A tale of Twelve Dollars – Stack Size For Limit Games

Poker Economy, Strategy
September 30, 2007

I was playing crappy Colorado casino poker yesterday when a noteworthy situation arose. The game was \$5 limit holdem. That’s right, 0ne \$5 blind and all bets are in increments of \$5. It’s hard to imagine a worse structure. But this isn’t about the structure. It’s about one of the worst plays I’ve ever seen at limit holdem. And It’s a bad play that happens surprisingly frequently and that many players probably don’t even think of as bad play at all. Read the rest of this entry »

Chinese Peasants, Logic, and Poker

Mathematics, Strategy
September 28, 2007

There is a classic logical fallacy, the Emperor’s nose fallacy, that all poker players need to be aware of because it appears so often in poker reasoning (especially in poker books and forums) and has become increasingly common of late. Read the rest of this entry »

Play On The End, Part Two: Calling to Catch a Bluff

Poker Concepts, Strategy
September 25, 2007

In poker, play on the last betting round (aka  street) takes on a decidedly different nature from play on any other round. Because there are no cards to come, the relative rankings of the players’ hands are fixed, and as such all betting revolves around uncertainty about opponent hole cards, not uncertainty about the cards to come. This simplified environment causes many issues that are murky and complicated on earlier betting rounds to become more clear, and as such play on the end is the perfect framework for introducing a number of important poker topics.

In the last installment of this series, we discussed the two fundamental types of bets & raises – value bets and bluffs. Now I want to talk about calling on the end. For the time being, assume that play is heads-up and you are facing a bet, and thus you have the option of closing the betting by calling. Also remember from last time that excessive aggression on the river with mediocre hands has a high probability of splitting your opponent’s range and being incorrect. So only rarely in this situation will you be raising – and almost never with a mediocre hand. That leaves the player with a mediocre holding two reasonable options – call or fold. Read the rest of this entry »

Discounting Outs

Poker Concepts, Strategy
September 23, 2007

In last week’s article on odds, I went through a complicated example of deciding if you should call with a draw. The point of this example was to show, in a big-picture sort of way, how odds are used to make poker decisions. Now I want to explore one small aspect of that more closely.

Specifically I want to talk about discounting outs. Read the rest of this entry »

When should you stop playing?

Poker Economy, Psychology, Strategy
September 21, 2007

Ever since I wrote the last bankroll management article, I’ve been getting search hits for “craps bankroll management”. I feel sorry for these folks, because I doubt anything I said dissuaded them from their belief that somehow they could beat craps if only they played their money right. It’s important to understand why there are useful bankroll management principles that apply to poker, but there’s nothing to be done about craps. The difference is that poker, if played correctly, offers you a series of positive expectation wagers. Craps, in contrast, offers you only negative expectation wagers. So if you keep playing craps, in the long run, you will always lose. In contrast if you play poker skillfully you will always win in the long run. The problem, in poker, is to get to that long run without going broke in the process. That’s what the previous bankroll management article was all about – making sure you have enough money in you bankroll to weather the swings and get to that perpetually profitable long run.

There’s another aspect of poker management that’s worth discussing, and it’s probably a lot closer to what those craps players are thinking of when they think bankroll management: figuring out when to stop playing. Read the rest of this entry »

Odds & Poker (Pot, Card, Implied, Reverse etc.)

Poker Concepts, Strategy
September 18, 2007

We’ve already talked about odds in a general sense here and here. Now I want to take that foundation and talk specifically about odds in poker.

Odds, as applied to poker, are really fairly simple but somehow the poker literature has gotten itself turned around and explained them in a very awkward way. Read the rest of this entry »

Cheating & Online Poker (The Absolute Poker Debacle)

Cardroom Managment
September 16, 2007

I normally don’t comment on current events or news items, but this one dovetails nicely with some things I’ve been meaning to write about, so here goes. There is now high quality evidence that there has been cheating going on at one of the major poker sites, Absolute Poker, for the last 2 months or so in the high stakes limit and NL games. While this evidence is not 100% conclusive, in my opinion it’s at least 99.9% conclusive. My opinion is based is based both on the evidence presented and the people it came from. There’s an excellent summary of all the evidence here on 2+2: Read the rest of this entry »

Record Keeping & Data Mining

Poker Economy, Strategy
September 16, 2007

Keeping accurate records of your play is important for all poker players. It’s essential for tax purposes to know how much you won or lost in each session, but there’s lots of additional benefits to be gained by having comprehensive records. Specifically, good records will help you improve your win rate over time by highlighting situations where your results are consistently different from your expectations. This process will enable you to develop your game selection intuition. Read the rest of this entry »

Fish Psychology Part 2: Self Deception in Poker

Psychology, Strategy
September 13, 2007

In the Fish Psychology series, I explore the reasons that losing players continue to play, and look at ways to keep them coming back for more.

Our first explanation for long run losing play is that the player does not in fact believe they are losing. Notice that I’m talking specifically about the long run. It’s very easy in the short run to believe your expectation is positive when in fact it’s not, and we’ll talk about that in another article, but I’m more interested in cases where people continue to believe they’re winning when any rational examination of the evidence would indicate they’re not. Read the rest of this entry »

Fish Psychology Part 1

Psychology, Strategy
September 12, 2007

I want to pose a simple question: why do losing players continue to play?

This question should be of supreme interest to anyone considering a career in poker or considering playing at high stakes. It should be obvious that poker games cannot exist without losing players – if the players with a negative expectation made a policy of quitting a game, that game would quickly cease to exist since in any given lineup there’s always someone who has a negative expectation[1] and who would thus be quitting. Read the rest of this entry »

The Fundamental Theorem of Poker

Poker Concepts, Strategy
September 9, 2007

Before we get started on the fundamental theorem of poker, I want to introduce a concept that I hope is very obvious nay axiomatic – conservation of money. Simply put, playing poker neither creates nor destroys money. Or put another way, if your results are that you won X everyone else at the table’s collective result is that they lost X and vice versa.   Stated in mathematical terms, everyone’s results sum to zero. Note that the house, if collecting rake, is one of the participants in this equation. Hopefully we can agree this is pretty obvious stuff.  I mention it because it’s the starting point for the fundamental theorem of poker. Read the rest of this entry »

Doing Arithmetic With Odds

Mathematics, Strategy
September 6, 2007

Previously, I’ve tried to convince you that doing your poker math in odds notation is far easier, once you get used to it, than using percentages. Now, I want to show you how to do some of the arithmetic usually associated with percentages faster and easier using odds. But first we need to lay some groundwork. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Real Poker II – The Play of Hands

3 Star, Book Reviews
September 5, 2007

Author: Roy Cooke

Publisher: ConJelCo

Real Poker II is a collection of Roy Cooke’s Card Player columns focusing on the play of middle limit holdem hands taken from his play in Las Vegas.  In each hand, Roy describes the situation and one or more key decisions, and then tells the reader what he believes is the correct course of action and why. Read the rest of this entry »

Poker Mathematics & Arithmetic

Mathematics, Strategy
September 4, 2007

I’d like to say a little bit about my philosophy on mathematics in poker. Generally speaking, there seem to be two vocal camps on this topic. One camp is full of math-phobic players and writers (often forum posters) who will try to convince you that poker is a game of psychology, not numbers. The other group is the ever-growing number of mathematician players and writers who seem to talk about equilibrium solutions and similar high math incessantly. Read the rest of this entry »