The Basic Theory of Bluffing

Poker Concepts, Strategy
May 27, 2008

Previously, I discussed how bets can at least loosely be classified into one of two classes, value bets or bluffs. I now want to discuss the theory behind bluffing.

First, let’s reiterate what it means to bluff:

A bluff is a bet where you believe you do not have the best hand, and believe all of your opponents with better hands will fold if you bet.

Now, that seems like a pretty simple definition. But there’s actually a lot of complexity hidden in there. Read the rest of this entry »

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Review: Sklansky on Poker

3 Star, 5 Star, Book Reviews
May 26, 2008

Author: David Sklansky

Publisher: 2+2 Publishing

Sklansky on Poker is a little known 2+2 book. It started life as Sklansky on Razz. Only one problem – no one plays razz anymore except for the occasional HORSE game and a few medium stakes online games. So what 2+2 did is take the orginal text, tack some essays by Sklansky on the front, take razz out of the title, and voila – a new book for the 21st century.

You’ll notice that I gave this book two different star ratings. That’s not a mistake. The 5-star rating is for the essays. The 3-star rating is for the old Sklansky on Razz text. Read the rest of this entry »

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An Excellent Summary of The Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet Cheating

Cardroom Managment
May 21, 2008

This isn’t normally a news aggregation site, but I feel this particular item is important enough to post about. There’s an excellent summary that collects all the evidence about cheating at AP and UB over at 2+2. It’s hair-raising stuff.

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The Pro Poker vs. Pro Sports Analogy

Poker Economy
May 19, 2008

I was listening to the local country station today, and they happened to play a Toby Keith song where he’s discussing his semi-pro football career. The lyrics go

Semi-pro always means semi-paid

Which got me to thinking about the economics of athletics in comparison to poker. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pot Control In No Limit Texas Holdem Part 2

No Limit Texas Holdem
May 14, 2008

Last Time we talked about top-pair and overpair type hands, and the desirability of keeping the pot relatively small post flop with these hands. I want to continue that discussion, and provide some additional details and specifics that weren’t in the first article: Read the rest of this entry »

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Pot Control In No Limit Texas Holdem – The Payoff Rule In Practice

No Limit Texas Holdem
May 11, 2008

Not too long ago, I wrote about the payoff rule:

The Payoff Rule For Big Bet Poker

Situation: The pot was small, you are on a made hand, and you believe your opponent was on a draw. On the last street you bet your made hand for some amount (BET) that charged the draw to see the next card. The draw had probability P(draw) of hitting. There was ESS money behind in the smaller of your two stacks at the start of the previous street.

Now, the draw hits and you have to decide how to proceed. If BET > P(draw) * ESS, you should aways be willing to get money in and pay off the draw, up to and including wagering your entire stack. If BET < P(draw)*ESS, you should try to limit the percentage of your remaining stack that goes in on future streets based on the fraction of how much smaller BET is than P(draw) * ESS. In other words, apply pot control. If you can’t accomplish that, you need to fold some percentage of the time on future streets such that you pay off no more than that amount on average.

The payoff rule is not an absolute thing – the more money that was in the pot to start, the more willing you should be to pay off. If your opponent may have a made hand you beat instead of a draw, you should pay of more. If your opponent may have a made hand that beats you, you should pay off less.

Now, we originally derived this rule in the context of set farming. I’d like to re-visit that example, and see how the pot control works in practice. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Mathematical Example of Why “Small Ball” Tournament Play Works

Mathematics, Tournaments
May 5, 2008

For those not familiar with the terms, “small ball” tournament play is a style of play in NL tournaments (usually holdem) where you avoid large confrontations unless you believe you have a huge edge – a small positive expectation in tournament chips isn’t enough to justify going all in against someone.

For some reason, small ball is a concept that a lot of people have a hard time grasping, or believing is correct. Read the rest of this entry »

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Game Theory Part 4: Personal Opinions, Or Why I’m Not a Big Fan of Game Theory

Mathematics, Poker Concepts, Strategy
May 4, 2008

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

It’s time to talk personal playing philosophy. Over the last month or so, I’ve written a ton about strategy rhos and game theory. I’ve talked about several different rhos:

If you read these articles carefully, you’ll notice that I’ve adopted three different and indeed incompatible approaches to poker strategy in the three series Read the rest of this entry »

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Cardsharp Mailbag: When Good Hands Go Bad

No Limit Texas Holdem, Reader Questions
May 1, 2008

It’s always good to get mail, and here’s an excellent question:

Hi Wayne,

[in the context of NL holdem] I am winning with pocket pairs without exception and I win with Axs at a nice clip but suited connectors are losers. Unless the suited connector is in the T/J range or above they are consistent losers and I think that they should not be played. In fact a recent article in Card Player suggested just that. What is your opinion?

My first thought is that you should not be overly concerned about taking wagers you expect to make money on and passing on those that you expect to lose money on. That’s perhaps the most fundamental concept of winning gambling. So if you’re winning, there’s no real reason not to keep doing what you’re doing. That said, it’s also true that a lot of other players win a lot of money by playing suited connectors lower than JTs. So it’s clear you’re doing something different from them when you play those hands. I have no way of knowing what that is, but I can take some guesses: Read the rest of this entry »

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