Get It Quietly

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

Location: Enfield, London, United Kingdom

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

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 !


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