Raise or Fold:  A Year of Risky Business

Writing and playing poker as if they were activities worth doing well.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Day 15: Razz Me, I Can Take It

I can't remember the first time I played Razz, but I do recall that my take-away from that encounter was something like, "You mean, the person with the worst hand wins? Obviously, this is the game for me!"

The only time I won the Ferguson (Full Tilt's hugely popular $1 multi-table tournament that starts at 1 am daily) outright, the game was Razz. Of course the primary reason I was successful on that occasion is that I suck at Razz just marginally less than most people who barely play the game.

Something about the sheer perversity of Razz tickles me. I love that it is an inverted version of Stud. I love that there's no such thing as qualifying your low. I love that straights and flushes mean nothing.

Razz is surely the version of poker that is played in Hell. Or maybe Heaven.

One or the other, anyway.

The point is, I'm not the worst Razz player in the world, and I enjoy playing it. I lose Razz tournaments for two reasons, and two reasons only.

  1. I get bad cards. Razz is very card-dependent. If you're showing a pile of bricks in your up cards, you simply can't win the hand.

  2. I fail to fold when is self-evident that I am beat. I'm looking at a hand that's undoubtedly a made 7. The guy is BETTING it like it's a made 7. I have a 9 low. Anyone looking at my hand can see this. I probably can't even beat a bluff. Why do I call the bet on fifth street? Why why why?

It's a bizarre form of tilt, and if I could rid myself of it, I'd win most of the Razz tourneys I play. (I actually believe this.) You'd think that would be incentive enough to get me to stop doing it. Just writing it down in black and white makes me realize how utterly idiotic it is.

There are two major kinds of poker mistakes: mistakes of ignorance or insufficient analysis and mistakes of emotional origin. Both result in play that is not properly guided by rationality. It is staggering to me how much more easily faults of the former type are corrected than those of the latter. I'm guessing this is true for most people of at least average intelligence. It is much easier to learn how to think one's way through a situation than to maintain true emotional equanimity under stress.

The fundamental Theorem of Poker (viz. Sklansky) states that we will profit if we can consistently get our opponents to play differently than they would if they could see our cards. Optimal strategy, then, would seem to suggest not only striving for intellectual excellence and emotional equanimity for oneself, but also that we should seek to make the essential cognitive and emotional tasks of poker as difficult as possible for our adversaries.

I believe in courtesy and proper etiquette at the poker table (as indeed in the rest of life). I have no interest in engaging in needling or taunting or mean behavior. Aside from being morally dubious, it's just not my style. But it is worth considering how one's play and demeanor might nonetheless accomplish those aims without becoming crude, cruel, or otherwise inappropriate.

Any suggestions?

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Blogger Andrew Ironwood said...

If Razz tickles you, have ye yet tried Triple Draw 2-7? (I find them both equally fascinating in their perversity meself.)

Usually I tilt other players on-line one of two ways:

1) After I make a miracle river card (or any other "walk on water" moment), I often respond to the inevitable trashtalkers belittling my play by spouting nonsense ("Four saints prepare for saints. It makes it well fish." being one [and sometimes two] of my personal fave 'catchphrases'.) This seems to lead them to consider me even *more* crazy, and thus more willing to call me down anytime I've actually flopped the nuts on them.

2) There's also my habit of making 'odd' bets (like seeing a flop with three other players with blinds at 10/20 and betting an amount like $27 or $32 [instead of a 'normal' $20, $25 or $30] at an $80 pot -- 'course, the tables I play on UltimateBet don't let me do that [dernded it!]) -- I've been constantly amazed how frequently I can get people to 'freak out' by betting those sort of amounts.

Last game I did that on just the other day, one of the other players spouted off about how 'stupid' that wuz, and then turned around and asked me what the point of that wuz.

I honestly told him I did it because it often put people on tilt. He thanked me for the info.

And then I typed: "also, I hate rounding".

He wouldn't talk to me anymore after that [grin]...

9/2/08 3:03 PM  
Blogger PAPro_SandMan said...

As for controlling how your opponents play you... My answer is to (if possible) manipulate and tightly control the informaiton you allow your opponents to gain from you. Table image should be established consciously and deliberately rather than by simple nature of your playing style.

You'd be surprised how far a dubious call-down of a smallish pot with a weak middle or bottom pair can go toward establishing a profitable table image for an otherwise tight player. You made these calls intending to lose and show down a hand you never should have been playing. If you happen to get lucky and catch a made hand, even better! Then you can generally add your opponent's tilt to your image as a loosey goosey luckmonster.

Deceit and misinformation are about much more than bluffing. The simple truth is that ALL information given and observed at the poker table is power. The trick is being the one person at the table who harnesses that power better than anyone else.

If you can think back to my play at PK's birthday tourney in Vegas, that's probably my best personal example of leveraging this phenomenon. I played a looser, more aggressive game than is my mean because I knew I was at a table of tight, often self conscious poker students, most of which could be manipulated with a certain kind of poker game. With a little bit of help from lady luck, I got everybody personally gunning for me... (Even extracted personal threats of physical violence from Major.) Then I tightened up and started knocking people out left and right with monster hands they didn't respect because I'd been crazy early on.

It's tough to do sometimes. It requires a willingness to lose and to look like a donk. But, done correctly and with a little help from a lucky draw or two, it can be an incredibly effective tool.

9/3/08 2:38 PM  

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