Friday, June 27, 2008

The Sad Demise of HR 5767

It is not wisdom but authority that makes a law. - Thomas Hobbes

My Fellow Americans,

Once again, some of our duly elected officials and their holier than thou attitudes have kicked online poker players square in the junk. Yes, I am talking about people like Representative Bachus (you guessed it, a Republican from Alabama) and most members of the House Financial Services Committee. They don’t seem to think that a person such as myself (and I suspect many of you) that can manage to complete a college degree, obtain a reasonably good paying job, pay my mortgage and other obligations each month, rear my children, and be a responsible member of society is capable of making my own decision about whether or not to play poker online. I can play at home games everyday, all day, gambling it up and drinking beer, but I am not supposed to boot up my computer, log on, and play poker online.
Now, before anyone pounces on me and says, the UIGEA doesn’t prevent one from playing online poker, it is supposed to prevent certain types of money transfers and such. Let me say, you are not entirely wrong but the design and intent of the UIGEA was always to discourage, disrupt, interfere with, and eventually prevent Americans from playing online poker. There are other types of gambling that occur on the internet but they represent a mere fraction of the amount of money in online poker. Senator Frist got what he deserved when he was not re-elected. Why do people like Rep. Bachus continue to get elected? Are there no online poker players in Alabama that can get involved and vote to replace Rep. Bachus with a more reasonable person?
I am out there putting my vote where my mouth is. I am proud to say I voted in favor of the re-election of the co-sponsor of HR 5767, the honorable Dr. Ron Paul. I thought the Republican Party was in favor of smaller government and less government interference with business. Evidently, I was wrong. These days, I am not sure what they stand for anymore.
The UIGEA transformed the community of online poker in a terrible way and I am neither going to forget nor forgive those responsible. Anyway, rather than ranting on incessantly, let me refer you to a couple of other opinions about the unfortunate demise of HR 5767, Shamus' is here and Melted Felt's (the Onion of Poker News) is here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Open Min Bet from Early Position in (full ring) NLHE

The learner always begins by finding fault, but the scholar sees the positive merit in everything. – Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

This tactic seems to be utterly disdained by the vast majority of the “pokerati” (which may be why it works). However, when I play online and I have small to medium pocket pairs in EP, I often open min bet. As a tactic, it’s cheap, it’s tricky, and it seems to work.
It’s a value bet, a blocking bet, and you’re seizing the initiative all at the same time.

If one limps in, one is more likely to get raised. If one gets raised and just calls, one is informing an observant opponent that one probably has a small to medium pocket pair which will almost certainly elicit a C-bet from the villain on the flop (and you will probably have to fold since you are out of position).

By open min-betting, you accomplish several things that will set you up for success in the hand. For instance:

1) First and foremost, it usually lets me see a cheap flop (in hopes of flopping a set).

2) It serves as something similar to a blocking bet because it seems to “freeze” the players in later position, more often inducing a call rather than a raise.

3) I believe the reason for this is that many players interpret an open min bet from EP to represent a big pocket pair.

4) This is good because it further serves to disguise my actual hand and helps to confuse my opponents.

5) It is also better than limping in because, it lets you maintain the lead in the hand rather than limp-calling (which in my opinion screams low or middle pair). By being the pre-flop bettor, you maintain your option of C-betting on the flop and have a reasonably good chance of taking down the pot right then.

6) It causes your opponents to do something (i.e. react) that helps me to narrow the range of hands they are likely to have.

7) Since it is thought of as a “donk” play, it may help me get action from weaker hands that I would not otherwise have gotten. It also seems to cause some of the other players at the table to think I am a “donk” so I get more action on other hands, too.

8) It seems to work better than a 3xbb or 4xbb bet from EP because betting one of those amounts (or more) just wins me the blinds. By betting the minimum, it seems to get bad hands to call more often. It also keeps me from getting too committed to a hand in EP.

9) Betting the minimum almost always induces a call from one or both blinds. This is good because a) if they had a quality hand they would have raised, b) they probably would have folded to a larger bet, c) even though I am in EP, I have position on the blinds, and d) most of the time, they will fold to a C-bet.

Why does it work? I think they (mistakenly) interpret my min bet as strength – as in I might have a huge pocket pair (many inexperienced players will open min bet with a big pocket pair). What hands seem to play best with this tactic?
I suggest 22 – 99 with an occasional big Ace mixed in to keep my opponents guessing. Remember, this is a tactic for creating and winning small pots from out of position.
If you are in position and/or want to create a big pot or play a big hand, there are other tactics that will probably serve you better.

Try adding this to your arsenal and see if it works for you, too. Just remember, you heard it here first.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Thall Shalt Protecteth Thy Hand

Not believing in force is the same as not believing in gravitation. – Thomas Hobbes

Things happen that aren’t supposed to happen. We usually call them accidents. To deny the simple fact that accidents routinely occur, would be akin to denying other readily observable phenomena. In many cases, there isn’t much one can do to protect one’s self from accidents, but in this case, a simple defense is readily available to all players.

When playing live poker, one must protect one’s hand. It is a fundamental maxim of poker. One must protect it from exposure to others, from falling or otherwise leaving the surface of the poker table, and from being mucked inadvertently or prematurely. Each player is responsible for protecting his own hand; no one cares about protecting an opponent’s hand.

Not a week goes by that I don’t read some horror story on 2+2 about a player’s hand being mistakenly mucked by a dealer. I just heard the same thing happened during the $1,000 buy in (with rebuys) NLHE event at the World Series of Poker. The variations to this story are endless but the bottom line, in each case, is this: it never had to happen.

Poker is a dynamic game full of ups and downs and rarely is any one single thing always +EV in any situation no matter what. However, using a card protector is one such thing.

Why don’t more players use a card protector when playing live? A chip is not sufficient because it doesn’t weigh enough to prevent this from happening 100% of the time. There are many instances documented on 2+2 where the player in question said he had a chip on top of his cards but the cards and chip got swept into the muck by an overly hasty dealer. One can have one for free by using a common household item such as a lighter (like Doyle), a watch, a rock, etc. or one can spend a buck or five (or more) for one specifically for that purpose. Either way, the cost is a mere fraction of what a winning hand would have been worth had one’s cards not been inappropriately mucked.

The card protector I use is pictured above. It has some weight and heft to it so my cards will remain protected until I move it. No dealer is going to mistakenly muck my cards with this on top of them. Moreover, no careless player is going to foul my hand by mucking his cards into mine. With my card protector on top, my cards will remain easily separated and identifiable. It is such a simple thing and yet just check out the brick and mortar forum on 2+2 and see how many players have suffered this completely preventable fate.

There is only an “upside” (i.e. +EV) to using one and no “downside” I can think of.
So, why aren’t more live players taking advantage of an obviously +EV situation and using a card protector?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Finding a New Buzz

Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose. - Bill Gates

Rather than rest on my laurels, I am always looking for new material to read to continue improving my game and I recently found a new site for both poker bloggers and poker readers, "".

It is a social voting site similar to Digg, but just for poker strategy and poker news. If you are a blogger or publisher looking to drive traffic to your site, you can submit poker articles, stories or news at RoundersBuzz. If you are a poker player looking to improve your game, you can quickly sift through the most popular poker strategy articles and blog posts and vote up your favorites to the main page. Besides the main page, there are five Category pages including Ring Game Strategy, Tournament Strategy, General Poker, Poker Tools, and Poker News.

I have already seen a couple of notable blogger’s works appear on the site and anticipate many more over the next few months. Drop in and take a look at what they have going on, then if you like it, why not join?

Remembering the Irreplaceable Shana Hiatt

Everything beautiful has its moment and then passes away. - Luis Cernuda

Will the WPT ever find the right hostess again? Will it matter?
Was the end of Shana the “beginning of the end”?

They have failed miserably since foolishly allowing the exquisitely lovely Shana Hiatt to depart. She was not only beautiful and sexy, which is definitely a prerequisite for the job, but she had a playful manner about her (none of the others have had) and genuinely seemed to be having a good time. Her on scene segments in bikinis and such were awesome at the various outdoor venues. Her evening attire on the Vegas strip was classy and sexy all at the same time. When she was the hostess, she made it look easy. It never seemed as though she was trying too hard to connect with the audience. Her rapport with the audience seemed effortless and natural. We just didn’t know how good we had it.
I never thought it would be any big deal to replace her until she was gone and we began to see just how good she really was at what she did. Since then, all of the hostesses have, frankly, been pretty bad.
Courtney was decent looking but seemed to take the job too seriously and never seemed to be having fun.
Sabina was cute but could never quite engage the audience the way Shana did. Layleigh just seemed completely fake and unappealing.
Kimberly is OK at best and just seems amateurish to me.

It happens to every show sooner or later. The people making the decisions are always looking to cut costs and rarely (if ever) understand that once you start changing the chemistry that made you a success in the first place, the entire product is soon at risk.
We are witnessing nothing less than the beginning of the end of the WPT as we knew (and loved) it.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

An Interesting Evening at the Bodonkey

Quit while you're ahead. All the best gamblers do. - Baltasar Gracian

Maybe that’s why I prefer cash games so much more than tournaments. One may quit while one is ahead. You just can’t do that in tournaments. However, I couldn’t resist playing in the Bodonkey last night due to the huge overlay being offered. Not only was the standard T$600 added by Bodog but there was a T$270 bounty on $mokkee, too.

My starting table consisted of Colombo777, Gary Carson, Aposec72, and PokerPeaker, as well as, others. I folded a lot since I firmly believe, you can’t win a deepstack tourney in the early phases but you sure can lose one. Peaker got all in with his pocket Aces but lost to a guy holding pocket Kings when a third King came right out on the flop.
A bit later, I limped in with 7-7 from MP and it folded around to the big blind. He raises to 3xbb and I smooth call hoping to see a 7 on the flop. The flop comes 4-4-7. I check, he bets and I call. The turn is a blank and I bet a very small amount (about 1 fifth of the pot) hoping to seem weak and get raised. My opponent takes the bait and raises an amount roughly equal to the pot. I re-raise the minimum and he comes over the top to put me all in.
Of course, I call. He tables his A-A and when the river is not an Ace, I win a massive pot.

I was disappointed when $mokkee was not at my starting table but I was moved to his table shortly after the first break. I was looking to play a big hand with him and the first time he opened the betting pre-flop, I raised him and we took a rainbow flop that came down Q high. I had completely missed with my A-Ko but when he checked it to me, I moved in hoping for a call from a weaker ace. Of course, he folded. Even though we got him down to 4M, that would be my last chance to bust him since not long after that, two players had a similar idea and got all in with $mokkee, but holding A-K both times, he doubled through both of them to become the chip leader at the table. I am not sure what CEMfromMD was thinking when he raised $mokkee all in with A-8o. The other guy, Gary Carson, (at least) held A-Qo and might have had a reasonable expectation of winning. So, I play on for a while when I look down at 9-10s on the button. I decide if it is folded around to me, I am going to steal the blinds. So, when all the earlier players fold to me, I bet double the big blind. Gary Carson calls from the small blind and the big blind folds. We take a flop of A-10-7 with two hearts. I move in since I correctly figured Carson did not have an Ace and my 10 was good.
Being an unrepentant short-stacker, I prefer to win pots pre-flop or on the flop and I wanted to take this pot down now. My thinking was there was no way he would call without the Ace and I believe he would have re-raised me pre-flop if he held an Ace so I was not putting him on an Ace.
He freaking calls with 2-8s (hearts of course). Pairing his undercards won’t help him so he must make a flush to win. Of course, the turn is a 6 of hearts and I am knocked out in 19th place. While that sucked, I played well and got my money in good every time.
My reads had been spot on and I played much better than my last two attempts at the Bodonkey. At least Carson went on (with my chips) to make the final table.
Smokkee went on to win and claim his own unclaimed bounty. Yeah, I know, it sounds fishy to me too, but that’s online poker for you. Congrats to $mokkee on his TOC seat and a nice win.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Game Selection, Part 3 – Emancipation

“In actual combat, the mind must be calm and not at all disturbed. We must feel as if nothing critical is happening. Nothing betrays the fact that we are now engaged in battle.” - Masahari Adachi

OK. We have identified a game or some games we can beat. We have examined our motives for playing and decided we single mindedly want to win. Now what?

To be a consistently winning poker player and optimize our game selection capabilities, we must learn something more - detachment.

When you decide to play poker, proactively choose to play poker and nothing else. Remember, we are talking about game selection. Select (from all your other options) to play your best game, your “A” game, now.

FREE YOUR MIND. Unfetter it from the concerns of daily life, of work, of relationships, of anything beyond playing poker. Enable your mind to make the best poker decisions you are capable of.

Free your self from distractions, do not succumb to the temptation to think of other things. No matter if the other things are important, you may always return to them after your poker session is done.

Free your self from playing for your ego. It is one’s ego that seduces one into feelings of superiority, playing in games above one’s bankroll, and what Mike Caro calls Fancy Play Syndrome.

Free your self from unnecessary expectations. Unnecessary expectations lead to unnecessary disappointments. Just play your best game and remain alert.

Obtaining this degree of mental clarity and focus is not easy but each time one does so, it becomes easier the next time. As one becomes more adept at obtaining this state of detachment, one will recognize just how much more information at a poker table is available to a receptive mind that is not distracted. And that, my friends, is +EV.