Get It Quietly

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

Location: Enfield, London, United Kingdom

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

It's Only A Game (2) - Poker

Right. Poker. I had a few things kicking around I wanted to talk about, but I just had to expand on this, from Gutshot today :

"But, for example, if you were a student and you won a $50 supersatellite and rolled it into a seat at the main event, and you massively exceeded your expectations and were still around on the bubble .... then it's not difficult to see the student attaching much greater utility to cashing $10.5k than risking it to make more, since that amount could be a huge boon to a poor student... Not everyone has the same utility function when it comes to risk."

Now, ok, I do see what you're saying. If I was somehow, in a kind of poker "Freaky Friday", teleported into this "poor student"'s shoes just at the point where he approaches the bubble, then yes I might have to do that. But it's not the tactics that are the problem here. It's the strategy.

This strategy is directly and fully analagous to a "poor student" spending his $50 on thirty lottery tickets, and only filling five numbers in on each one. You have the stratospheric variance, the poor EV even with your best shot, and this EV is cut down still further because you can't win the big prize. It's just about the worst thing anyone could do with their money in poker terms, let alone a "poor student".

And yet so many people do it. It really beggars belief. Poker is a deceptive mistress (oooh) and it can fool people into doing crazy things. Insane, you-might-as-well-burn-the-money madness.

A great deal of it is down to the simple fact that people underestimate the amount of luck involved, especially in tournaments, and especially in the bigger tournaments. It doesn't help when people like David L, who ought to know better and was rightly taken to task, say things like
"he [Neil Channing] won the thing [a £100 tournament at Gutshot] by out-thinking the opposition at the final table before a card had been dealt. " If you have a plan and it's a good one then great, that means you're 60-40 compared to someone who doesn't. Not 100-0. Not 90-10. Nothing like.

I was thinking the other day, what is the worst thing that can happen to you if you try poker when you don't have the discipline and ability, in a nutshell you're too thick, to be any good at it ? The answer is of course, the worst thing that can happen is you start off winning. Say 100 people were let loose in Gutshot a year ago, none of them with much of a clue, but keen enough and ready to have a go. And that's not too far off how it was. 10 or 12 of them will have had good results, made a decent profit, and will think they have it made. 2 or 3 of them will have done that and won a decent chunk in some kind of festival event. They will, and do, think they know it all and can't possibly lose !

We know better. It's the only explanation I can think of for these incredible "I can outplay them later" posts. People just don't know how much they don't know. They see the results they have had and automatically assume that this means they're playing brilliantly and everything they do must be right. And it's hard to blame them in some ways. I'm probably fortunate (in a way) that it took me a year to break even.

But you can't tell how good anyone is until they have that run where you can't win a hand, you can't win an argument. You question your sanity and the sanity of the entire world. How can this be happening ? It's a necessary step along the road. You either realise that "hmm, maybe I was just lucky before, there might be a bit more to this" or you self-destruct in a blast of disbelief and paranoia. When I was a regular at Luton, I saw more than one young player chirping with the chips and thought to myself, in six months time, he'll look like death warmed up and will be saying "I don't understand what's happening" to anyone who will listen, more likely himself because no one will. And I was rarely wrong. Some came through it, some didn't.

Thus and so, as it is and was and always will be.


Anonymous Davey Newth said...

Spot on Andy. I have always maintained that the worst thing that can happen to a novice player is that they win 'too soon'. It took me longer than yourself to break even but have had a few years of constant but small profit and loads of fun.

Within five minutes a lot of new players are proclaiming themselves 'the future of poker'.

Maybe it's got something to do with my upbringing, I was always taught 'anything worth having requires hard work and patience'. Maybe something that is lacking in todays society.

PS if you have any of the poker books left I will take the lot and get Stevie B to drop off the cash and pick them up when he gets back from Newcastle. Apologises for not getting back sooner.

7:23 AM  
Anonymous Peter B said...

I remember saying at the Dungeon a few years ago about Iannis (a guy who I did like, honestly), that "he hasn't hit that run of three months yet where you can't hit a card". he turned pro. We don't see much of him these days.

As you wrote, this is the real test. Some people transfer it into the line of "you will never be a great poker player until you have gone broke at least once". I don't agree with this line (partly because I have never gone broke :-) . In fact I think that if you can get through the "really bad" run without going broke, you have a lot more going for you than the good players who, through over-optimism, do go broke.

There are a few "high-profile" guys around at the moment who haven't been through it yet. I will not practise schadenfreude when it happens. Honest I won't, because I know how miserable it can be.

On a slightly related but different topic, I wonder how much money is donated to the cash limit games by newish players who have had a big tournament win? I mean, for a lot of the games on Party it's the same names again and again, all with a profit to their names. Some of the money comes from "new blood" players who quickly either disappear or move down a few levels, but some of it must come from new blood that has had a win in the tourneys.


7:30 AM  
Anonymous davey newth said...

Pete's point about novice players hitting a tournament win and transferring that cash into ring games much bigger than they are used to is one that I have seen increasingly with 'online' players who have hit a result in a live tournament.

On the three such occassions I can recall in the last couple of years it has always ended in 'tears before bedtime'.

Each of the three players took a hit in their respective cash games. They thought they were great players in the tournament to cash, however the winnings lasted very little time when they transferred to the biggest cash games they could afford.

Maybe there is a moral to this sequence of events or maybe it was just coincidence.........

8:37 AM  
Blogger Andy_Ward said...

Thanks for the comments guys. Davey, the point about 'anything worth having required hard work and patience' is a great one. If you don't have to 'do your apprenticeship' you won't have the necessary respect for the game and your opponents. Of course, you will have to do it sooner or later, and it's harder when you thought you didn't have to. BTW I will email you about the books, cheers.

Pete, Iannis was a nice guy and I remember him asking me for advice just before he quit work (I told you he was a nice guy, he was probably just being polite :-)). I said to go for it but not be too disappointed if it didn't come off.

A short while later I saw a post by him on a forum describing some dilemma on the turn where, and this is the real point, he had some filthy hand that he should never have put one penny in the pot with in the first place. At that point I thought "uh-oh". And you see this quite a lot. How it worked out for Iannis I don't know, I did hear he moved back to Greece.


8:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get your heads round this;

"Memo to self...don't bother trying to play poker after getting up at 7am and doing a full day at work then drive 120 miles home then decide to play poker!

A 70+ turnout tonight down at the Fitzwilliam for the €50 NL Hold'Em. Starting chips are 2500 and the rebuy/top-up is worth 3500. Being so tired I recognised that I had neither the patience nor the inclination to play properly so started raising and jamming the pot with little more than J-9 for half the time.

For a while this seemed to work but at Hold'Em this kind of tactic can't last forever with much success and it was only a matter of time before I came undone.

Holding 10c-9c I raised to 500 with blinds at 100/200 and got 3 callers. The flop came 9-J-Q and I decided to launch with an all-in bet. This was called by TWO players. One holding A-K and one holding Q-10 so I was looking for a 9 otherwise I'd be rebuying. I rebought! My nine didn't show up and that was that!

My 3500 point rebuy went the same way when I called a 750 raise holding J-9. The flop came 10d-Qc-7d. I decide to call TWO all-n bets looking for an illustrious 10. I was up against Ad-8d and Ks-Qh. A Qd fell on the turn and I was drawing dead!

My game lasted less than an hour. Ho Hum!"

Name that tune. . .

9:58 AM  
Blogger redsimon said...

Heh "anonymous" leave Mark Strahan alone. His blog is one way to cheer me up after a long day at work :-)

4:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm, didn't see too many bollocking DL for his comments - these forums are far too chummy (would hit too many wallets I guess).

The idea that any player capable of, or should be passing Aces close to the bubble is crazy to be playing in the first place is a bit overplayed. Sure it is suboptimal,way suboptimal, but it is often only for a small fraction of the game that they are susceptible to this bad play. Beyond that first cash, it is often a case of 'who cares I'm gonna go for it'. Just as longas they don't play for the cash a mile out.

It ain't no big deal.

12:30 AM  
Blogger Andy_Ward said...

Possibly it's overplayed yes. But I do think anyone with this mindset is still going to give themselves problems at other stages of the tournament. There were enough people on Gutshot who said they would pass Aces on the first hand, or pass the Kings on the last two tables when the guy was reraised by Tiffany Williamson with AQ.

Even if they say those things but wouldn't do them, in less extreme cases they're still more likely to make the wrong play. For example when Neil had KK and was reraised all in, I think I would have called and I think calling would have been right. ALL of these "do it later" players would have folded for sure. Even Neil folded, which did surprise me to be honest.


8:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fair enough, it depends how much it infiltrates your game.

Channing folded Kings? What did the other guy have? Kings are different to Aces though, there can be times when you should because you're probably up against AA.

10:32 AM  
Blogger Andy_Ward said...

Apparently the guy flashed an Ace but, if I remember correctly, some TV guys who saw the hand told Neil it was AK.

I think I'm with Harrington when it comes to KK pre-flop - I won't put it down. I don't have to go all-in, but I think I just can't be that sure.

I heard a story, unconfirmed but maybe anyone can confirm, that Tommy Vu folded Kings pre-flop during the middle stage of the tournament after heavy action from two other players, only for them to table QQ and JJ.


11:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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11:44 AM  

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