a break/lay-off to refresh yourself and replenish your bankroll. During this down time, you need to "muck-out" your stall, so to speak, getting rid of all negativity, bad-beats and mentally re-start your skill adjustments with respected mentoring conversations, paid mentors preferably, and establish a new game plan. Find your "true" game, having your highest skill set and passion for. When ready to fire fresh from the lay-off, be in the best physical and mental shape you can muster, with no personal problems left unresolved. With a fresh bankroll and a renewed optimism, go out and prove to yourself just how great you can truly be........if need be, rinse and repeat this cycle until you discover the truth of how skillful you really are........above all, always be honest with yourself.

thaskalos
11-13-2014, 06:01 PM
Many poker players know what to do...and many also know what to do during all the facets of the game. But actually doing the right thing when under pressure is never an easy thing to accomplish. Sometimes you do all the right things, and you find yourself way behind and steaming. And then...all you see are the "exceptions to the rule". :)

You are never good enough to overcome even the occasional sloppy play.

Robert Goren
11-13-2014, 08:59 PM
Many poker players know what to do...and many also know what to do during all the facets of the game. But actually doing the right thing when under pressure is never an easy thing to accomplish. Sometimes you do all the right things, and you find yourself way behind and steaming. And then...all you see are the "exceptions to the rule". :)

You are never good enough to overcome even the occasional sloppy play. True in forms of gambling including horse racing.

horses4courses
11-13-2014, 09:41 PM
You are never good enough to overcome even the occasional sloppy play.

True, but only in the short term.
Being able to survive that bad beat is the key.

Play well over a long period, and you will be a winning player.
Poker isn't unique here, either. It's the case in most gambling games.

thaskalos
11-13-2014, 11:13 PM
True, but only in the short term.
Being able to survive that bad beat is the key.

Play well over a long period, and you will be a winning player.
Poker isn't unique here, either. It's the case in most gambling games.

The big mistake that winning poker players make is overestimating the edge that they have over the other players. They think that their high level of skill entitles them to occasionally engage in sloppy play...because they can outplay the other players most of the time. I have a close friend who is an excellent player...but he thinks that he is an even better player than he really is. He often plays starting hands that he knows belong in the muck...simply because he knows that he can outplay his competition in the latter streets of the hand. But you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, and this substantial leak of his is the reason why he is not as successful as his overall skill entitles him to be.

The edge that the winning player holds over his competition is tiny...and he needs to be near-perfect in his play, if this edge is to be maintained. Sloppy play cannot be tolerated by even the best players.

ReplayRandall
11-13-2014, 11:30 PM
The big mistake that winning poker players make is overestimating the edge that they have over the other players. They think that their high level of skill entitles them to occasionally engage in sloppy play...because they can outplay the other players most of the time. I have a close friend who is an excellent player...but he thinks that he is an even better player than he really is. He often plays starting hands that he knows belong in the muck...simply because he knows that he can outplay his competition in the latter streets of the hand. But you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, and this substantial leak of his is the reason why he is not as successful as his overall skill entitles him to be.

The edge that the winning player holds over his competition is tiny...and he needs to be near-perfect in his play, if this edge is to be maintained. Sloppy play cannot be tolerated by even the best players.


Your skillful friend seems to be testing where the boundries of his play fully extend to, which is understandable. The problem with very elite players, believe or not, is just sheer boredom........

thaskalos
11-13-2014, 11:45 PM
Your skillful friend seems to be testing where the boundries of his play fully extend to, which is understandable. The problem with very elite players, believe or not, is just sheer boredom........

I believe it. Boredom is also the main reason why some of these "very elite" players are sometimes out there looking for backers.

PhantomOnTour
11-13-2014, 11:53 PM
Boredom costs the horse player too, and in much the same manner.

I love Race 2 and Race 8 on a card....but can I sit thru Races 3-7 and not get bored?

ReplayRandall
11-13-2014, 11:55 PM
I believe it. Boredom is also the main reason why some of these "very elite" players are sometimes out there looking for backers.


Under the right circumstances and guidance, a sometimes very profitable and timely investment for the shrewd backer........$$

ReplayRandall
11-14-2014, 12:04 AM
Boredom costs the horse player too, and in much the same manner.

I love Race 2 and Race 8 on a card....but can I sit thru Races 3-7 and not get bored?


Phantom, if I "cross-booked" you between races 3-7, thus costing you possibly twice the loss, would it give you more patience? If you must play, try a small show parlay for action.....

thaskalos
11-14-2014, 12:14 AM
Under the right circumstances and guidance, a sometimes very profitable and timely investment for the shrewd backer........$$
Good for the shrewd backer...but not so good for the bored elite player.

dilanesp
11-14-2014, 05:48 PM
2. Mathematics: Highly overrated. The kids these days are all into "ranges" and such. Reading hands and psychology are the most important elements to master (in my opinion).

In 98 percent of poker situations, you can't read a "hand". Every once in awhile, of course you can:

We are playing a 5/5 $300 no-limit game and raise to $15 with AhKd in middle position, and get five calls, including from a tight-passive old man in the small blind. The flop comes AsKs3c, and we bet $60 into the $90 pot, only the old man calls.

The turn comes the 6s, and the old man leads out, making a pot sized bet of $210, leaving just $15 left in his stack. We have him covered. We fold.

In that situation, our two pair is never good. Because our opponent is tight and passive, he's not going to make a gigantic bet into that board (where we often have a set or 2 pair) with anything other than a flush. We have four outs to make a full house, which is approximately a 1 in 12 chance of making our hand, and that means we need 11 to 1 effective odds to call. The actual odds we are getting, even if we assume we get his last $15 if the board pairs up, is $435 to $225. So we fold.

So you are right, sometimes we are able to read hands.

And yet, you are wrong. Notice how even when we know exactly what our opponents have, math still matters. If the same hand occurs but he only has $15 left to bet into the $210 pot, we should call, because even though we know he has a flush, we only need 11 to 1 odds to call, and we are getting $235 to $15 on our call, over 15 to 1!

In the end, it's all math.

But that's the simple situation. Often times, our opponents will take the same line with different hands. So now, we are in the same no limit game in the big blind with KhQh. An opponent raises to $15 and it folds to us, and we call.

The flop comes Jh9s2d. We check and our opponent bets $20 into the $30 pot. What should we do?

Well, that depends precisely on what our opponent's range is, which depends in turn on (1) what hands she has pre-flop, and (2) what hands from that pre-flop range she fires a continuation bet with.

Consider several different potential opponent ranges:

(a) a very tight range, where she only bets that flop with her strongest hands, checking behind hands like ace-king. In that situation, our king and queen are often going to be compromised outs, because she often has AA, KK, QQ, KJ, or QJ. Plus, she isn't folding very often if we raise.
(b) a very loose range, including all sorts of hands that will fold to a raise, such as missed overs (AQ), small pairs (66), etc. Even if we do get called, our outs are going to be good a lot of the time, including the K and the Q as well as the T and running hearts.
(c) something in between (a) and (b).

In what sense does the correct play here not require the player to count the combinations of hands in the bettor's range, compute how much of that range we are ahead of when we hand improves and how much of that range folds if we raise, and then call, fold, or raise accordingly?

Sorry, the game is ALL math. Even where you have reads, what you do based on those reads is based on math. And that's a good thing too. It's much easier to make mistakes based on tilt and psychological factors when you are just guessing what cards people hold. When you put people on ranges, you can do whatever the math tells you to do, every time.

The rigorous math types win the money.

horses4courses
11-14-2014, 07:59 PM
The big mistake that winning poker players make is overestimating the edge that they have over the other players. They think that their high level of skill entitles them to occasionally engage in sloppy play...because they can outplay the other players most of the time. I have a close friend who is an excellent player...but he thinks that he is an even better player than he really is. He often plays starting hands that he knows belong in the muck...simply because he knows that he can outplay his competition in the latter streets of the hand. But you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, and this substantial leak of his is the reason why he is not as successful as his overall skill entitles him to be.

The edge that the winning player holds over his competition is tiny...and he needs to be near-perfect in his play, if this edge is to be maintained. Sloppy play cannot be tolerated by even the best players.

You're right.
I misunderstood, thinking you were referring to how the best players
react to losing to sloppy players. That can be a test for even the best
of players - getting beaten by bad luck when an inferior player
catches a hand late that he/she should never have been involved in.

It's a very tough gig.
Finding bad players is not easy, and then there's the rake on top of that.

thaskalos
11-14-2014, 08:25 PM
You're right.
I misunderstood, thinking you were referring to how the best players
react to losing to sloppy players. That can be a test for even the best
of players - getting beaten by bad luck when an inferior player
catches a hand late that he/she should never have been involved in.

It's a very tough gig.
Finding bad players is not easy, and then there's the rake on top of that.

All gamblers would benefit greatly if they became poker players first. The agony that the poker player suffers cannot be found in any other gambling endeavor. Nothing compares to the feeling that you get when you see the worst player at the table sporting a stupid grin as he is taking your money in hand after hand.

You get a strong stomach playing poker. Either that...or you destroy yourself.

barn32
11-14-2014, 10:14 PM
In what sense does the correct play here not require the player to count the combinations of hands in the bettor's range, compute how much of that range we are ahead of when we hand improves and how much of that range folds if we raise, and then call, fold, or raise accordingly?

Sorry, that's not how I play.

If I did all of that, I'd die of a gargantuan headache.

Now, you can make the argument, that this is exactly what I'm doing intuitively--and call it math. I can't dispute that. But to go through the precise procedure you outlined--doesn't happen.

dilanesp
11-14-2014, 11:33 PM
Sorry, that's not how I play.

If I did all of that, I'd die of a gargantuan headache.

Now, you can make the argument, that this is exactly what I'm doing intuitively--and call it math. I can't dispute that. But to go through the precise procedure you outlined--doesn't happen.

It's not a gargantuan headache for me. :)

dilanesp
11-15-2014, 03:03 AM
OK, let's talk seat selection.

Once you get a table, where do you want to sit? At first you may have no choice. The floorperson or brush will tell you where to sit. But when seats open up, you can change. Keep your discipline. Don’t change seats because your luck is bad, or because another player was winning in a particular seat. The short term results of people in seats are irrelevant– there’s no such thing as a “lucky” or “unlucky” seat in poker.

I do think that players can take into account comfort. Some players with poor vision may benefit from not sitting in an end seat where they have a hard time seeing the community cards and any exposed cards. Other players may feel uncomfortable sandwiched in the middle. It is hard to measure the EV of personal comfort, but it probably counts for something. It still should not be the overriding concern though; if you are presented between one seat to the left of an excellent player and another seat to the left of two fish and across from that player, that counts more than comfort does.

However, the basic concept of seat selection is simple– money flows clockwise around a poker table. It flows from players acting out of position to players acting in position. Therefore, the best seats are those which allow a player to capitalize on the mistakes of those who have acted before him and her– they are the seats to the left of bad players. Especially bad players who play way too many hands pre-flop.

One of the basic statistics used by online players in their heads-up displays is “VPIP”, which stands for money “Voluntarily Put Into the Pot”. It is just a ratio of the number of hands where a player takes any pre-flop action that involves putting money voluntarily into the pot (i.e., any action other than checking an option after posting a blind or folding), divided by the number of hands played. In a full ring game, a typical, good tight aggressive player might have a VPIP of 17 or so, playing 1 out of every 6 hands. An advanced player playing the loose aggressive style that is popular in high-stakes games might play as many as 28 percent of hands in a full ring game. However, bad players are notoriously impatient and refuse to fold any “decent” hand regardless of position and how many raises have been made. These players have VPIP’s of 40, 50, even 75 percent. Every so often you even see a person who plays 100 percent of hands pre-flop. These are the people you want to get to the left of.

It works quite simply. Our opponent with a VPIP of 75 is going to be playing a range of hands that include a lot of bad holdings. We are going to play tighter and more correctly. As a result, when we get into the pot against our opponent, we will have a huge advantage. For instance, our tight aggressive player from above may be playing the top 17 percent or so of hands against the fish and folding the rest. (This isn’t quite true, as we haven’t considered pre-flop. But it’s a useful assumption to make this point.) So every time the tight player gets his or her money in against the fish, he or she is going to have a gigantic advantage against the fish’s range. The tight player will win far more contested pots than the fish does, because the tight player’s range is stronger. Over time, the fish’s strategy of playing too many hands will slowly donate money to the tighter player on the fish’s left.

But if tight-aggressive is good, loose-aggressive is even better. Our 28 percent player will be playing a wider range including some weaker hands against the fish. But a 28 percent range is still extremely strong against a 75 percent range. And the loose player will be playing in more pots against the fish, and therefore bleeding the fish faster. Further, presumably, the loose-aggressive player will also have a post-flop advantage, which will result in an even larger transfer of money. Sitting to the left of the fish is like being the guy closest to the Brinks truck when the money starts falling out of it. Being loose-aggressive rather than tight-aggressive is like having a vacuum cleaner available rather than having to pick up the money by hand.

In contrast, you don’t want good players anywhere near you. It’s already obvious why you don’t want them to your right. As they are playing relatively well pre-flop, they are not giving you any opportunities to get money in against them with a stronger range of hands like the fish are. But you also don’t really want them to your left either, where they can see what you are doing to the fish on your right and 3-bet you light, putting you in uncomfortable spots. (They are also likely to be tougher to steal blinds from when the action folds around to you.) The best place for a good player is across the table, where you are likely to get into fewer pots against him or her.

Finally, in a ideal scenario, you would want nits who fold too much and play too tight to sit to your left. This will ensure that your raises are likely to get you into shorthanded pots against the fish to your right, and also will give you opportunities to steal the blinds from late position if it folds around to you.

Bear in mind that I mentioned the principles of seat selection in their order of importance. By far, the most important thing is to get to the left of fish. If I have to tolerate a good player to my left to get to the left of fish, I still think it is worth it– we are still going to capture a lot of money from the players to our right even if we have to share some of it with a good player to our left. And while it’s nice to steal the blinds (and important in tough, higher stakes games where many pots are heads-up contests to win the blinds), you are always much better off in a situation where you have fish to your right who are playing too many hands and building big pots which you can contest and try to win, as opposed to the situation where you are just picking up the blinds once or twice each orbit. So (1) choose a seat to the left of fish. To the extent compatible with (1), (2) put good players across the table from you. And to the extent compatible with (1) and (2), put nits to your left.

Just like with table selection, don’t change seats so often that it becomes obvious what you are doing, and don’t follow a fish who is clearly trying to get away from you. You want players to be comfortable. And bear in mind that a table with a number of bad players is still going to be profitable even if your seat is bad. You won’t win as much money as you would sitting to the left of the fish, but you will still be getting into pots with stronger ranges than your bad opponents, and you will still win over the long term.

thaskalos
11-15-2014, 03:59 AM
OK, let's talk seat selection.

Once you get a table, where do you want to sit? At first you may have no choice. The floorperson or brush will tell you where to sit. But when seats open up, you can change. Keep your discipline. Don’t change seats because your luck is bad, or because another player was winning in a particular seat. The short term results of people in seats are irrelevant– there’s no such thing as a “lucky” or “unlucky” seat in poker.

I do think that players can take into account comfort. Some players with poor vision may benefit from not sitting in an end seat where they have a hard time seeing the community cards and any exposed cards. Other players may feel uncomfortable sandwiched in the middle. It is hard to measure the EV of personal comfort, but it probably counts for something. It still should not be the overriding concern though; if you are presented between one seat to the left of an excellent player and another seat to the left of two fish and across from that player, that counts more than comfort does.

However, the basic concept of seat selection is simple– money flows clockwise around a poker table. It flows from players acting out of position to players acting in position. Therefore, the best seats are those which allow a player to capitalize on the mistakes of those who have acted before him and her– they are the seats to the left of bad players. Especially bad players who play way too many hands pre-flop.

One of the basic statistics used by online players in their heads-up displays is “VPIP”, which stands for money “Voluntarily Put Into the Pot”. It is just a ratio of the number of hands where a player takes any pre-flop action that involves putting money voluntarily into the pot (i.e., any action other than checking an option after posting a blind or folding), divided by the number of hands played. In a full ring game, a typical, good tight aggressive player might have a VPIP of 17 or so, playing 1 out of every 6 hands. An advanced player playing the loose aggressive style that is popular in high-stakes games might play as many as 28 percent of hands in a full ring game. However, bad players are notoriously impatient and refuse to fold any “decent” hand regardless of position and how many raises have been made. These players have VPIP’s of 40, 50, even 75 percent. Every so often you even see a person who plays 100 percent of hands pre-flop. These are the people you want to get to the left of.

It works quite simply. Our opponent with a VPIP of 75 is going to be playing a range of hands that include a lot of bad holdings. We are going to play tighter and more correctly. As a result, when we get into the pot against our opponent, we will have a huge advantage. For instance, our tight aggressive player from above may be playing the top 17 percent or so of hands against the fish and folding the rest. (This isn’t quite true, as we haven’t considered pre-flop. But it’s a useful assumption to make this point.) So every time the tight player gets his or her money in against the fish, he or she is going to have a gigantic advantage against the fish’s range. The tight player will win far more contested pots than the fish does, because the tight player’s range is stronger. Over time, the fish’s strategy of playing too many hands will slowly donate money to the tighter player on the fish’s left.

But if tight-aggressive is good, loose-aggressive is even better. Our 28 percent player will be playing a wider range including some weaker hands against the fish. But a 28 percent range is still extremely strong against a 75 percent range. And the loose player will be playing in more pots against the fish, and therefore bleeding the fish faster. Further, presumably, the loose-aggressive player will also have a post-flop advantage, which will result in an even larger transfer of money. Sitting to the left of the fish is like being the guy closest to the Brinks truck when the money starts falling out of it. Being loose-aggressive rather than tight-aggressive is like having a vacuum cleaner available rather than having to pick up the money by hand.

In contrast, you don’t want good players anywhere near you. It’s already obvious why you don’t want them to your right. As they are playing relatively well pre-flop, they are not giving you any opportunities to get money in against them with a stronger range of hands like the fish are. But you also don’t really want them to your left either, where they can see what you are doing to the fish on your right and 3-bet you light, putting you in uncomfortable spots. (They are also likely to be tougher to steal blinds from when the action folds around to you.) The best place for a good player is across the table, where you are likely to get into fewer pots against him or her.

Finally, in a ideal scenario, you would want nits who fold too much and play too tight to sit to your left. This will ensure that your raises are likely to get you into shorthanded pots against the fish to your right, and also will give you opportunities to steal the blinds from late position if it folds around to you.

Bear in mind that I mentioned the principles of seat selection in their order of importance. By far, the most important thing is to get to the left of fish. If I have to tolerate a good player to my left to get to the left of fish, I still think it is worth it– we are still going to capture a lot of money from the players to our right even if we have to share some of it with a good player to our left. And while it’s nice to steal the blinds (and important in tough, higher stakes games where many pots are heads-up contests to win the blinds), you are always much better off in a situation where you have fish to your right who are playing too many hands and building big pots which you can contest and try to win, as opposed to the situation where you are just picking up the blinds once or twice each orbit. So (1) choose a seat to the left of fish. To the extent compatible with (1), (2) put good players across the table from you. And to the extent compatible with (1) and (2), put nits to your left.

Just like with table selection, don’t change seats so often that it becomes obvious what you are doing, and don’t follow a fish who is clearly trying to get away from you. You want players to be comfortable. And bear in mind that a table with a number of bad players is still going to be profitable even if your seat is bad. You won’t win as much money as you would sitting to the left of the fish, but you will still be getting into pots with stronger ranges than your bad opponents, and you will still win over the long term.

I look at seat selection a little differently than you do. When selecting a seat, it doesn't matter to me what my opponents "VPIP" is. The VPIP does not give me the information that I need in order to make up my mind on where I want to sit. What I want to know is HOW the player enters the pot pre-flop. Does he usually limp in...or does he usually raise? If the player with the high VPIP usually limps in...then he is a fish, and I'm not worried about him. I will have the advantage against him no matter WHERE my seat is relative to his. Being "closest to the Brinks truck" is not what gets you the money; the other players sitting to the left of you will still have a large say in the matter. If this player with the big VPIP usually RAISES, however...then I want him sitting to the RIGHT of me...because I want to have him act before me, so I can get a better idea of how expensive the round will get.

Instead of worrying about VPIP numbers...I worry about levels of aggression. I want the agqressive players sitting to my right...and the loose passive players could sit wherever they want.

thaskalos
11-15-2014, 04:22 AM
OK, let's talk seat selection.

Once you get a table, where do you want to sit? At first you may have no choice. The floorperson or brush will tell you where to sit. But when seats open up, you can change. Keep your discipline. Don’t change seats because your luck is bad, or because another player was winning in a particular seat. The short term results of people in seats are irrelevant– there’s no such thing as a “lucky” or “unlucky” seat in poker.

I do think that players can take into account comfort. Some players with poor vision may benefit from not sitting in an end seat where they have a hard time seeing the community cards and any exposed cards. Other players may feel uncomfortable sandwiched in the middle. It is hard to measure the EV of personal comfort, but it probably counts for something. It still should not be the overriding concern though; if you are presented between one seat to the left of an excellent player and another seat to the left of two fish and across from that player, that counts more than comfort does.

However, the basic concept of seat selection is simple– money flows clockwise around a poker table. It flows from players acting out of position to players acting in position. Therefore, the best seats are those which allow a player to capitalize on the mistakes of those who have acted before him and her– they are the seats to the left of bad players. Especially bad players who play way too many hands pre-flop.

One of the basic statistics used by online players in their heads-up displays is “VPIP”, which stands for money “Voluntarily Put Into the Pot”. It is just a ratio of the number of hands where a player takes any pre-flop action that involves putting money voluntarily into the pot (i.e., any action other than checking an option after posting a blind or folding), divided by the number of hands played. In a full ring game, a typical, good tight aggressive player might have a VPIP of 17 or so, playing 1 out of every 6 hands. An advanced player playing the loose aggressive style that is popular in high-stakes games might play as many as 28 percent of hands in a full ring game. However, bad players are notoriously impatient and refuse to fold any “decent” hand regardless of position and how many raises have been made. These players have VPIP’s of 40, 50, even 75 percent. Every so often you even see a person who plays 100 percent of hands pre-flop. These are the people you want to get to the left of.

It works quite simply. Our opponent with a VPIP of 75 is going to be playing a range of hands that include a lot of bad holdings. We are going to play tighter and more correctly. As a result, when we get into the pot against our opponent, we will have a huge advantage. For instance, our tight aggressive player from above may be playing the top 17 percent or so of hands against the fish and folding the rest. (This isn’t quite true, as we haven’t considered pre-flop. But it’s a useful assumption to make this point.) So every time the tight player gets his or her money in against the fish, he or she is going to have a gigantic advantage against the fish’s range. The tight player will win far more contested pots than the fish does, because the tight player’s range is stronger. Over time, the fish’s strategy of playing too many hands will slowly donate money to the tighter player on the fish’s left.

But if tight-aggressive is good, loose-aggressive is even better. Our 28 percent player will be playing a wider range including some weaker hands against the fish. But a 28 percent range is still extremely strong against a 75 percent range. And the loose player will be playing in more pots against the fish, and therefore bleeding the fish faster. Further, presumably, the loose-aggressive player will also have a post-flop advantage, which will result in an even larger transfer of money. Sitting to the left of the fish is like being the guy closest to the Brinks truck when the money starts falling out of it. Being loose-aggressive rather than tight-aggressive is like having a vacuum cleaner available rather than having to pick up the money by hand.

In contrast, you don’t want good players anywhere near you. It’s already obvious why you don’t want them to your right. As they are playing relatively well pre-flop, they are not giving you any opportunities to get money in against them with a stronger range of hands like the fish are. But you also don’t really want them to your left either, where they can see what you are doing to the fish on your right and 3-bet you light, putting you in uncomfortable spots. (They are also likely to be tougher to steal blinds from when the action folds around to you.) The best place for a good player is across the table, where you are likely to get into fewer pots against him or her.

Finally, in a ideal scenario, you would want nits who fold too much and play too tight to sit to your left. This will ensure that your raises are likely to get you into shorthanded pots against the fish to your right, and also will give you opportunities to steal the blinds from late position if it folds around to you.

Bear in mind that I mentioned the principles of seat selection in their order of importance. By far, the most important thing is to get to the left of fish. If I have to tolerate a good player to my left to get to the left of fish, I still think it is worth it– we are still going to capture a lot of money from the players to our right even if we have to share some of it with a good player to our left. And while it’s nice to steal the blinds (and important in tough, higher stakes games where many pots are heads-up contests to win the blinds), you are always much better off in a situation where you have fish to your right who are playing too many hands and building big pots which you can contest and try to win, as opposed to the situation where you are just picking up the blinds once or twice each orbit. So (1) choose a seat to the left of fish. To the extent compatible with (1), (2) put good players across the table from you. And to the extent compatible with (1) and (2), put nits to your left.

Just like with table selection, don’t change seats so often that it becomes obvious what you are doing, and don’t follow a fish who is clearly trying to get away from you. You want players to be comfortable. And bear in mind that a table with a number of bad players is still going to be profitable even if your seat is bad. You won’t win as much money as you would sitting to the left of the fish, but you will still be getting into pots with stronger ranges than your bad opponents, and you will still win over the long term.

The more I read your post, the more you lose me. You say that you want to sit to the left of the fish with the high VPIP, so your superior starting hand will "bleed" him...but you didn't mention raising even once. How do you expect to isolate against the fish, if you don't raise? The fish calls the blinds from early position, and you, with your "superior holding" also call right behind him. There are now two early callers in the hand...and a bunch of players yet to act. Do you suppose that there will be a shortage of callers yet to come...now that there is decent money already in an unraised pot? How are you supposed to "bleed the fish"...when other players have position on you in the hand?

If you are targeting the fish, then you RAISE...so you can thin out the competition. But if you do this too much...then the better players in the game will see right through you...and they'll act appropriately. It ain't likely that you'll be the only fisherman in the game. It's naive to think that the better players won't notice what you are doing...simply because they are sitting across the table.

Stillriledup
11-15-2014, 04:30 AM
Isn't poker all about tells? Aren't the very best players "Students of human moves" (like Paul Newman talked about in the Color of Money)?

If i was going to play poker for a living, before i even learned one rule about play, i would study human behavior and become an expert in that first. Anyone here an expert in human moves and feel that your best edge is learning tells from other players?

thaskalos
11-15-2014, 04:32 AM
Isn't poker all about tells? Aren't the very best players "Students of human moves" (like Paul Newman talked about in the Color of Money)?

If i was going to play poker for a living, before i even learned one rule about play, i would study human behavior and become an expert in that first. Anyone here an expert in human moves and feel that your best edge is learning tells from other players?

Tells only work for Mike McDermott.

dilanesp
11-15-2014, 05:48 AM
I look at seat selection a little differently than you do. When selecting a seat, it doesn't matter to me what my opponents "VPIP" is. The VPIP does not give me the information that I need in order to make up my mind on where I want to sit. What I want to know is HOW the player enters the pot pre-flop. Does he usually limp in...or does he usually raise? If the player with the high VPIP usually limps in...then he is a fish, and I'm not worried about him. I will have the advantage against him no matter WHERE my seat is relative to his. Being "closest to the Brinks truck" is not what gets you the money; the other players sitting to the left of you will still have a large say in the matter. If this player with the big VPIP usually RAISES, however...then I want him sitting to the RIGHT of me...because I want to have him act before me, so I can get a better idea of how expensive the round will get.

Instead of worrying about VPIP numbers...I worry about levels of aggression. I want the agqressive players sitting to my right...and the loose passive players could sit wherever they want.

That's really quite wrong, for a couple of very important reasons.

First of all, being directly to the left of the brinks truck gives YOU the opportunity to raise when you are ahead of the brinks truck's range. Now you mention that you need to worry about the players to the left of you, and that's true. But you do that through pre-flop strategy-- the further out of position you are, the less hands you play, even if the brinks truck to the right of you is playing 100 percent of the time.

Nor does it matter whether the brinks truck is raising rather than calling. In either circumstance, you should be raising hands that are stronger than her range. It is somewhat better if the brinks truck is raising-- then you will get to see many more heads up pots as your 3-bets drive people out of the hand. But even if the brinks truck is just calling, the people on your left, even if they are good players, have to deal with your raises.

Whereas, if you put players between you and the brinks truck, what you are doing is allowing them to have the first crack at that player's money, and leaving yourself to deal with raised pots.

One of the most important mathematical concepts in poker is the gap concept (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poker_strategy#Gap_concept) . Essentially, it requires a stronger hand to come into a pot that is already raised than to come into a pot with a raise, because a raise narrows your opponent's range and you need a stronger hand that the narrower range to come in.

Putting players between you and the fish forces you to fold hands that you would have otherwise been able to isolate against the fish, due to the gap concept.

Finally, "how expensive the round will get" is not a meaningful concept in poker. In no limit, a ratio called "stack to pot ratio (http://www.thepokerbank.com/strategy/concepts/spr/) " gets at what you are, I suspect, trying to get at. If an aggressive player is to your left in a no limit game, you can often get placed into situations where, after putting in a pre-flop raise, the SPR is low enough that it forces you to go all in after any sort of a 3-bet.

BUT: in actuality, that's less of a concern than you might think, even in no limit. (In limit, SPR basically almost never matters at all.) Basically, if players get all-in pre-flop, positional advantages are very much nullified. In other words, a player who is constantly forcing players out of position to commit their stack is giving up any information that might be conveyed to them about the strength of their opponents' hands. If you have someone to your left who is constantly and aggressively attacking your raises in a no-limit game, that's actually good, not bad. You simply calculate the pot odds of a shove and shove when you have sufficient equity against his range. He's doing you a HUGE favor.

Honestly, I think a lot of live players make the mistake you are making. They are uncomfortable having to play a lot of bloated pots. They want to get in cheap, flop something, and use their supposedly superior post-flop strategy and reads to outplay their opponents. So they seek out seats with that in mind.

But that's really the wrong way to look at it. The object is to get your money in good, i.e., to make plays with a positive expected value against your opponent's range. Getting your money in good pre-flop is just as valuable as getting it in good post-flop. In many ways, it is more valuable, because you get to do it far more often than you get a chance to get their stack post-flop. Sit to the left of the fish, and you do this. If some aggressive player sits to your left and tries to commit you to the pot pre-flop, just put him on a range and get your money in good against him.

And of course, all that is even more true in limit games. Limit games are almost completely pre-flop games, because you don't really have any chance to "trade mistakes" and make up pre-flop errors with post-flop brilliance. So putting yourself in position where you can maximize your return on an opponent's pre-flop mistakes is basically the road to certain profitability in limit.

dilanesp
11-15-2014, 05:53 AM
The more I read your post, the more you lose me. You say that you want to sit to the left of the fish with the high VPIP, so your superior starting hand will "bleed" him...but you didn't mention raising even once. How do you expect to isolate against the fish, if you don't raise? The fish calls the blinds from early position, and you, with your "superior holding" also call right behind him. There are now two early callers in the hand...and a bunch of players yet to act. Do you suppose that there will be a shortage of callers yet to come...now that there is decent money already in an unraised pot? How are you supposed to "bleed the fish"...when other players have position on you in the hand?

If you are targeting the fish, then you RAISE...so you can thin out the competition. But if you do this too much...then the better players in the game will see right through you...and they'll act appropriately. It ain't likely that you'll be the only fisherman in the game. It's naive to think that the better players won't notice what you are doing...simply because they are sitting across the table.

I didn't mention raising because this was a post about seat selection, not pre-flop strategy.

In fact, you should be raising A LOT pre-flop, especially when sitting to the left of fish. And we can discuss that at some point. But it wasn't this post-- this post was about where to sit.

Having said that, even your limping range, if you have one, improves from sitting to the left of fish. Because fish will limp lots of hands they should raise, like, say, KQ, they will give you a chance to sometimes see cheap flops with hands such as small pairs and suited connectors that enjoy situations where you have a high stack to pot ratio (in no limit) or a multi-way limped pot (in limit).

dilanesp
11-15-2014, 05:56 AM
Isn't poker all about tells? Aren't the very best players "Students of human moves" (like Paul Newman talked about in the Color of Money)?

If i was going to play poker for a living, before i even learned one rule about play, i would study human behavior and become an expert in that first. Anyone here an expert in human moves and feel that your best edge is learning tells from other players?

Online poker taught everyone that the real money was in math, not tells.

Mike Caro is still around and writes columns in Poker Player if you want to learn about tells. And certainly there are a few tells-- such as always looking to your left before making your pre-flop play-- that are useful and meaningfully contribute to winrates.

But the stereotypical tell-- the thing that the guy does when he's bluffing on the river in the gigantic pot-- is not that relevant to your winrate, because you simply rarely get heads up on the river facing a gigantic bet. In limit, it never happens at all because of the bet sizing. In no limit, it happens once in a blue moon.

Meanwhile, the other 99 percent of the time, you need to rely on math, because there's exactly 52 cards in the deck and poker is a game of finite probabilities.

thaskalos
11-15-2014, 06:14 AM
I didn't mention raising because this was a post about seat selection, not pre-flop strategy.

In fact, you should be raising A LOT pre-flop, especially when sitting to the left of fish. And we can discuss that at some point. But it wasn't this post-- this post was about where to sit.

Having said that, even your limping range, if you have one, improves from sitting to the left of fish. Because fish will limp lots of hands they should raise, like, say, KQ, they will give you a chance to sometimes see cheap flops with hands such as small pairs and suited connectors that enjoy situations where you have a high stack to pot ratio (in no limit) or a multi-way limped pot (in limit).
You said that the tight player enjoys a "huge" advantage against the fish sitting to his right...simply because the tight player's starting hand requirements are much stricter than those of the fish. You can only say this with certainty if the fish and the tight player are the only two players in the hand. You never mentioned raising even once, so the assumption is that the tight player would CALL after the fish made his bet. If the tight player calls, then it's almost a certainty that other players acting after the tight player would call as well. Unraised pots with multiple early callers are quite appealing...at least in my neck of the woods. If you are going to target the loose-playing fish by sitting to his immediate left...then you raise so you can isolate. Calling and letting others have position over you shifts the advantage from you to them. At the end of the day, holdem is a game of position.

dilanesp
11-15-2014, 06:30 AM
You said that the tight player enjoys a "huge" advantage against the fish sitting to his right...simply because the tight player's starting hand requirements are much stricter than those of the fish. You can only say this with certainty if the fish and the tight player are the only two players in the hand. You never mentioned raising even once, so the assumption is that the tight player would CALL after the fish made his bet. If the tight player calls, then it's almost a certainty that other players acting after the tight player would call as well. Unraised pots with multiple early callers are quite appealing...at least in my neck of the woods. If you are going to target the loose-playing fish by sitting to his immediate left...then you raise so you can isolate. Calling and letting others have position over you shifts the advantage from you to them. At the end of the day, holdem is a game of position.

You can repeat the criticism, it's still silly. I didn't mention raising because I was talking about seat selection.

But again, no, the good player is going to be raising a lot to isolate the fish. If he is a LAG, he is going to raise even more, if he's a TAG, he's going to raise somewhat less, but he's going to be raising a lot either way.

"Unraised pots with multiple early callers" are indeed quite appealing to some players. And as I keep telling you, if we are going to be playing correctly, we are going to be raising and not calling a lot of hands.

But you are wrong to think that being able to limp behind a fish and get a bunch of limpers behind you is never valuable. If you have a hand such as 44 or 87 suited, and you know that the 4 or 5 players left to act are calling stations who generally don't raise that often, what should you do?

And even here, your limping range is often going to have an advantage created by the fish's initial limp. In other words, as you get near the button and the blinds, a lot of players start limping ridiculously wide ranges. If you plug those ranges into the pokerstrategy.com Equilator (https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CB4QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.pokerstrategy.com%2Fpoker-tools%2Fequilab-holdem%2F&ei=zipnVJvtFNSyoQS67IGYDw&usg=AFQjCNF2lSyO7IgtO43kxUqm57_j54G_GA&sig2=RwrfztXvG9lrSpCjxr9LcA&bvm=bv.79908130,d.cGU), a tool every poker player should be familiar with, you will find that these limps give you more than your fair share of equity against a wide field with several players playing lots of lousy hands. In other words, you are getting your money in good.

Cliff's notes:

1. We should be raising a lot when we sit to the left of fish, to isolate them with stronger ranges.

2. However, there may be some situations where the fish's play makes our limps more profitable too.

Robert Goren
11-15-2014, 08:44 AM
In my dad's, poker was about bluffs. In my day, poker is about under selling. It is about convincing your opponent that you have a hand worse than you do.
I have never found that seating is very important. Not that you ever get a choice where you sit anyway. A tough opponent is a pain in the butt no matter where he sits. A fish is still a fish no matter where he sits. By the time internet poker ended, there were very few TAGs left at the bottom levels of NL holdem. Almost everybody was a LAG. I haven't played any live poker in years, so I don't know about it. It used to be in a casino game, there was always one TAG. Usually the same one. This bastard would play his usual TAG game until late in the evening and then pull off a big bluff in a multi-handed pot. You could almost set your watch by him. These well timed bluffs are the only way a TAG can stay ahead of a casino rake. Online was a bit different for them because of the rebates, but most eventually figured out that some sort of LAG game was the way to go. At the end of Party in the US, there was a lot of limping going on. The motto seemed to be "See the flop cheap and go from there" for players playing 6 tables or less. The people playing a lot of tables played a modified Harrington style.

thaskalos
11-15-2014, 02:36 PM
Dilanesp...do you have a book recommendation or two for the horseplayer who wants to play poker?

dilanesp
11-15-2014, 03:19 PM
Dilanesp...do you have a book recommendation or two for the horseplayer who wants to play poker?

I'm not really that high on most poker books. I think the 2 plus 2 forums are the best resource.

Most books approach the subject as if discipline and bankroll management don't exist and all you need to do is learn strategy. I think that is the wrong emphasis- strategy is widely available, and discipline is where most people have leaks.

My favorite poker books are Sklansky's Theory of Poker and Newall's The Intelligent Poker Player. But both are written for people who have some knowledge, so I would recommend the 2 plus 2 forums and some cheap online games such as at Merge or Bovada to learn basic strategy; then start reading.

Also, download the Neo Poker Bot for your smartphone.

how cliche
11-17-2014, 06:01 PM
In 98 percent of poker situations, you can't read a "hand". Every once in awhile, of course you can:

We are playing a 5/5 $300 no-limit game and raise to $15 with AhKd in middle position, and get five calls, including from a tight-passive old man in the small blind. The flop comes AsKs3c, and we bet $60 into the $90 pot, only the old man calls.

The turn comes the 6s, and the old man leads out, making a pot sized bet of $210, leaving just $15 left in his stack. We have him covered. We fold.

In that situation, our two pair is never good. Because our opponent is tight and passive, he's not going to make a gigantic bet into that board (where we often have a set or 2 pair) with anything other than a flush. We have four outs to make a full house, which is approximately a 1 in 12 chance of making our hand, and that means we need 11 to 1 effective odds to call. The actual odds we are getting, even if we assume we get his last $15 if the board pairs up, is $435 to $225. So we fold.

So you are right, sometimes we are able to read hands.

are you so sure he has a flush? ace and king of spades are both out there, those are what nit dude would chase w preflop. him turning flush w those out there is highly unlikely imo.

dilanesp
11-17-2014, 06:17 PM
are you so sure he has a flush? ace and king of spades are both out there, those are what nit dude would chase w preflop. him turning flush w those out there is highly unlikely imo.

Since it's a hypothetical, I can be as sure as I want to be. :)

But the point I was making was about math.

If we aren't sure, of course, then math still matters. What percentage of his range is flushes, what percentage are other hands that beat us, and what percentage are hands we beat?

We construct his range, plug it into a tool such as Equilator, and determine whether we have sufficient equity to call based on the odds we are getting.

In the end, it's all math, whether you can put an opponent on a specific hand or just a range of hands.

Robert Goren
11-17-2014, 06:31 PM
Since it's a hypothetical, I can be as sure as I want to be. :)

But the point I was making was about math.

If we aren't sure, of course, then math still matters. What percentage of his range is flushes, what percentage are other hands that beat us, and what percentage are hands we beat?

We construct his range, plug it into a tool such as Equilator, and determine whether we have sufficient equity to call based on the odds we are getting.

In the end, it's all math, whether you can put an opponent on a specific hand or just a range of hands. You can sit my table anytime.

dilanesp
11-17-2014, 07:35 PM
You can sit my table anytime.

This is going to come off as quite arrogant. But it is based on several years of poker experience, both online and live, and hundreds of thousands of hands:

The number of players who reject math and who are better than the median player who cares about and studies poker math is zero.

The number of players who reject math and who are better than the bottom tenth percentile of players who care about and study poker math is very close to zero.

Indeed, if you tell me nothing else about yourself other than that you reject math, I can say with 100 percent certainty, based on that information alone, that I am better than you at my preferred game (limit hold 'em).

Robert, there are 52 cards in the deck. Each player receives 2. 3 are dealt on the flop, one on the turn, and one on the river. Bets are placed into a pot which gives mathematical odds to players, and bets are limited either by the rules of the game (pot limit or fixed limit) or stack sizes (no limit).

Rejecting math while playing poker is about as valid as rejecting telescopes while studying astronomy.

Not only that, but sophisticated computer programs have developed a style of play that, in heads-up limit games, is unexploitable and is impossible to beat no matter how brilliant the psychological analysis. (Google "game theory optimal poker" if you are interested in this.)

If poker were at bottom a game about psychology rather than math, a GTO bot would be an impossibility or would require artificial intelligence that has not yet been invented. But these GTO bots use no artificial intelligence at all-- they just find where each hand sits within a huge decision tree, and by doing so, make it impossible for any player to deceive them.

There is zero debate on this issue. If you play against me in fixed limit, for a statistically significant number of hands (35,000 or more), you will lose to me if you do not understand and utilize math in determining how to play.

You use psychology to INFORM your mathematics, by making more accurate ranges, designing plays to exploit leaks of other players, etc. But math is fundamental. It's the foundation upon which all poker skill is built. You have to learn it to beat the game long term.

thaskalos
11-17-2014, 07:44 PM
Any idea why the GTO bots haven't distinguished themselves in NO-LIMIT holdem?

dilanesp
11-17-2014, 08:36 PM
Any idea why the GTO bots haven't distinguished themselves in NO-LIMIT holdem?

They will get there. Already many of the best no limit players are incorporating GTO into their play in various ways. And there are no limit bots that can beat all but the very best players, even though they haven't solved heads-up no limit the way they have solved heads-up limit.

But the bet sizing in no limit makes the identification of non-exploitable strategies more difficult.

However, even in no limit in the absence of GTO strategies, math is ridiculously important. You use it to calculate the pot and implied odds necessary to call, to measure pre-flop equity against an opponent's range in a short stack game, to measure stack-to-pot ratio to determine when you need to shove and when you should just call or raise, as well as when to play speculative hands pre-flop, etc. You also can use it (and this approaches GTO) to balance your range against good players, playing a proportional number of bluffs in your range as well as value hands so as to make your opponent indifferent between calling or folding.

And math also complements your reads. I gave one example-- you know what your opponent has, but you have to determine whether to call based on the pot odds. Other examples include counting the number of combinations of hands that will fold to your bluffs so that you can size your bluff bet correctly or determine whether it is worth it to bluff; sizing your bets according to the size of the pot; deciding how broadly to widen your 3-betting range based on the range of the original raiser, and calculating how often you need your opponent to fold for a semi-bluff on a draw to be profitable and comparing it to your opponent's actual range and which hands will fold.

I just can't imagine trying to play the game without math. It's the Alpha and Omega of poker-- both limit and no-limit.

thaskalos
11-17-2014, 09:02 PM
I just can't imagine trying to play the game without math. It's the Alpha and Omega of poker-- both limit and no-limit.

I wouldn't recommend playing poker without the math. But I wouldn't say that math is the "Alpha and the Omega" of the no-limit game, either. I think that you are underestimating the complexity of no limit...which explains why limit players are so out of their element when they try playing it. There is practically no commonality between the two games...but you have to actually PLAY no-limit to know that (no offence intended...limit is a nice game too. :) )

"Limit is to no-limit, what checkers is to chess." -- Doyle Brunson

dilanesp
11-17-2014, 09:39 PM
I wouldn't recommend playing poker without the math. But I wouldn't say that math is the "Alpha and the Omega" of the no-limit game, either. I think that you are underestimating the complexity of no limit...which explains why limit players are so out of their element when they try playing it. There is practically no commonality between the two games...but you have to actually PLAY no-limit to know that (no offence intended...limit is a nice game too. :) )

"Limit is to no-limit, what checkers is to chess." -- Doyle Brunson

I agree limit and no limit are very different. I actually posted that in Proximity's thread-- I think he needs to stick to one game or the other and learn it as best he can.

I do think it's too reductive to say that no limit is "more complex" than limit. Obviously there's an additional element of complexity, but I would argue short stack no limit is actually easier to play than limit, and certain aspects of limit (particularly bluffing) are quite a bit more difficult than no limit precisely because of the inability to size bets. Limit players have to tell a story.

But yeah, deep stack no limit is quite a bit more complex and iterative, though there's still a ton of math and a player blinding him- or herself to that is going to make a lot of mistakes.

ReplayRandall
11-17-2014, 10:44 PM
But yeah, deep stack no limit is quite a bit more complex and iterative, though there's still a ton of math and a player blinding him- or herself to that is going to make a lot of mistakes.


How right you are.....Elite no-limit players will take math players and price them in, and show them the nuts; Price them out of a hand, and show you a bluff. Just when the math whiz thinks they have the bet pattern recognition figured out, here comes a curve-ball with reverse psychological pressure plays, with the math making no logical sense, just a set-up for a big pot take down later in the game......It's a no contest, no win situation.

proximity
11-18-2014, 01:41 AM
aside from gaining valuable casino poker experience while limiting initial financial damage there are some positives to this:

(1) most big stacks in low limit no limit (including some otherwise competitive players) will make plenty of mistakes against solid short stack players. you will get in ahead a lot, but...

(2) you have less fold equity as a shorter stack so you will suffer more suck outs (see my poker tour) and bluffs or c-bets have to be more carefully planned although this develops the good habit of actually keeping your head in the game as opposed to mindlessly tossing in chips.

I can't put a number on this but when i'm deep it is clearly noticeable that I just don't get called as much on flop bets. the threat of a big turn bet does mean something to these players.

(3) in any form of gambling building up from the bottom will ultimately make a player appreciate his bankroll more. obviously on my thread i'm not making the best progress at this but other new players on here may certainly be (a) luckier than me (b) better than me or (c) progress faster than me.

proximity
11-18-2014, 01:47 AM
(1) most big stacks in low limit no limit (including some otherwise competitive players) will make plenty of mistakes against solid short stack players. you will get in ahead a lot, but...



(1a) as a "1a" to this part, when you are deeper in a game your short stack experience will make you more cognizant of this and you'll tend not to make mistakes against short stack raises that you're likely behind and won't be getting the right price to continue against.

dilanesp
11-18-2014, 04:17 AM
(1a) as a "1a" to this part, when you are deeper in a game your short stack experience will make you more cognizant of this and you'll tend not to make mistakes against short stack raises that you're likely behind and won't be getting the right price to continue against.

No limit is not really my game, as you've seen, but when I have played it, I haven't had that much trouble playing against short stacks. You just assume they will stack off with you once they commit, put them on a range, calculate equity against that range and decide whether to continue. I've played a lot of hands so I have some idea of what my equity is in different situations so it's not that hard.

Deep stacks, when you are deep, are much tougher to play against. There, you really have to consider how much fold equity you will have if you raise, what you are going to do on the next street if you call and miss/a bad card comes off, etc.

So in a sense, I agree with your logic about short-stacking. But Thaskalos is right that if you are going to short stack, there are established short stacking strategies. You can find them on 2 plus 2 and elsewhere, and you should play according to them even if they increase your variance somewhat.

But even if you play a short stacking strategy, assuming you don't just hit and run the moment you win, there are going to be times when you become a deep stack. So there's no escaping having to play deep stack poker. Buy in for 33bb, and stack off a couple of times, and you can easily end up with 120bb which is a deep stack.

If you are correct that other players are afraid of your value bets when you have a deep stack (and I have no reason to doubt your reads), you should be looking to take advantage of that when you get deep, by widening your bluffing range. On wet boards, semi-bluff more draws (say, gutshot+2 overs+bdfd as well as 2 way straight draws and flush draws); on dry boards, bluff the bottom of your range, whatever it might be. (You should always try to construct your bluffing range from the bottom up. The better your hand is, the more showdown value it has. You gain nothing by bluffing with the best hand, so you get the most value out of bluffs from the worst hands in your range that can't win unimproved. On the other hand, the strongest draws can sometimes be bet for value-- it's not really a bluff to shove a straight flush draw and two overcards.)

Cliffs: when short stacked, play the short stacked strategy discussed on 2 plus 2. When you get deep, if you think opponents become afraid of your big stack, bluff more.

_______
11-18-2014, 04:26 PM
OK, let's talk seat selection.

Once you get a table, where do you want to sit? At first you may have no choice. The floorperson or brush will tell you where to sit. But when seats open up, you can change. Keep your discipline. Don’t change seats because your luck is bad, or because another player was winning in a particular seat. The short term results of people in seats are irrelevant– there’s no such thing as a “lucky” or “unlucky” seat in poker.

I do think that players can take into account comfort. Some players with poor vision may benefit from not sitting in an end seat where they have a hard time seeing the community cards and any exposed cards. Other players may feel uncomfortable sandwiched in the middle. It is hard to measure the EV of personal comfort, but it probably counts for something. It still should not be the overriding concern though; if you are presented between one seat to the left of an excellent player and another seat to the left of two fish and across from that player, that counts more than comfort does.

However, the basic concept of seat selection is simple– money flows clockwise around a poker table. It flows from players acting out of position to players acting in position. Therefore, the best seats are those which allow a player to capitalize on the mistakes of those who have acted before him and her– they are the seats to the left of bad players. Especially bad players who play way too many hands pre-flop.

One of the basic statistics used by online players in their heads-up displays is “VPIP”, which stands for money “Voluntarily Put Into the Pot”. It is just a ratio of the number of hands where a player takes any pre-flop action that involves putting money voluntarily into the pot (i.e., any action other than checking an option after posting a blind or folding), divided by the number of hands played. In a full ring game, a typical, good tight aggressive player might have a VPIP of 17 or so, playing 1 out of every 6 hands. An advanced player playing the loose aggressive style that is popular in high-stakes games might play as many as 28 percent of hands in a full ring game. However, bad players are notoriously impatient and refuse to fold any “decent” hand regardless of position and how many raises have been made. These players have VPIP’s of 40, 50, even 75 percent. Every so often you even see a person who plays 100 percent of hands pre-flop. These are the people you want to get to the left of.

It works quite simply. Our opponent with a VPIP of 75 is going to be playing a range of hands that include a lot of bad holdings. We are going to play tighter and more correctly. As a result, when we get into the pot against our opponent, we will have a huge advantage. For instance, our tight aggressive player from above may be playing the top 17 percent or so of hands against the fish and folding the rest. (This isn’t quite true, as we haven’t considered pre-flop. But it’s a useful assumption to make this point.) So every time the tight player gets his or her money in against the fish, he or she is going to have a gigantic advantage against the fish’s range. The tight player will win far more contested pots than the fish does, because the tight player’s range is stronger. Over time, the fish’s strategy of playing too many hands will slowly donate money to the tighter player on the fish’s left.

But if tight-aggressive is good, loose-aggressive is even better. Our 28 percent player will be playing a wider range including some weaker hands against the fish. But a 28 percent range is still extremely strong against a 75 percent range. And the loose player will be playing in more pots against the fish, and therefore bleeding the fish faster. Further, presumably, the loose-aggressive player will also have a post-flop advantage, which will result in an even larger transfer of money. Sitting to the left of the fish is like being the guy closest to the Brinks truck when the money starts falling out of it. Being loose-aggressive rather than tight-aggressive is like having a vacuum cleaner available rather than having to pick up the money by hand.

In contrast, you don’t want good players anywhere near you. It’s already obvious why you don’t want them to your right. As they are playing relatively well pre-flop, they are not giving you any opportunities to get money in against them with a stronger range of hands like the fish are. But you also don’t really want them to your left either, where they can see what you are doing to the fish on your right and 3-bet you light, putting you in uncomfortable spots. (They are also likely to be tougher to steal blinds from when the action folds around to you.) The best place for a good player is across the table, where you are likely to get into fewer pots against him or her.

Finally, in a ideal scenario, you would want nits who fold too much and play too tight to sit to your left. This will ensure that your raises are likely to get you into shorthanded pots against the fish to your right, and also will give you opportunities to steal the blinds from late position if it folds around to you.

Bear in mind that I mentioned the principles of seat selection in their order of importance. By far, the most important thing is to get to the left of fish. If I have to tolerate a good player to my left to get to the left of fish, I still think it is worth it– we are still going to capture a lot of money from the players to our right even if we have to share some of it with a good player to our left. And while it’s nice to steal the blinds (and important in tough, higher stakes games where many pots are heads-up contests to win the blinds), you are always much better off in a situation where you have fish to your right who are playing too many hands and building big pots which you can contest and try to win, as opposed to the situation where you are just picking up the blinds once or twice each orbit. So (1) choose a seat to the left of fish. To the extent compatible with (1), (2) put good players across the table from you. And to the extent compatible with (1) and (2), put nits to your left.

Just like with table selection, don’t change seats so often that it becomes obvious what you are doing, and don’t follow a fish who is clearly trying to get away from you. You want players to be comfortable. And bear in mind that a table with a number of bad players is still going to be profitable even if your seat is bad. You won’t win as much money as you would sitting to the left of the fish, but you will still be getting into pots with stronger ranges than your bad opponents, and you will still win over the long term.

You would love playing on line with a tracker. You get VPIP, % of hands raised preflop (PFR), ratio of after the flop initial bet plus raise over calls (aggression factor), % of continuation bets after a raise, % of steal attempts from late position, % of folds to steals, % of hands where a flop was seen taken to showdown, and what % of those hands were won.

I use indicator and it has taken a lot of the guesswork out of profiling opponents. Since it also tracks my own play I find it encourages aggression. Tight passive was my natural style when I started playing cards. It took a lot of years to learn aggression paid but I can still revert to passive play without realizing it. Having a heads up display that is telling me I've sunk below 2.0 on initiating bets+raises/calls post flop helps.

dilanesp
11-18-2014, 06:01 PM
You would love playing on line with a tracker. You get VPIP, % of hands raised preflop (PFR), ratio of after the flop initial bet plus raise over calls (aggression factor), % of continuation bets after a raise, % of steal attempts from late position, % of folds to steals, % of hands where a flop was seen taken to showdown, and what % of those hands were won.

I use indicator and it has taken a lot of the guesswork out of profiling opponents. Since it also tracks my own play I find it encourages aggression. Tight passive was my natural style when I started playing cards. It took a lot of years to learn aggression paid but I can still revert to passive play without realizing it. Having a heads up display that is telling me I've sunk below 2.0 on initiating bets+raises/calls post flop helps.

Online poker is incredibly valuable. I played over 500,000 hands on Stars prior to Black Friday, and have played another 200,000 or so on Merge since.

And yes, HUD's are one of the things that make it valuable. Tracking software also makes session reviews easier, both by the player and you can even send hands to friends or easily post hands on online fora.

But the biggest thing of all about online poker is it underscores the truths of the game. I don't think anyone who plays several hundred thousand hands online and attempts to seriously get better can possibly come out of it without an appreciation of (1) that you need to play completely consistently based on the expected value of each play and that sort of mathematical rigor is the way to beat poker; (2) that session results, "table image", and other short-term considerations are essentially meaningless; and (3) that downswings can play out over an incredibly large number of hands and that you really have to play a lot of poker to outrun variance.

Every single winning mid- or high-stakes limit player I know in Southern California played extensively online prior to Black Friday. Every single one. I know one player who has been studying and who has become very good and who I expect to be a successful player but who did not play online, and it took this player a year and a half of basically full time study and coaching to get to that point.

Robert Goren
11-18-2014, 09:26 PM
This is going to come off as quite arrogant. But it is based on several years of poker experience, both online and live, and hundreds of thousands of hands:

The number of players who reject math and who are better than the median player who cares about and studies poker math is zero.

The number of players who reject math and who are better than the bottom tenth percentile of players who care about and study poker math is very close to zero.

Indeed, if you tell me nothing else about yourself other than that you reject math, I can say with 100 percent certainty, based on that information alone, that I am better than you at my preferred game (limit hold 'em).

Robert, there are 52 cards in the deck. Each player receives 2. 3 are dealt on the flop, one on the turn, and one on the river. Bets are placed into a pot which gives mathematical odds to players, and bets are limited either by the rules of the game (pot limit or fixed limit) or stack sizes (no limit).

Rejecting math while playing poker is about as valid as rejecting telescopes while studying astronomy.

Not only that, but sophisticated computer programs have developed a style of play that, in heads-up limit games, is unexploitable and is impossible to beat no matter how brilliant the psychological analysis. (Google "game theory optimal poker" if you are interested in this.)

If poker were at bottom a game about psychology rather than math, a GTO bot would be an impossibility or would require artificial intelligence that has not yet been invented. But these GTO bots use no artificial intelligence at all-- they just find where each hand sits within a huge decision tree, and by doing so, make it impossible for any player to deceive them.

There is zero debate on this issue. If you play against me in fixed limit, for a statistically significant number of hands (35,000 or more), you will lose to me if you do not understand and utilize math in determining how to play.

You use psychology to INFORM your mathematics, by making more accurate ranges, designing plays to exploit leaks of other players, etc. But math is fundamental. It's the foundation upon which all poker skill is built. You have to learn it to beat the game long term.Who said I don't understand the odds. Certainly not me. I knew most of the poker math in the seventh grade. I was just implying that there is a hell lot more to poker than math. If you let the math rule your game, I would have taken you to the cleaners in no time flat a few years ago. There were plenty of bots playing on party. I never had any reason to fear them because they were very predictable. If a poker player knows how his opponent will react to such and such a bet, he will clean that opponent out. If you want to be a good poker player read The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Deception is the key to being a good poker player. When I hear a tv announcer say he has the odds to call, I start screaming at the tv set. What he should be saying is that his opponent has lead him to believe he has the odds to call.
There are people who tell me that two handed fixed limit holdem is a solved a game. I have little reason to doubt them since it is seldom played anymore by the big boys.

dilanesp
11-18-2014, 11:27 PM
Who said I don't understand the odds. Certainly not me. I knew most of the poker math in the seventh grade. I was just implying that there is a hell lot more to poker than math. If you let the math rule your game, I would have taken you to the cleaners in no time flat a few years ago. There were plenty of bots playing on party. I never had any reason to fear them because they were very predictable. If a poker player knows how his opponent will react to such and such a bet, he will clean that opponent out. If you want to be a good poker player read The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Deception is the key to being a good poker player. When I hear a tv announcer say he has the odds to call, I start screaming at the tv set. What he should be saying is that his opponent has lead him to believe he has the odds to call.
There are people who tell me that two handed fixed limit holdem is a solved a game. I have little reason to doubt them since it is seldom played anymore by the big boys.

Online poker got a lot tougher post-Party, and the GTO bots I am talking about are not the bots you are thinking of.

You are talking about propeller planes while the poker world has moved on to supersonic jets. Math beats Sun Tzu.

Robert Goren
11-19-2014, 08:52 AM
Online poker got a lot tougher post-Party, and the GTO bots I am talking about are not the bots you are thinking of.

You are talking about propeller planes while the poker world has moved on to supersonic jets. Math beats Sun Tzu. I am sure it is. The math player gets crushed by Sun Tzu because Sun Tzu deceives the math player about the math. If everybody played just by the math, the math player would do alright. The greatest weakness of the math player is he thinks he can never be deceived. He does not lose his stack to a 64 off when his opponent is bluffing. He loses it when his opponent hits and he can not put his opponent on the 64 off. That is why the math player can not follow along with a TV poker show. He can't imagine that the two players have been setting each other up for not only for few hands, but maybe for months. All he see is the math. You see the Sun Tzu follower has reed The Mathematics of Poker by Chen and Ankenman too. His view of the book is how can I exploit the other players who have read it, not how to implement it.

tucker6
11-19-2014, 09:06 AM
I am sure it is. The math player gets crushed by Sun Tzu because Sun Tzu deceives the math player about the math. If everybody played just by the math, the math player would do alright. The greatest weakness of the math player is he thinks he can never be deceived. He does not lose his stack to a 64 off when his opponent is bluffing. He loses it when his opponent hits and he can not put his opponent on the 64 off. That is why the math player can not follow along with a TV poker show. He can't imagine that the two players have been setting each other up for not only for few hands, but maybe for months. All he see is the math.
I think you guys are talking two sides of the same coin. You need a fundamental understanding of the math and its applications. We all know that you can't win consistently without this knowledge, and that the more you know of the math, the better your odds over time of winning. However, within that mathematical framework, one can improve his position by understanding how the other people play the game and capitalizing on it. I believe Dilanesp uses the word 'range' when describing this concept.

dilanesp
11-19-2014, 01:33 PM
I think you guys are talking two sides of the same coin. You need a fundamental understanding of the math and its applications. We all know that you can't win consistently without this knowledge, and that the more you know of the math, the better your odds over time of winning. However, within that mathematic work, one can improve his position by understanding how the other people play the game and capitalizing on it. I believe Dilanesp uses the word 'range' when describing this concept.

Ranges come from reads, and psychological exploitation (say, knowing your opponent folds too often on scare cards) also comes from reads. But even those plays work better with math behind them- for instance, you can use math to calculate the optimal size of your bluff depending on the size of the pot and how many combinations your opponent folds.

thaskalos
11-19-2014, 02:57 PM
Ranges come from reads, and psychological exploitation (say, knowing your opponent folds too often on scare cards) also comes from reads. But even those plays work better with math behind them- for instance, you can use math to calculate the optimal size of your bluff depending on the size of the pot and how many combinations your opponent folds.

Do you play against the same people all the time? How else are you able to gather such reliable "reads"? Or are you talking strictly about the online game?