Get It Quietly

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

Location: Enfield, London, United Kingdom

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Blog split

My new strategy blog is now up. Wittily entitled Secrets of the Amateurs, it will feature strategy tips and articles (or lectures if you don't like my style) and everyone is encouraged to chip in.

The Prawn Sandwich Brigade

The Mob Forum has been sliding downhill very slowly for quite a while. The latest slip down the slope is a tedious succession of "my team's better than your team" United/Arsenal/Chelsea threads. It sounds like the same people posting repeatedly under different names to create the illusion of support for their views, my very least favourite forum tactic, then again there are a lot of these people about so who knows. More to the point though who cares ?

The vast influx of money into the Premiership has created a very clear-cut three tier system. At the top, United, Arsenal and Chelsea*. Regular participation in the noses-to-the-trough Champions League brings in a lot of money, which is used to ensure qualification for next year's jamboree, and so on and so on. At the bottom, the three promoted clubs who struggle desperately to make up the gap with the clubs who are on Premiership money year in year out. In the middle, the rest, maybe Liverpool and Newcastle just with enough of an edge to be favourites for the last Champions League spot, mainly due to previous CL cash-ins. Basically you have a huge gap between 3rd and 4th, a huge gap between 17th and 18th, and hardly any between 4th-17th. Zzzzzzzz. The only issues of note are who will win (can't see past Arsenal myself) and whether any established Premiership club can perform the considerable feat of cocking it up enough to get relegated (eg Leeds last year, Southampton are having a good try).

The leagues below can be very exciting (I'll come on to this in a later post) but only because everyone's basically skint and there's not much of a difference even between divisions. It could be worse - I heard a commentator the other night say that Rosenborg have won the Norwegian league 12 years in a row. Presumably with the CL cash they get they are now in a position where no one will ever challenge them domestically. The Champions League has gone a long way to killing competition in national leagues all over Europe, as the "haves" pull further and further away from the "have nots". Oh well. That's TV for you !

* It is worth pointing out that Chelsea were so badly run by Bates that they were within a day of going into administration before Abramovich rode in. Maybe one day he'll get bored and pull the rug out - we can only hope.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Blog Updates

Just a couple of things to do with this blog. I will be splitting out the strategy advice type content into a separate blog, and I will be making an effort to update it regularly. You can find it via my profile, but there's nothing in it yet so don't get over-excited. Also I have hopefully fixed this blog so you can comment without having to register. If I get too many naughty anonymous posts I might reconsider that, but until then, come one come all.

Friday, September 24, 2004

He won't say how many tried and died

Up against the top hand, up against the wrong man. There are a couple of subjects I'd like to put to bed on here, and move on to something else. One is to try to make it clear to people just how far uphill you're going when you chase the dream. Wouldn't it be great to sip champagne with Vince and Shania, with 2 million dollars piled up in front of you ? To hold up the winning WSOP hand for the cameras, gold bracelet placed front and centre on top of your huge mound of $100s ? Chris Moneymaker did it, why not me ?

For one reason, Chris Moneymaker has more bottle and nerve than 99% of the people who try their luck, but more importantly, we never get to see the thousands and thousands who couldn't qualify online. Who missed out in the $1000 supers. Who got half way through the field before running into Aces. Who even made the last three tables and then cracked.

With the WPT running an event every month, this should give us a better picture. Here are the winners from Series 2 (not counting crap like Invitationals and Ladies Nights) :

David Benyamine
Mel Judah
Noli Francisco
Erick Lindgren
Hoyt Corkins
Paul Phillips
Gus Hansen
Barry Greenstein
Antonio Esfandiari
Phil Gordon
Erick Lindgren again
Michael Kinney
Martin de Knijff

And series 3 so far :

Surinder Sunar
Doyle Brunson
Daniel Negreanu

How many amateurs can we see on there ? Perhaps Michael Kinney, I don't know, but I do know he played very well in that final. I could list off the runners up and there'd only be two or three amateurs max. Most weeks there are one or two who make the final, but they can't go the extra mile and win it, mostly because of the pressure I suspect. Even if you qualify for something like this you are up against people who have huge advantages, as follows :

  • They're better than you (duh)
  • They're much more experienced
  • They're used to playing 8 hours a day for 4 days at that level, with that intensity
  • They can handle playing for large amounts of money without it affecting their decisions
  • Many are backed which eases pressure considerably (Josh Arieh in his ESPN interview : "Yes I am backed, and a lot of the top players are backed as well. "). Many of the others are independently well off, eg Phil Gordon and Paul Phillips

You can't just look at the odd winner when you think about this. It's like asking a jackpot winner what he thinks of the lottery, or asking the Queen if we should keep the monarchy. Have a look at this for example. Here's a very clever guy, to whom money is no object, travelling the WPT. No disrespect is intended, but count up the events he has played and how much he's won. He's doing his nuts. Do you think you can do any better ?

Take the odd shot if you like but wasting a lot of time and money on this is a bad idea. Think about how many tried and died before you draw against the John Wesley Hardins of the poker world.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Vegas Gossip

Met a few interesting people in Vegas, as usual ! I found myself sitting next to The Car Wash Guy in a single table satellite. He was cool, modest and talked interestingly about the final. Unfortunately he was mostly drowned out by some nerk across the table who thought everyone would rather hear the tragic tale of how he finished 9th in the same event. Judging by the way he played the single table, he should count himself lucky he even qualified for the WPT event (I can't believe he put $10K of his own up), never mind won $55K (I checked, and it was him). This wasn't the only "I coulda been a contender" story I heard while I was out there. I suppose for every WPT final there are 3 or 4 people who make the last two tables, miss out, and will never be there again. It's a bit sad that they're bitter about the biggest score they'll ever make. What's that poem that ends something like "the saddest words - it might have been" ?

On another occasion I was talking to a dealer who, it transpired, dealt the famous Hellmuth-Grizzle confrontation. I'm not one to tell tales out of class - let's just say that she only described one of them as "a despicable human being", and it wasn't Phil. In between some horrific stories of dealer abuse she talked about certain players who are all smiles on TV but very badly behaved off it. Yet more reason that seeing isn't believing on the dreaded gogglebox. It reminds me of a comment I saw on another blog recently : "but I haven't seen you on TV so I can't judge your character". If it was a joke, very good, but I suspect it wasn't.

I bumped into the new slimline Peter Costa one afternoon. He was telling me how he was playing tennis and 5-a-side, cooking for himself instead of eating out, and so on. The poker lifestyle is a very unhealthy one, and it's always nice to see a little less of a player I get on with, in one sense ! (Hint hint to more than one person who reads this).

Finally a great story I heard while playing blackjack. Shock horror, I know, table games ! Well, $5 blackjack is only costing me 5c per hand and it passes the time if there aren't any satellites to play. Anyway, the floorwoman told us how the dealer at the next table had rented a cabin in the Grand Canyon but had to pay up without staying there because she couldn't find it. Not the cabin - she couldn't find the Grand Canyon ! I had to laugh, but I can see myself doing that - driving round in circles going "Bloody hell, I'm sure it's round here somewhere".

More tax on stupidity and greed

I enjoy playing in the US very much. However, there is one thing I hate even when I'm on holiday, and that's being ripped off. The tournament rake in the US is becoming excessive to say the least. At the Four Queens, the second chance tournaments were $200+30. A rake of 15%, plus 3% taken off for the dealers. 18%.

It's not so bad for bigger tournaments is it, I hear you ask ? Not yet, but it's getting there. Let's have a look at the schedule for Tunica in January. Sample tournament, number 2, No-Limit Hold-em $500+50. That's 10%. 3% of prize pool is withheld for tournament staff, that's 13%. "A 3% Mississippi State Tax (1099 form) will be withheld from all winnings over $599". Not sure if that applies to us, but if it does, that's 16%. "$10,200 will be withheld ... 1st place winner ... will receive an entry into the $10,200 Championship event". Not strictly speaking a rake, but I object to being told what to do with the money I win. Give me my money, and then I'll decide what to enter. With 300 runners that's 6% of the prize pool. If you would only have a $5K expectation in the Championship event, you can count it as another 3% rake, I reckon. 19% rake. That's a lot to overcome in No-Limit Hold-em, the tournament game where the good player's edge is the smallest of all.

And, believe it or not, it gets worse. What if you play satellites with a view to playing a tournament with the winnings (instead of with a view to taking the money and laughing). 10 mugs, sorry players, sit down for a $65 satellite. The winner intends to play in event 2 above. Out of the $650 put down, $100 is the satellite rake, $20 tip to the dealer, and then $80 is raked out of the tournament itself (not including the $10K withheld). $200 of that $65o is going to the house !

At some point you have to vote with your feet. If you're going to rake tournaments as much as that, don't complain if I take money out of them via satellites ($120 satellites basically have a 10% rake) instead. And if you do get a result in one of these, for god's sake resist the temptation to tip. Unless you think 15-20% of $150,000 isn't enough for a 2 day tournament.

I'd like to go to Tunica, I really would, I like the people there, but there's a WPPA event in Vegas at the same time. I keep telling everyone to vote with their feet if you want things to change - I really ought to do the same myself.

A tax on stupidity and greed

From a current TV National Lottery advert (to add the necessary context, these words are spoken by a woman in a horrible purple dress while a unicorn is singing "Luck be a Lady" in the shower).

"People make their own luck. In the lottery of life, your chances increase 100% if you take part. Right, I'm going out to encourage people to be more positive"

Yes, anyone who knows a sucker bet when they see one is "negative". One of those little things that reassures me that I'm not a cynic, I'm a realist.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

ESPN - it gets worse

Remember this ? The part about the Chuc Hoang - Scotty Nguyen hand. Although I didn't realise it at the time, the guy doing the telling in Tunica was David Plastik.

Now, do you also remember a hand from the 2003 WSOP where Tony D folded JT to Hellmuth's 77 on a board of KJxJ ? Did you think, like I did, WTF ?

Well, now go and check out Paul Phillips blog under "video evidence of ESPN deception", follow the various threads, and make your own judgement.

TV using selective editing to create false impressions is bad enough, but not actually dishonest. This, if it's really happening, is sick. It's about time poker told TV to go and fuck itself.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Pattern Recognition

Pattern recognition, it is said, is one of the faculties that we, as cavemen type dudes, developed to set us apart from the monkeys. Like many of the attributes we evolved to survive, now that we've stopped evolving [because you don't have to be clever, or brave, or strong, or anything to reproduce now] it's sometimes less useful. For example, it's what so makes so many people think that Internet poker is rigged. Leaving that particular can of worms wriggling in the corner, let's try some more useful pattern recognition. Here are my results from my last 5 US trips :


WPO 2003 (Tunica)...................-2010......-215..........-220
Mid-America 03 (Tunica)...........-2140......+255.........-800
WPC 04 (Reno)...........................-1890......-45..........-340
WSOP 04 (Vegas)........................-1180......+3260.....-1700
4 Queens 04 (Vegas)...................-1215......+2350.......-450 *

* I wasn't going to play any supers this time ; the two I did play were effectively single table and winner take all because there were so few runners. Nonetheless they did have rebuys so I can't really count them as STTs.

Let's use our evolved brains to spot some patterns (and I don't mean the columns not being lined up)

Multi-Table tournaments : Oh dear. Looks like I suck pretty bad, as our American cousins would say. That's 19 tournaments, $9900 paid in, and two cashes : 21st for $687 and 22nd for $800. And people wonder why I didn't want to play the $3000 NL at the WSOP !

Note 19/9/04 : I have just realised that those two cashes were in Stud Hi-Lo and Limit Hold-em respectively. And the one time I was unlucky and finished on the bubble was Pot-Limit. Draw your own conclusions - I already have.

Super-satellites : Oh dear oh dear. Played 13, Paid $3510, Return $0.

Single table satellites : Looking good, but there's more. My record [since 2001] in single table satellites with a buy-in of $100 or more is : Played 35, Net $5,920. [compared with 50 : $300 for less than $100 - most of these were before I acquired a basic understanding of how to play STTs, and most of the $100+ were after].

So. I am the first to admit that two sets of 30-odd is a small sample. I believe my expected rate of return in multi-tables (of both types) is probably more than 10% of my investment. Similarly, I doubt whether my expected ROI on single tables is quite as high as 250%. Nonetheless, a pattern emerges, and it suggests a strategy. A strategy of not playing MTTs/supers, of playing STTs instead. Hell, a strategy of doing anything except playing MTTs/supers. $2-4 limit. $5 blackjack. Five armadillo slot machines. Flicking my plums in my room. Had I spent my time doing any of the above instead, I might have $13K more in my pocket right now. I know hindsight is 20/20, but did it really take me 18 months to realise this ? Not so good.

And so, an obvious conclusion. Padraig Parkinson once warned me to watch out for "professional satellite scum". Maybe he should have warned me about becoming one :-)

I'm Back !

Back again, not too jet-lagged (I can definitely recommend the direct flight), but I will wait till I am slightly more with it before posting detailed thoughts on the trip. In brief, I caned the single tables and couldn't win an argument in anything else. As usual !

All in all it was an enjoyable trip though. The one problem was the small size of the fields. Now, if you're going to play tournaments, that's not necessarily a bad thing, and may well be good (certainly it's good in terms of lower variance). But the general lack of numbers milling around meant that there weren't as many single tables as I would have liked. In fact for the first four days there were no $120 satellites at all, only $65. I do much better at $120 (see post above), although I'm not entirely sure why - the reduced rake and 100 extra chips are nowhere near enough to explain the difference.

Maybe it's just fluctuation ! This time around I played 13 x $65 satellites for about $300 (including 2 hi-lo games). As soon as we started at $120 I went : Win, Chop, Lose, Lose, Chop, Win. I certainly had my moments of luck. The last one was funny, I went all in with 44 against QQ (blind vs blind, in my defence) and won, took off A8 with A3 and rivered both my last two opponents to knock them out. Then again if I had beaten AT with AK in the middle of all that I would probably have closed it out no problem. Swings and roundabouts in these - you have to stick your chin out and take the punches sometimes. It was just funny that I won $1000 while so zonked with a cold and general tiredness that 20 minutes later I tried to hit 16 against the dealer's 3 playing blackjack.

I kept the multi-tables to a minimum, nothing bigger than $300, but still no good. Given some time to think (not something you normally associate with Las Vegas) I reckon I'm through with MTTs. There are other games to play that I enjoy more, others where I earn more, and others I can learn. I suspect that with the ever-increasing flood of new players, tournaments from Luton to Las Vegas are providing smaller expectations and higher variances by the day - a deadly combination.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of

I saw the "Poker Kings" documentary at the weekend. It's best not to read too much into these programmes, as careful editing can create any impression that the director wants to. It did have the honour of being the first one ever to make Phil Hellmuth look sane, if only for a few minutes while talking about his family.

One throwaway comment from Simon Trumper perked my interest. He said "I'm ranked third in Europe, and if I don't get a result here, I'll be down [meaning losing money] for the year ! That's ridiculous".

I thought it would have made much more sense the other way round : "If I don't get a result here, I'll be down for the year. And I'm ranked third in Europe ! That's ridiculous".

That's not a pop at Simon but an indication of how much faith you should place in these ranking lists. There are some top players there for sure, but all they really tell you is who is playing the most tournaments.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Holiday ! Celebrate !

I'm off to Vegas on Thursday for a week, to hang around downtown in the general vicinity of the Four Queens tournament. I plan to hit the single tables as hard as I can and take it from there. Perhaps I'll spin any winnings up in one of the bigger tournaments, we'll see.

Anyway if you should see me (I'll probably be wearing my very smart QPR baseball cap) then come up and say hello. The only other person you might see in a QPR cap is The Camel and we're easy to tell apart - he's the one who can play.

I should be updating the diary on location so stay tuned !

Even More Fun with Spreadsheets

Thanks to Dan who sent me the following comment on my recent bankroll post :

"The $500 bankroll for $30 (50/30/20) SnG tournaments seems too low. The session risk is the buy in ($30+3) implying session risk equal to huge 6.6 percent of bankroll ... would not Kelly imply a larger bankroll (around $1700) so session risk says closer to 2%? I realize bankroll is a function of edge under Kelly; even so 6.6% session risk seems very "lively" to me. "

I promised to go and look up the Kelly criterion as it applies to this case and I will. In a bit :-). I'm not entirely sure how the theory applies to Sit and Goes, particularly in small samples. There are only 4 basic outcomes (if three places are paid). What I did was to fill in probabilities of each finishing position and give it a good old Monte Carlo spin. The figures I plugged in are as follows :

P(1st) = 18%
P(2nd) = 15%
P(3rd) = 21%

which equate to an edge of just under $15 for a $30 Sit and Go (after the rake), and I'm figuring to play 2 of these per hour by playing two at once, usually overlapping, by which I mean starting the second game when the first is half way through. Anyway, when you give these a spin over 20,000 trials, the maximum downside does vary a bit, but it's almost always between $400-$600. It's not a rigorous bankroll definition but it's probably close enough.

Dan went on to add "I suspect a decent living can be made multi-tabling $200 SnG for 5-6 hours a day if approached carefully with respect to session risk." I would suspect a lot more than decent if you're good enough, although that's much too high for my taste. The real import of my figures below is how they compare to each other. There is no doubt in my mind that if tournaments are your bag, Sit and Goes are by far the best bet on-line. The simple fact that you can play so many more of them in the same time elevates them high above multi-tables in terms of hourly value, and they are subject to a much smaller variance. Cash games I wouldn't know, but I'm sure that the required bankroll for any cash game where you expect to make $30/hour is much higher than $500 !

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Do You Remember the First Time ?

I had to smile at a post on the Mob forum today, which simply read "what hand did you win your first tournament with ?". I don't tend to remember individual hands as well as most poker players (especially bad beats) so I have no idea. I have no idea what hand I have won any tournament with. I suppose we must have been heads up and the chips went in and I won.

I did jokingly suggest that I couldn't remember the last hand I won a tournament with - but that was only the half of it. I really genuinely could not remember the last time I won a B&M tournament ! Checking my records they say 20th July 2003, $20 Stud at Luton, so I suppose that was it. The first win is down as the 2nd April 1999. I still can't say what hand won it because the Comment field on my database states merely "WOO-HOO !!". And why not !