Get It Quietly

Football, bollocks and a bit of poker if you're lucky.

Location: Enfield, London, United Kingdom

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Putting the dink in coinkydink

I read something today that, at first glance, seems utterly bizarre. One of Andrew Flintoff's sixes in his innings yesterday fell right into the lap of his own father, watching from the stand. How cool is that ? Unfortunately for Flintoff Sr, he dropped it, earning himself no end of "ribbing" at the dinner table if I know professional cricketers.

Isn't that amazing ? Or is it ? Is it just the case that of all the sixes hit in all the test matches in all the world with all the fathers watching, it was only a matter of time ? I think it was. And we could apply the same reasoning to Internet conspiracies and even the B+M "you won't believe the hand that came up last night" stories. Try me, I probably would.

By the way, good as Flintoff is, I've never really warmed to him. This is because I used to hate bowling at thugs with 3 1/2 pound bats. Once a batsman realised he could mis-hit me for six, I was f**ked as a bowler for that day. It is nice to see England playing with smiles on their faces though - I hope they can keep it up next time they get whomped by the Aussies :-)

Wanna Be In My Gang ?

Well we did get an answer on the Gutshot rake issue in the end (see Gutshot and Hendon Mob Forums if you're really interested) : the management can't put their names to the rake situation because it's all too dodgy. OK, that's an explanation - lots of people don't seem to mind and that's all fine by me. Caveat emptor, as per usual.

I thought I might explain why I've never joined Gutshot, despite getting on well with Barry (and Steve when he was there) and lot of the people involved. Poker is not a team game, and tournament poker is even less of one. I prefer not to have any connection with people I don't trust. In poker, you don't have a list of people you don't trust, you have a list of people you do - and it's f**king short. While 90% of gutshotters, 1808 clubbers, whatever are probably fine, it's precisely the remaining 10% that could give you a problem. I don't want anyone expecting favours from me, trying to give me favours, or looking like they are receiving a favour when I make an unorthodox play. When all that people have to do to join a "gang" is send an Email, how can you possibly vouch for them all ?

It might seem like a small thing, but if you get these things right it always saves you problems in the long run. If you want to join, fine. Do be careful of one other thing though - there is a tendency in these "gangs" for people to over-congratulate each other on minor and/or plain lucky results. It used to drive me mad on Gutshot, someone would describe how the deck hit them so hard they should have won a tournament twice over, they finished 5th, and everyone would go "brilliant result mate, well done". Perhaps done with the best of intentions, but it's not good for your game to be told you're much better than you are. Caveat, as I said before, emptor.

If anyone wants to discuss this civilly, go right ahead, but flames/insults will be ignored.

17/8/04 Follow-up : Maybe I've been reading too much Maddox but this comment on the forum today made me laugh : "And anyway poker is for loners, the outcasts, the cowboys for gods sake. The concept of a poker gang is inherently gay". If he had said pirates it could have been Maddox himself. I can't disagree with the overall sentiment.

In Your Dreams

This month's rib-tickler from Poker Europa : Nic Szeremata on Caprice's taking the Paradise Poker shilling. "But when a glamorous model publicly endorses our favourite pastime - well that's different. All of a sudden poker could become the new in-thing for the It girls, and could lead to an influx of young female wannabes into the poker scene".

I've heard some ridiculously optimistic predictions for the future of poker, but we have a new winner. If "It girls" want to be letched at by fat, sweaty blokes then they'll at least go somewhere where the blokes in question have more than £20 in their pocket.

If you prefer visual comedy though, check out Jim Britton's Devilfish impression on page 50. Just think what the photos they rejected must have looked like.

Monday, July 26, 2004

The Plan

I have finally (I think !) decided how to progress with my poker in the short/medium term :

1) Cut Internet poker down to 8-10 hours a week, and only in games that are big enough to be worth playing in.  Only play when I'm focused, and not just out of boredom !  At one point on the weekend I was playing 3 micro-limit Stud Hi-Lo games at once.  After about 45 minutes I thought "why the hell am I doing this ?".  Also only play one game at a time.  I should still be looking at around $20/hour, which would be around $800 a month.  Nice money on the side without going mad.

2) Play around one medium size (£200-£300) B +M tournament per month.  Rebuy comps are fine, in fact they are probably better - the bottom line is rebuy comps attract weaker fields.  After reviewing my performances over the last 3 years at this level, the results are poor.  However, I can see a lot of things I did wrong, in hindsight, and I think it's time to try again.  If I did pick up £10K again I'd be happy to lock half of it away and have a spin at a few £500-750s with the rest.  Having cut down on expenses lately I can spare £250 a month so this won't cut into my bankroll.  Why not take a shot, it could be me !

3) Two holidays in the US per year.  Probably one WSOP and one other.  If I'm selective while I'm there and play plenty of single-tables I should be able to freeroll in a big comp or two each time.  And it is a holiday after all !  US wins hands down over Continental Europe.  The only question in Europe is whether you're in more danger of being robbed inside or outside the casino.

I'm putting this down here so that maybe I'll stick to it :-).  Cut out all the unnecessary rinky-dink playing-because-I'm-bored online.  Play fewer hours, but more focussed, and live a little the rest of the time.  Sounds like a plan.  Got to go now, gym class !!

Friday, July 23, 2004

What a character

Following the WPT Invitational screened on Challenge recently (featuring Phil "The Unabomber" Laak) there was a lot of talk on the forum about "characters" and whether they were "good for the game".  Then there was some more following reports of Tony G's behaviour at the latest WPT Paris event.

There are some real characters in poker it's true.  But all those who I would class as genuine characters do not need to shout at the top of their voice all the time to get attention.  Nor do they need to dress up like pantomime dames.  A genuine black hat could do a lot for the game.  But to wear that hat you need to be a top player.  Top top.  Cantona or Tyson.  Or the Undertaker :-).  The only poker player who even comes close is the Devilfish.

To be a real character you need more than a loud voice and a £4.99 joke book.  For example, people tell me that Mad Marty is a really nice, generous guy.  But I don't know him - and at the poker table he is nothing short of a pain in the arse.

The real issue is that television has great power to influence the easily influenced.  Monkey see monkey do.  If you're bored watching the likes of Ivey and Lederer play poker then try WWE instead.  There's nothing wrong with WWE, I just don't want to be in it every time I play poker live.  If I'm going to be surrounded by wannabees every time I go out and play, I'd much rather they were wannabee Iveys than wannabee Unabombers.  There really is little worse in poker than having to sit next to some unfunny loudmouth who thinks he's a "character", when you can't give him the slap he deserves.  Hooray once more for the Internet and the "block chat" button.


Gambling with other people's money

Ten years ago, I made a concerted effort to sort my finances out and try to ensure that I wouldn't have to work till I'm 70.  One of the packages I was sold was a 10-year PEP.  £60 a month tax free savings.  £60 a month x 12 months x 10 years = £7,200 paid in.  This morning I phoned them to check what this great investment is now worth prior to maturing.  It's worth £3,300.

Now, this isn't a surprise.  I do open some of the letters they send me.  It's just confirmation of the worst.  I don't want to work out how much it would have made at 2% interest in a bog standard bank account, and I don't want to know how much I have been charged for their investment expertise.  I just want to vent my bad beat story :-)

Seriously though, caveat emptor and all that.  But what a fucking dreadful performance that is.  Ten years ago, an extra £60 a month was a squeeze, and now I find I would have had a better EV buying scratchcards.  Live and learn.  Fortunately I did so well out of my flat this is basically complaining about losing a £40 pot just after winning £500.  As for my £3,300, I will decline the option to re-invest.  Give it to me and I'll invest it.  Betfair here we come !

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Calling is the new raising (1)

I have just been watching a WPT Series 2 event, the one from the Commerce. David Benyamine loses most of his chips on the river to some fat guy wearing sunglasses. Once he's stopped his war-dance, we can get on with the next hand. Benyamine now has 45K under the gun and the blinds are 12-24. To the consternation of Mike and Vince, the Frenchman _calls_ with T8. The button raises with A5. The big blind gives a speech (just like the ones you hear in the £20 comps) and passes. Benyamine makes a straight and scoops, cue the big blind muttering "I would have chopped that".

I'm only speculating here, but this could have been a very clever play. If Benyamine takes the reflex action and goes all in, it's quite likely that at least the two blinds will just call and check it down. By calling, maybe he increases the chances that someone else will raise and he will be heads up. By holding chips back he ensures that there will either be a pre-flop raise or a bet on the flop, either of which might knock out a potential winner.

It's always worth stopping to think about the alternatives, especially just when you're about to do "what everyone else does". One thing I'm becoming more and more sure of in poker, if _everyone_ does something it's quite likely to be wrong at least some of the time.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Ooh stick you, your Mamma too

and your Daddy ! Remember that one ? I had mercifully forgotten all about it until ESPN's WSOP 2003 Day 2 coverage brought it back to me (on Challenge last night). This is the one where Phil Hellmuth shows us his own take on meditation - sit down, close your eyes, and think about how great you are. Those ancient mystics eh, no idea had they ?

Newly filled with serene inner confidence, Hellm-you-th as Norman Chad insistes on calling him (surely this guy should be only filmed behind a wall with just his eyes and nose poking over) takes his seat only to face his deadly nemesis Sam Grizzle, who chinned him once. How he's the only one I'll never know. Over the course of the show the two trade insults in the style, as I said on the Mob Forum, of two 12 year old girls. But I knew there was something missing from this analogy, and that was Daphne and Celeste. Phil and Sam reminded me of Daphne and Celeste bopping away on CD:UK ribbing each other in their own playful style.

As it happens I was at Reading when Daphne and Celeste performed their famous two-song set - both their classic hit and "U-G-L-Y / you ain't got no alibi / you ugly (Phil) !" It was kind of sweet, one group of fans went to the trouble of taking a bedsheet, painting "YOU SUCK" on it in giant letters, dragging it all the way to Reading and then unfurling it on D&C's taking to the stage. I always hoped that they kept it, just think how often a bedsheet with "YOU SUCK" painted on it would come in handy. As usual though, press reports of the 15-going-on-27 popsters being bottled off the stage were as wide of the mark as a, erm, bottle. They hid at the back of the stage and were laughing half the time. If you want to see a bottling, try to find footage of Adrian Edmondson's spoof heavy metal band playing Donington's Monsters of Rock (which they did, for real). Now THAT'S a bottling. Scary stuff. It would have had Phil donning his double strength Oakleys and baseball cap with plexiglass visor, and running for the hills !

Think Fast !

I was watching Pirates of the Caribbean yesterday (good fun if you're not too picky) and as usual I found myself hopelessly confused at the twists in the plot. If you've seen it, consider the bit where Johnny Depp shoots the bad guy with his one shot and then throws the last coin to the elf dude. If that was me I would go "Oh, er, what, do I throw this in the chest ? But that'll bring them all back to life. Should I keep it then I'll be immortal ? Or give it to the totty ? Give me a second, I'll get this ..." And the bad guys would win.

It reminded me of a recurring nightmare I used to have. I'm in a super-tough interview, but I've got all the way to the end. "One more question Mr. Ward," says the suit "you know that bit in Where Eagles Dare where Richard Burton makes them write down the names of all the double agents ? Could you explain that to us please ?" "Oh, er, bugger, erm, he thinks they are spies, no that's not right, they have to prove to him that, er, no" and I lose the job and have to live in the gutter.

The point being ? Thinking logically and quickly under pressure is not my strong point. Tournaments suit me better than cash games because they (seem to) lend themselves to off-line analysis much better. Short-stack play in particular can be honed off-line to the point where I know what to do in most situations before they happen. And when I do have a hard decision, I really need to take my time and think it through. I used to think that playing quickly showed confidence, which it probably did in rinky-dink Luton comps, but now I realise that taking your time doesn't show weakness, it's just sensible.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Blog in full effect

Well it turned out that you can copy in posts and change the date so it looks like they were there all along. So that's what I have done ! I have resisted the temptation to change them so they predict what subsequently happened, and have just added a note or two where appropriate.

The blog format should allow me to post more frequently, and where necessary, "on location" when I am on a trip abroad. Please do add your comments, and enjoy !


Well, it looks like I now have a blog ! All I wanted to do was post a response to Dave D but now I have my own whizzy blog setup ! I suppose I might as well post diary updates here as well. I wonder if I can archive all the old ones ? I'll have a play with it. In the meantime, enjoy !

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

When you sup with the Devil ...

... use a long spoon. I'm not talking about the Devilfish here (although the proverb still holds true !) but the omni-present one-eyed demon Television. I was quite keen on the Pot-Limit championship held in Dublin last month, I tried to qualify for a few $ (nothing mad). It sounded like the organisers wanted to put the players first, logos were allowed, and so on.

However, reports are coming out that there were a lot of problems with this event. I withold full judgement and the organisers have a chance to respond. Reports to date say that, among other things, players were promised that heats would be televised throughout but in some cases only the final six were shown ; that the structure was changed half way through, apparently because no one had realised that a slower structure meant it would take longer (duh) ; that a player's hand was announced over the tannoy by a commentator during the action (although the player was Hellmuth so that's quite funny) ; and that the draw was not completely open as had been originally stated.

It still sounds like the players are the lowest priority once the cameras start to roll. We shall see. In the meantime I would advise very strongly against playing (or trying to qualify for) televised events which do not allow logos to be worn, and to be careful with the ones that do. Apart from anything else, you might well do better not to commit to any sponsor beforehand - negotiate a better deal as and when you make the final instead.

At the end of the day there are cheaper ways to get your face on TV if that's what you really want. Especially late at night (and not just your face) :-). Just be careful with these.

[Note 9/7/04 after some deliberation, a reference to Andy Glazer in the above post was removed in respect of his untimely death]

Do I feel lucky ? The All-in-ometer

There are two questions you can ask yourself. 1) Am I good or am I lucky ? 2) Am I bad or am I unlucky ? Obviously the first is a better one to be asking, but you may not have the choice. How do you tell how lucky or unlucky you have been over a run of results ? If you have been playing a particular game for so long that you know what your expected rate is, then you can tell. But then again, games can change, you can change - you should change, you should be getting better ! So what can we do ?

There is one thing I have been trying which helps to get a handle. This applies to No-Limit tournaments and Sit & Goes. I call it the All-in-ometer (snappy eh ?). Basically any time you are all-in pre-flop, write down the hands and the size of the pot, and whether you won or lost. Once the game is over, calculate your expectation from each pot and what you received in each pot. Add up the actual returns, subtract the expectations, and that's what the All-in-ometer reads. A plus number is lucky, a minus number is unlucky.

Here's an example. In a particular Sit and Go, my all in hands were as follows :

AJ v AQ for a 2700 pot. I am a 5-2 dog with this hand, my expectation is 2700*2/7 = 750 (rounding to 50 is fine). The board double paired, I split the pot and my return was 1350.

JJ v AK for a 3700 pot. I am slightly better than even money so my expectation is about 1900. I won that for a return of 3700.

So my total expectation for those two pots was 750 + 1900 = 2650. I actually won 1350 + 3700 = 5050 so the All-in-ometer records +2400 which is well in the red zone of "lucky fish". I actually finished third in the Sit and Go which wasn't very good considering the luck I had ! I should mention that in standard 50-30-20 Sit and Goes, I only count the all-ins before we reach the last three players. That's the whole point after all (making the last three), and heads-up play in particular may swamp the more important pre-money action. Another tweak is that I sometimes play pots where I don't put all the chips in pre-flop but I know I'm not going to fold later on whatever - if the hand goes to the river, this counts too. I'll talk a bit more about this particular play in the next section.

So basically, after a tournament, a large negative number implies that you were unlucky and shouldn't worry too much. Especially if the number is larger than the number of starting chips. However, if the number you end up with is large and positive, you were a lucky fish and should have made it pay. Now, this isn't foolproof. Note that if you go all in with AK and run into AA for example, that only produces a small negative number but in fact it is just plain unlucky. Similarly you can get it all in on the flop in front and be outdrawn, or vice versa. And you should never, ever let the cart drive the horse and say "If I go all-in here that's favourable on the All-in-ometer" - just play your normal game and note the results.

I just find it's useful for keeping an even temperament. If you do all your chips in a multi-table, or lose 5 Sit and Goes in a row, you have the numbers to back up that you were just unlucky (if that's the case). On the other hand, if you're scoring pluses on the AIO but not making profits, you should be looking hard at your game (or harder than usual !)

So we come to the point. This week I have gone back to Sit and Goes after a short break and been tearing them up. But I've only played 16 of them. Consulting the overall All-in-ometer over the 16 comps returns a reading of +6600. With 1500 chips costing $25, we can equate that to roughly $110 worth of luck, and estimate that our expected rate per tournament is probably $5-$10 less than the actual rate recorded. Knowing this should help me when I hit a bad run - I won't be thinking that this week just gone is how it "should be". Instead I know that I was running on the hot side.

It's not exhaustive at all, and should be taken with a pinch of salt rather than too seriously, but I find it helps, especially during those times when you're not too sure about your game. Try it and see !

Sunday, July 04, 2004

I don't go All-Yin

Here's an excerpt from one of Simon Trumper's recent diary entries (which you can find here)

"everyone passed to me and in the small blind I found ATs , with $10,800 out there. With the BB having $35,000 it was pointless making a standard raise to 12,000 as if he moved in I was calling. So I moved all in"

Simon ! Just because you would call a reraise, it doesn't follow that moving all your chips in is the best play ! Making the standard raise may have the following advantages :

- Your opponent might just call giving you the opportunity to outplay him on the flop

- A smaller raise may tempt him into calling with a worse hand

- Then again, a smaller raise may actually look scarier and may cause him to fold a better hand

- He might try to bluff reraise with nothing at all

To be fair, it may not too ! Your opponent might outplay you on the flop, or bluff reraise and make you pass. But there are things to think about here and I do think Simon's logic is off. It's a bit like the (more obviously incorrect) argument "I'm going to call on the river anyway, so I might as well bet". Simon has told me he reads this occasionally so I'd be interested to hear a response !

Here's another one, from Brad Daugherty in the mostly very good "Championship Satellite Strategy". Brad talks about raising half his stack with AQ only for Amir Vahedi * to come over the top with AJ. Brad calls but loses the hand. He now reasons that it would have been better to go all in and discourage AJ from playing. I think this is just plain wrong (and so did Mason Malmuth in his review of the book BTW). In this situation you should be delighted to get a shortish stack all in as a 5-2 favourite. Survival concerns nowhere near outweigh the 70% chance of doubling up. Certainly if anyone's got better than AQ they aren't passing whatever you do. Why not try to get some action off a worse hand (although don't make a girly Internet raise and let everyone in :-)).

Above I was talking about having a good run in Sit and Goes. Apart from my luck :-), I think one reason for this is when I am in the zone of about 12-16 small blinds, instead of going all in I have raised to about 6 [small blinds] and kept the rest back for the flop. I was going to analyze this in detail, but instead I'll just say that I think the pros of this play definitely outweigh the cons, provided you only fold on the flop if you're really absolutely positively sure that you are beaten and have no outs !

Nuts to the analysis anyway, it just works better :-). Try it and see ! Over-betting the pot in No-Limit is not generally a good idea if you're a better player than the field. And if you're a worse player than the field, what the hell are you doing in the game ?

* It could be that Daugherty is just taking the opportunity to have a pop at Vahedi who is not the most respected player at the top level. Stranger things have happened in the poker book world :-)

Friday, July 02, 2004

Trip Report !

Of sorts ! Why not, haven't done one in a while. I rolled up to take a shot at the £750 freezeout in the Vic last night. Just one major name on my table to start with - the fantastic Xuyen Pham, Pot-Limit World Champion ! As I said on the forum I was really pleased to see Xuyen win that and it was nice to congratulate her in person. Unfortunately she hit a "death card" to make her the straight but her opponent the full house so she was first out this time. I don't have a great start and drop to about 3K (starting chips 5K) before a controversial limp on the button with A7. No raise, flop 765 with 2 clubs, BB comes out betting. Hmm, so many draws he can have that I think I have to play, and so I have to raise as there are so many scare cards could come off. He calls, 87, no straight and I double up. Then I double up again, finding AA against the table fish who looks disturbingly like Phil Neville.

At this point I fancy opening it up as one of the larger stacks, but it doesn't quite go to plan. Paul Phillips arrives on my right and turns out to be a nice guy. It was probably a bit foolish of me to go after him in a blind v blind situation, but hey, you gotta get up to get down :-). That costs me 2K and the blinds are creeping up. I win a couple with 76s and then a spectacular 62 off, both times getting a caller from the blinds and taking it down on the flop. You feel like you've earned it when you win with that ! Then comes the pivotal (and needless to say final) hand of the evening.

Geezer on my left has just arrived with a big stack. Haven't seen him before, looks like a typical VOG (Vic Old Git). I have just over 7000, playing 300-600 with a 50 ante. At this point I'm not dead keen on being the first raiser - I'd rather be the reraiser and put the big decision to my opponent. So one of the plays up my sleeve is to limp from the button or small blind and if I get a raiser, reraise all in. And so it comes to pass that it's folded around to me in the SB. Alright then, I limp. He bets 2000. Let's do it, I raise all in 5K more. It's now 5K to him with about 11K in the middle. To my discomfort he calmly and methodically, without ever looking like folding, counts off the chips and calls. "Good call" I have to say as I turn over my rather unspectacular K6. But to my complete amazement he shows down JT offsuit. Straight on the river, and that's that. I don't say much but can't help a quick "I thought I was bluffing ...", "Little did you know" drawls Phillips. Little did I know indeed ! Looks like I picked the wrong guy to bluff. Or the right guy to reraise for value with K6. Who can tell ?!

So that's the way it's going in £750 comps these days ! I'm not disappointed though. I tried a few different things and made some moves, and in the end I got it in from the front. And made the last tube :-). Better than clinging on till 3-30 and going out 24th. Back to the Internet for me I suppose. £1000 No Limit in Luton in August maybe ? Could do !