Raise or Fold:  Learning (From) Poker

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

Monday, October 19, 2009

Big Sigh

Stacked T-Shirt

Did the designer of this idiotic thing even know what "stacked" means in a poker context? (Hint: It's not exactly something to boast about. And if the double-entendre refers to a "stacked deck," that's not much better.)

Who is the target consumer for this tank-top? Ignorant gals with big boobs? Or their stupid boyfriends?

As if there weren't enough dopey sexism in the poker world… thanks so much for your contribution, WSOP licensee!

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Friday, October 9, 2009

I take it back.

Once upon a time, I made a rash promise.

I try really, really hard to keep promises I make. But it has become clear that this one was foolhardy; I am just not that noble a person. On the other hand, the motivation had some merit: who wants a Bad Beat Story inflicted upon them unwittingly?

What to do?

I have created a little quarantine ~ a gulag, if you will ~ for the BBSs of our lives. When it all becomes just too much to keep to yourself, c'mon over to The Book of Bad Beats and vent. Misery loves company, after all, and don't we all feel that our particular beat is the very worstest of them all?

Or, for those of you who feel Bad Beats are usually the victim's fault, feel free to analyse via a comment just exactly what the alleged "sufferer" did horribly, horribly wrong to bring on an inevitable and well-deserved fate.

So, this blog will remain a no-BBS zone: none of my readers will have their eyes defiled unless they choose to go visit The BoBB. If you want either to wallow in miserable company or to indulge in the sweet, sweet sensation of superiority brought on by schadenfreude, now you know what to do.

See? Fun for everyone!!!

[Update: First example submitted and posted. Check it out!]

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Jack Deuce

The first time I had pocket 9s and came in for a raise under the gun. The very next hand, I flatted a mid-position $20 raise holding KK in the small blind. And I was beat by J2 offsuit in both pots.

The disconnect between play, circumstance, and results in poker can get to a person. It certainly got to me tonight. I think I need a break.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Whole Lotta Nuthin Going On 'Round Here

I played in a tournament and a cash game last night. In the tournament, I lasted for more than 3.5 hours and didn't win a single pot. Not one. My three best starting hands were JJ, KQo, and A6o. I never had suited connectors or any other pocket pairs. I am quite sure that I've never before busted out of a tournament before without winning at least one hand somewhere along the way.

Below is a summary of the 100 starting hands I recorded in the cash game. The fact that it turns out to be an even hundred surprised me, I started keeping track about half an hour into my session, and had played no hands voluntarily to that point. The more than four-hour stretch (in two venues) prior during which I had essentially nothing playable was what prompted me to start taking notes.

2 Premium hands:
I won with Big Slick and lost with the Jacks.

4 Non-Premium Pocket Pairs:
I played all these hands and won with the 99. No sets.

3 Medium Aces:
I played both AJ hands in position and won once.

2 Suited connectors:
I played both of these hands and won with the 98.

14 Weak Aces:
I played 5 of these hands, suited and in position, and won with A9 and A2.

5 Two-Broadway:
I played KQ twice in position and won once.

70 Junk:
   K9 K7 K6x3 K5 K4 K3K2x2
   Q9x2 Q7x2 Q6x2 Q3x3 Q2
   J9x2 J8 J7x2 J6x4 J5 J4x2 J3
   T9 T7 T6x4 T5x3 T2x3
   98 96 95x2 94 93x3 92 86 84 83
   76 75 74 73x2 72x2
   43 42x2
I played 5 of these hands either out of the blinds or on the button, and won with K3s, Q6s, K7s and J9s.

We were eight-handed for about an hour, and fluctuated between seven and six the rest of the time. Over the course of 3 hours or so, I voluntarily played approximately 20% of my hands. Of the hands I played, I won just over half. Unfortunately, the pots I lost were bigger than the ones I won. The biggest pot I lost was with the pocket 7s; I'm quite sure I was ahead on the flop, but the board got ugly and my opponent persuaded me he had chased and made a straight on the river. I folded to a bet that would have put me all-in to call. (Had I not lost that pot, I would have made a modest profit in the game.)

For me, the impression of the evening was of having very little to work with, and winning very little with the few strong hands I did have. If I hadn't played any of the weak suited Aces, the suited connectors, or the junk hands, the outcome would have been virtually identical. I made two good calls when my opponents were trying to buy pots, and I semi-bluffed successfully once and bluffed outright once for a win. I guesstimate I was moved off a better (but not made) hand a couple of times myself.

Overall, it was far more frustrating than interesting; I had few difficult decisions to make, and rarely any occasion to do anything flarey myself that would put another player to the test.

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Monday, October 5, 2009


Tournament Win
Believe me, I know a two-table $10 SNG is nothing to crow about. Really, I know this, I do. But if you had any idea how bad I've been running online, you'd appreciate that this constituted a major victory for me.

Is there any possibility that the doomswitch has been turned off?


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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Why Do People Write Poker Strategy Books?

I admit at first I found it baffling. Why would you give away the gold? Why did Doyle Brunson write the first Super System, for example?

Well, he did sell each copy for upwards of $100 a pop, if I recall correctly. My guess is that he ended up making a decent amount of money from the books, although probably not much in comparison to his direct poker earnings.

These days there are a lot of other poker strategy books out there, of varying degrees of accuracy, usefulness, and depth. I suppose their authors make enough money from them for their publication to be worth the effort.

Still, presuming that the authors are also players: why educate your opponents? Wouldn't it make more sense to write a bad poker strategy book and lead people astray?

The consensus seems to be, however, that there are some genuinely good strategy books available. Presumably the folks who wrote them know they are good.

There really is only one possible explanation: even if you read and understand an excellent book, it is still extremely difficult to actually put into practice the advice it offers. So, in order to benefit from a strategy book, the following pieces must be in place: 1) the strategy it proposes must be good; 2) you must acquire and read it; 3) you must both be able to and actually do the work required to understand it; and, finally ~ and by far the most challenging item ~ 4) you must be able to execute the strategy consistently.

My guess is that a lot of people start failing around step 3, and that the vast majority of readers who master step 3 never actually succeed at step 4. Playing winning poker is hard, because although intelligence and knowledge are required, they are far from sufficient. There is a large array of other attributes and behaviors, experiences, habits, and attitudes that make a sound strategy effective ~ and that constellation is fairly rare even in the community of poker enthusiasts.

So go ahead: read the good poker strategy books. Unless you misunderstand or misapply their advice, it certainly won't do you any harm. But don't expect them to provide you with The Keys to the Poker Kingdom. It's just not that simple ~ as their authors surely know.

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