Get It Quietly

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

Location: Enfield, London, United Kingdom

Friday, August 27, 2004

An Alternative view of Standard Deviation

From a press release about a Poker Coaching business :

"Coach Jim Bucci has achieved thirty-two final tables and has seven tournament wins. Jim is a 23-year veteran of professional poker. One of Jim Bucci's students won over $189 THOUSAND DOLLARS (finishing 3rd) in the $2500 buy-in 2004 World Championship of Online Poker No Limit Texas HoldEm event sponsored by This makes one of Coach Jim's students one of the best online players in the world, as measured by actual tournament results."

What can you say to these people ? Like in The Simpsons, if I told them that was specious reasoning, they'd probably thank me ...

Footnote 3/9/04 : To my surprise, I received an Email from the business in question yesterday. They didn't ask me to change the text above, however based on the politeness and professionalism of their Email I have removed the "scam" implication above. Apparently the student in question has more than one result to his name. I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of the venture : but as ever, caveat emptor.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

More spreadsheet fun

Just for fun (it's a laugh a minute round here I can tell you) I worked out some bankroll requirements for various types of tournaments. In each case, I am assuming a win rate of $30/hr. For online games I am assuming playing two games simultaneously (so a rate of $15/hr in each game). The buy-ins are the level I believe I would need to play at to achieve the required rate, when considering how long the game takes to play. Rake is 10% of buyin. In each case the bankroll requirement is the largest downside experienced in a single 20,000 hour (= 20 hours a week for 20 years) Monte Carlo simulation.

Now, I'm not going to take the Samuel route here and quote my figures to 4 decimal places because I know they are totally dependent on my assumptions. These are approximations. I will say that they should at least be reasonably accurate in relation to each other - if one is too low, they're probably all too low, or too high. Enough chit chat, here are the results :


$30 50/30/20 STTs : $500
$30 Winner Take All STTs : $2,000
$40 Small (50-100 runner) MTTs : $2,500
$100 Large (150-200 runner) MTTs : $7,500

B & M Casino

$80 Small (50 runner) MTTs : $5,500
$300 Large (150 runner) MTTs : $25,000

A few comments :

Yes, you really only need $500 in your bankroll if you can play $30 STTs with an EV of $15 per tournament. At this rate you'll be cashing more than 50% of the time.

Yes, you really do need to buy in for $300 to achieve a $30/hr rate in large B+M MTTs partially because the field is tougher but mostly because they take so long. If anything this is an under-estimation. Daniel Negreanu has claimed his expected hourly rate in tournaments is $50/hr ; and bear in mind he is a very good player who spends a lot of time in much bigger tournaments than $300.

One category I have missed out is B+M single table satellites. This is simply because if you are good enough to make $30/hr in the other games you should be good enough to make twice as much in B+M STTs at US festivals - probably three times. They're that soft. So it's difficult to make an exact comparison. I will say that if you're making $60 a go in $100 STTs then your bankroll requirement is about $4,000 if you chop, $7,000 if you don't.

So there you have it. And don't forget, unless first prize is going to change your life, hourly rate and bankroll are basically all that matter. I know it doesn't feel like that playing tournaments, but it is. See you in the Sit and Goes.

30/8/04 Footnote : I was just checking a textbook today to ensure my calculations were valid and I came across the following quote from Mason Malmuth : "Many people have a fairly good idea what their win rates are. Almost no one has any idea of what their standard deviations are, even though for many people this parameter is just as important - or even more important - than the expectation". Damn straight.

There's no I in team

You have to hand it to Arsenal as they break record after record. They have so many players with pace and intelligence that they can be an absolute delight to watch in full flow. It's fair to say that quite often they expose the defending in "the best league in the world" as being second-class, but irrespective of quibbles about the Premiership's quality, they are the best team in it by a street.

The mark of a great player or team in any sport is his/their ability to make the game look simple where everyone else makes it look hard. Just have a look how often Arsenal do the following. A striker, often Henry, finds himself in a clear goalscoring position, but instead of shooting he squares it to a team mate who taps into an empty net. Arsenal do this all the time. Compare and contrast with, say, the epitome of English centre forwards, Alan Shearer. Have you ever seen Shearer do that ? I'm racking my brains, in vain. People will say something like "Well you don't score 9 grillion Premiership goals without a bit of a selfish streak". Hmmm. Henry seems to do ok. And for all his goals, how many medals are there in Alan Shearer's cabinet ? One title with Blackburn. That's it.

In any team sport, at any level, when you have players whose first priority is maintaining their place on the team, or their status within it, that detracts considerably from the effectiveness of the team. A team whose players are all choosing the best option for the team ahead of themselves will have a great advantage. I don't blame players for this entirely ; there are still plenty of "old school" managers out there who only know one way to motivate. Criticise and follow this up with "prove me wrong". This works for some people, not for others. For many players this approach simply undermines confidence and encourages them to take the selfish option on the pitch.

Just like poker (I was getting there eventually), leaving your ego at home is very beneficial.

Swings and Bigger Swings

I was working some stuff out on a spreadsheet yesterday and came up with a good example of how much bigger the luck factor in poker is than most people believe. As I mentioned below somewhere, I have put a few hours in on a particular type of Sit and Go over the last few months, this being the $25 Turbo No Limit Sit and Go on Pokerstars. My year to date results in this particular game are played 85, net $1,216. So my expectation for one of these Sit and Goes is just over $14, right ?

Well maybe. We don't know yet. All we can say at the moment is that there is a 95% chance that my rate is between $4 and $24 ! How I work this out is probably for another day, but it is all derived from estimating the standard deviation.

Having said that, these sit and goes are subject to much smaller swings than multi-table tournaments. If my rate really is $14 per game, the I am very unlikely to suffer a downswing of more than about $700. If I play 1000 of them (an awful lot, but doable in a year if I put my mind to it), the 95% confidence band is $11K-$17K. That is, there is only a 2.5% chance I would make less than $11K.

All this is highly dependent on exactly what my rate is, but for the moment I am encouraged by the fact that my rate is not "set in stone" at $14 and could be higher, especially if I try hard to improve it.

At some point I will try to make similar estimates for MTTs, which could prove very interesting indeed !

Monday, August 23, 2004

City Boy Blues

While considering my own PEP-less future, I thought of something that potentially applies to quite a few people I know. It's very simple. If you're making the majority of your money on-line, online poker or betting exchanges or whatever, then why the hell do you live in London ?

If you have a job in London, then you are (or ought to be) paid a certain amount extra to compensate for the increased cost of living. Probably not enough now I think of it, but something at least. If you're working online, then why not go and live in Devon ? Or Durham ? Or Northern Ireland ? These places aren't total backwaters. They do have DSL, and cinemas, and football. You could cut your exes in half, or live somewhere twice as nice. That's what I would do. And perhaps I will.

License To Ill

The Olympics - hate them or ignore them, you can't like them. I couldn't even ignore them today as I was drawn into the Paula Radcliffe debate on two separate forums (fora ?). There are two aspects of this I'd like to discuss. Discuss ? I meant talk about, and you listen (still reading too much Maddox I think). Numero Uno. One big Olympic turn-off is the ubiquitous Billy Britain commentary, frequently from ex-competitors who are far too close to the current crop to criticise them in any way. Someone usually pops up with "well there's a mute/off button". Which is fine, except for one thing. When I turn the BBC off, I'm still paying for it. If I never tune to the BBC at all, I'm still paying for it. If I never use my TV for anything except watching porn videos, I'm still paying for it. What the hell is this, Russia ? The license fee is a horrible anachronism. When the BBC was the only game in town, fair enough. But now it has to go. Either that or someone should have the balls to say "OK, everyone knows that football rules, cricket is OK, WWF is funny and everything else sucks. So if you have a TV you will be charged £120 per year which goes straight to Sky Sports. What ? Is there a problem with that ? Got an off button haven't you ??". Losers.

I'm a Loser baby, so why don't you kill me

OK. Olympic problem Numero Duo. Losers are not heroes. They are losers. Half an hour ago I sneaked a look over someone's shoulder in the supermarket to read the tabloid headline (front page as well) "Tears of a Hero". Hmmm. Throughout the history of epic literature, have heroes been renowned for quitting half way through and bursting into tears ? I think not. However hot it was.

Personally, it doesn't bother me much either way what British sportsmen do. Judge a man by what he does, not someone else who was born on the same bit of mud. Apparently though, there are people out there who are bothered. Well if you want a better result next time round, drop all this returning hero bollocks for someone who lost. When, say, an Australian athlete comes home and says "well I made the final and finished 6th" or "I couldn't believe how hot it was", are they called a hero ? No. They're called a loser and told not to come back until they've won something. Which is why they overachieve in the sporting world. If anyone cares anyway.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Do it now

The 2005 WSOP now seems set for the Rio, June 3rd-July 15th. If you're thinking about going, book your hotel now. I just did. I blagged a pretty good deal, 14 nights at the Gold Coast for $720 here . Just go, you won't regret it. It doesn't cost a fortune, there are loads of games to play without coughing up $2000, and it's a great holiday. You can always cancel, so do it now !

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Effective Sponsorship

My attention was drawn to a post on the Mob Forum from a new on-line poker site. They were looking for a 5th player to join their team of professionals jetting round the world. I had a think about it (who wouldn't !) but was saved too much wasted time when someone posted the reply they received, which confirmed that it was a promotion aimed at attracting players to the site. Those who played the most hands in a month would be in a position to qualify.

My mistake - I thought they were looking for someone who would actually be any good at promoting their site. What they will get is the luckiest of those people who can spend every waking hour for a month playing online. Now I can see what they're doing by trying to attract players to kick-start the games, but is this really going to offset the cost of sending someone all around Europe to play big tournaments which they almost certainly will not be qualified to play ?

I can't help thinking that the whole idea of putting players into tournaments is not at all cost-effective. You might get lucky and they'll win you some money, but given that you're picking up the tab for everything, it's unlikely. And with a bad run, it could cost you an absolute fortune. And for what ? To have guys wearing your shirt in massive tournaments where no one has time or inclination to chit-chat and where 90% of the field would never go near a small internet poker room anyway.

If it was me, I would pay my horses on a proposition basis. Proposition players or "props" in the US are paid a flat rate by cardrooms to keep games going, play short-handed etc. They play poker with their own money. I'd be looking for personable, intelligent people to go out and play in £10 tournaments and beginners' nights, with a brief to always be friendly and helpful. I'd pay expenses and a flat per hour rate, but they'd be playing poker with their own money. The last thing you want to do is to give a "professional" carte blanche in a rebuy tournament ; most of them will take the piss. If I paid for anyone to visit a festival, the same would apply. I would encourage them to play satellites and "second chance" tournaments as that would ensure a quicker turnover of opponents and a better demographic of the people you are trying to attract.

If someone wanted me to do that, and I was prepared to do it (two big ifs !), I'd do a damn good job. I wouldn't come cheap per hour, but compared to flying people round the world and putting them in $10K tournaments with your money, it would be an absolute bargain.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Top of the Blogs

In my opinion the "must-read" poker blog on the net is Paul Phillips . I searched it out after meeting him at the Vic in July. He is a very, very clever guy who cuts through the mystique of top level tournament play and tells it like it is. And he canes Hellmuth a lot :-)

His latest entry caught my eye :

"I was never in the camp that having my hole cards exposed to the world would be detrimental to my results; I was indifferent because television almost never gives you enough context and unless you understand WHY a player does what he does, you are no closer to predicting his future actions.But now I feel like I'm totally in a position to manipulate people who have seen me play on TV. Since I know exactly what's been on TV I can assemble a model of myself based on that and (with numerous caveats) grant that model to strangers. If you can form an accurate sense of your opponent's model of you and make the correct adjustments, you have a monster advantage.The more I think about it the more convinced I am that this is a good thing. "

Good thing for Paul = bad thing for me if we ever end up on the same table again. Quite often lately I've been watching some poker tournament on TV, bored, but thinking "come on, you have to watch this to see how so-and-so plays, if you have the ambition to play at that level". But of course he's right. Real players are capable of staying one step ahead by knowing their image, as it has been projected on TV. A good excuse to just go to bed early next time the WPT is on Challenge. Which is every night, pretty much.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

£250 Pot-Limit Hold-Em, Luton

Had a shot at this last night, but it's still Barnet v Forest Green for me this afternoon rather than playing poker for £60K. Nil desperandum though, it wasn't a bad game and I quite enjoyed it.

Fairly quiet to start with, 5000 chips and 25-50 blinds, pot limit, no real maniacs on our table. I drop 2000 by flopping a straight in an unraised pot and paying off on the turn when the board pairs ; but I felt I had to pay him off as it was only 1000 more and he was a total fish. Incidentally this was a player who I know is a "slider" in No-Limit (likes to overbet the pot by moving all his chips in). In PL he was the deadest of dead money.

I recover to about 4500 but drop another thousand just before the buyins ended. Pretty soon the table gets broken and I am moved next door - onto Jac's table. Now I'm thinking, wouldn't it be just like poker for Jac to knock me out after my comments on here yesterday. But poker turns out to be even more perverse than that, and he doubles me up twice :-). I try a steal reraise on a local who I think has me pegged as a rock, but unfortunately he also can't put a hand down, convinces himself that I have a small pair, and calls with A7. Seeing as I have 87 this isn't good. First card 8 though ching !

Now my cover is blown so I can't do much without hands. On my immediate left, Tony Bolton and Garry Bush are picking up big pair after big pair with someone throwing chips at them every time. No such luck for me and the blinds get up to 600-1200 when mid position limps and I check the BB with 98. Flop T97, I check-raise, it all goes in (I had about 11K before the hand), and his QT holds up. Thank you and goodnight. I thought I was favourite there but it turns out I was 45%. Not to worry, I gave him a chance to fold and I'm happy with the play.

So all in all not too bad. It was the right game to play in, which is half the battle. And it was nice to catch up with a few people, players and staff. I think my enthusiasm for the game is coming back, slowly but surely.

17/8/04 Follow-up : "I felt I had to pay him off as it was only 1000 more and he was a total fish". Did anyone read this and think "So ? No you don't". This was a bad call. I think I'm paying off too many check-raises just because I check-raise quite freely on a situational basis (as above for example). There are a lot of people out there who check-raise for one reason only : they like their hand. A lot. I should not have paid this guy off whatever the pot odds.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Architecture of Aggression

I can't quite decide who was the most comically naive poster on the Mob Forum this week. The guy who thought that Donald Trump posted under the name MadYank, or the guy who thought Jac Arama would "dominate the poker world over the next five years".

Apologies to either poster if they were joking, but if I were to list all the reasons why Jac Arama will not dominate the poker world over the next five years we'd be here all night. Jac isn't the worst player you'll ever see ; against typical fields in medium-size tournaments he will run over a lot of the players who are simply trying to occupy a seat for as long as possible. What our poster is missing is that so much of what makes a top-notch player has nothing at all to do with how he plays at the table. Just two of the attributes required are excellent emotional control and brutally honest self-appraisal. There is the odd exception (Hellmuth perhaps, though I think he's going off the rails), but Jac doesn't have these attributes (or several others) and he isn't the exception, I can assure you.

Nonetheless, what we are hearing is good news. There are a lot of people out there who see Gus Hansen terrorising the field in the WPT and think that's all there is to it. Just raise with 47 off and keep betting. Now, IMO the jury is out on Hansen until he shows us what he does now that his game has been "outed" to such an extent. But I believe that he is a very clever guy who has won more than his share by knowing when NOT to make these plays. Selective aggression gets the cake, but indiscriminate aggression does not, in the long run, and that's what people fail to realise.

Coincidentally, I am thinking very hard about mixing up my game, taking chances, getting chips or getting gone. But hopefully I'm thinking harder than the people who watch a couple of heavily edited TV shows and think they know what's what. As ever, time will tell.

The Plan (2)

What I have immediately found is that if I cut Internet Poker down by about half, it's just as easy to cut it out entirely. I can't really be bothered to play it. Basically, I already spend 30 hours a week making $x per hour - it's called a job. And as much as I might complain about it at times, my job makes plenty to get by on, and is usually more interesting than playing online poker.

So while the net is always there if I need to fall back on it, I don't have to play it at all if I don't want to. For example, recently I have made just over $1000 playing $25 Turbo Sit and Goes on Stars, in about 35 hours of play. But after a while I was SO BORED I just could barely face playing any more of them. Provided I won it was OK, but losing (especially on the bubble) caused far too much frustration (any at all is too much !). So I have cashed most of it in, leaving about $100 in a couple of sites for fun, and will concentrate on the medium (£100/$200 and above), live tournament scene.

Money-wise, this isn't the smartest move. I'm already about £5K down on these and they have been subsidised in the past by small tournament earnings. But throughout my poker career, it's not necessarily being good that has been enjoyable or satisfying, it's getting better. There's plenty of room for improvement, I have the bankroll (and it's not too hard to replace if necessary), and I have quite a few ideas to try out. I'm also encouraged by my play at the WSOP which I was happy with, especially the one table satellites.

So if I do that, maybe we could knock US trips up to 3 a year instead of 2. It's 4 months since the last one, so we must be due another ! Four Queens anybody ? See you there !! And if anyone's playing the £250 in Luton tomorrow night, I'll see you there too.

More Haste, Less Speed

The latest game to hit the poker tables of Europe is the World Speed Poker Championships. Two dealers, 15 seconds to make any decision and, here's the best bit, an Estonian model with a stopwatch standing behind every player (I'm not making this up). All in an effort to re-create the pace of an Internet tournament.

This is great news. In the old days, if I wanted to play an Internet tournament, my only option was to turn my PC on. Now, thanks to the WSPC innovators, I can also fly out to fucking Estonia.

Excuse the sarcasm but what is the point ? I hope Anres Baiget on Gutshot can tell us more about this because he rules.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Bean Counting

Right back at the start of this Diary, I promised I would quote some win/loss figures, and I haven't yet. So, seeing as I have just done some work with my database, I thought I would put that right. I'm not going to comment on these for now, just state them. All comments are welcome though, and yes, I know, why don't I play more of the games I win in and less of the games I lose in ! All figures are in US $ because that makes them sound bigger :

UK Small Tournaments (< £100 buy-in)

Hold-Em .. Played 188, Net +$12,120
Other ................P 318, +$23,490

UK Large Tournaments (>= £100 buy-in)

Hold-Em.............P 51, +$970
Other..................P 28, -$10,100

US Tournaments (all)

Hold-Em.............P 26, -$4,550
Other..................P 15, +$1,210

Continental Europe (all)

Hold-Em.............P 2, -$3,400
Other...................P 3, -$1,200

Single Table Satellites

US........................P 64, +$3,880
UK.......................P 4, -$560


US.......................P 11, -$3,060
UK.......................P 16, -$1,290 * Includes Grand Prix etc.
Europe.................P 3, -$550

Total..................... + $16,960

Minus a few hundred on-line, plus a few hundred more in cash games, and that's about it. I did promise to do it, and thought people might be interested ; I'm sure that there are others who do a lot better, and others who do a lot worse. Comparisons are odious in any case :-)

Monday, August 02, 2004

Calling is the new raising (2)

Looking back, I thought I'd go through a truly horrible play I made in a tournament 3 years ago. The twist is that it was made during the competition in which I won £10K, and if I had played the hand right, I would have got nothing at all !

I can't remember the exact stack sizes and so on, but we were 6 or 7 handed at the last two tables. A shortish stack went all in on my right, and I was on the button with QQ. I know the stack sizes are important, but basically the raise was about pot-size and I had enough chips for a pot-size reraise, plus a few more. I flat called, the chip leader went all in, and I passed. CL showed A8 against the all-in's KQ, and an Ace flopped to win it.

Everyone I asked at the time said I should have reraised with the Queens. I am now utterly convinced that they were wrong. The call was fine - the big mistake was passing to the reraise. It's a similar situation to the one in the WPT (which I haven't seen, but which has been discussed at length here and there) where Chip Reese goes all in, "the car wash guy" calls with QQ and Barry Greenstein goes all in over the top with AK. Car wash guy calls, Greenstein hits a K to knock them both out, and CWG is savaged on RGP by all the Monday morning quarterbacks.

Two players for whom I have the utmost respect, Paul Phillips and Steve Badger, came out very strongly in the CWG's defence on this one. Basically, flat calling with QQ won't make any difference against the two hands it hates (AA and KK), and the one it doesn't mind much either way (AK), but will encourage all sorts of reraises from weaker hands like JJ, TT, AQ - even A8 in my case ! Check out this month's "Pro Tip" on the Hendon Mob site - they recommend reraising with nothing in this spot !!

There are a lot of people out there in big tournament land who will assume that you are weak if you just call an all-in. There is a great deal to be said for just calling an all-in with any hand that can take the heat if reraised - AK, QQ or better, maybe even JJ. Tournament players are so aggressive these days you have to find ways to use that against them - and this is a good one.