Saturday, December 7, 2019

Onwards and Upwards, Part I

After taking a long hiatus from poker this year to take care of my mental health, I got a job working at Ashley Homestore doing furniture sales in Western Mass. I was hoping to lead a so-called normal life and hold down a regular job, but since I can usually only summon a small, awkward half-smile, I was known as “poker face” around the workplace. 

Talking with my coworkers quickly led me to the conclusion that sales just wasn’t for me. The top performer wasn’t even bringing in $60k a year, and I, as the bottom performer, was destined to make the minimum of $15 per hour.

I had been banned from MGM Springfield for, let’s just say, “disorderly conduct”, back in March, so live PLO wasn’t an option, though it was a fix I was craving. Online short stacking was still somewhat viable, but when you figure that at best you can only make $50k a year doing that (before taxes), what exactly is a poker pro supposed to do with the rest of his life???

Now granted $50k sounds like a lot, particularly if you are reading this from Eastern Europe, but after listing all my expenses, I was filled with the dread that bringing in $750 a week after taxes (if lucky) meant never enjoying another free moment and never getting out of debt. I would literally be just a slave to a very unhappy hold’em grind, a game which I have mostly come to despise (outside of tournaments, which I still love).

Then, this summer, a new casino opened up 1.5 hours away in Boston, Encore Boston Harbor. It boasted of a lot of PLO action at the $2/2 and $5/5 level, and I had heard from a friend that the cash games there were fire. That’s not all that surprising, of course, as New England isn’t a really a spot known for its poker talent.

Unfortunately, I just didn’t have the money to play and nowhere to get it. Even still, two and a half months into the job I quit, planning on going back to Louisville to be near my kids and hopefully landing a job as a fine dining waiter.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

The PLO Hero

Hello friends!

Obviously there has been a long time between postings, but suffice to say, a lot has happened. I won’t go into the juicy details at this time, but I will take some time to explain this blog’s rebranding as “The PLO Hero”.

I started playing live pot limit Omaha around this time last year. I was waiting for a tournament to start at MGM Springfield and saw that there was an open seat at a $2/2 PLO game. On a whim, I decided to sit down.

Though I had never played live, this wasn’t my first go around. In fact, I had made around $20,000 playing online no limit Omaha in five weeks at a Turkish site in 2015 playing 10bb push/fold stakes ranging from $1/2 USD equivalent to $30/60 USD equivalent.

I literally had no idea what I was doing, but I was armed with a program called Omaha Indicator that ranked hands on the Hutchison Scale and a push/fold chart created by Jimmie James. These were enough to crush these super highly raked games to the tune of 6bb/100.

After they quickly changed the buy in to 30bb under pressure from the rakeback skins (dumb move, as it killed traffic literally overnight), I found the game too difficult to learn, as evaluating preflop hand strength was seemingly non-intuitive and betting with hands less than the nuts almost always led to a bad outcome, even with fishy opposition. That meant a lot of raising and whiffing the flop or not getting paid when making the nuts.

I had also read and even reread books by William Jokusch and Rolf Slotboom. While ideas of Slotboom about short stacking PLO were inspirational to my NL game, the situations described by Jokusch didn’t seem to arise very often. 

Back to my inaugural game at MGM Springfield. Though I didn’t play particularly well, i.e. raising from the BB with Q-Q-x-x with a button limper, I was awestruck by just how awful everyone else was playing. Not only were they getting stacked with hands as bad as bottom two pair, they were explicitly only 3-betting with A-A-x-x, and to boot, they were constantly flashing their cards in the air.

After making $200 in 20 minutes and having fun doing it, I decided that I never wanted to play hold’em again.  Come back soon to read how I took my new hobby to Boston to play full time!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Why You Should Hire a Short Stacker to Protect Game Integrity

Frank Abagnale: Proof that working for the law is more beneficial than working against it.

Short stacking and game integrity may sound diametrically opposed, but before you instinctively roll your eyes, let me tell you how they can work peacefully together.

Let's start by setting the record straight, I'm not an angle shooter...I'm an opportunist. That is, I probe the system to look for exploits and vulnerabilities within the rules for personal gain. The final outcome may offend (many) players' concepts of how the game should be played and their aesthetic sensibilities, but I have learned firsthand how making it too easy to practice can create a hostile gaming environment, yet efforts to completely thwart the practice will lead to predatory play and ultimately the collapse of a delicate poker ecosystem both in NLH and Omaha.

Before considering setting your default buy-in level above 30BB, I urge you to read this article I wrote for Part Time Poker.

However, please note that in setting my sights on your Operations Team Leader/Game Integrity position, I am not advocating the creation of an environment where short stackers can thrive, but rather, a new one where the presence of professional short stackers can not exist, while simultaneously keeping the barrier of entry low for recreational players. Again, please reference the above article for a common sense (but neglected) view of how raising the buy-in even slightly too high can destroy a poker ecosystem.

Here is a brief list of my goals for your company:

  • Create and balance an ecosystem via setting the optimal buy-in level.
  • Monitor the ecosystem for potential exploits or imbalances that may be caused by rake or rewards systems.
  • Eliminating or curbing the practice of using a heads up display while still offering the ability to track one's own play.
  • Work to create and simulate new games with low barriers to entry in a non-predatory environment.
  • Prevent the practice of multi-accounting and VPN'ing from excluded countries.
  • Provide hands on and excellent customer service to both fellow employees and players alike, while closely monitoring customer input and concerns. 

I had originally wanted to propose precise examples of how I could achieve these goals, but rather, decided to hold off until our interview.

Given my long history of working outside the system to exploit it within, I will now state on record that not only am I a good candidate for this position, I am the ideal one. If the description so far isn't quite what you had in mind for the position, then you are obligated to create one :)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Karmic EV

Early last year, I played in a top heavy $80 buy-in tournament at my local riverboat casino. This tourney is a weekly ritual that commences every Friday at midnight. It has the dual benefit of being +EV and keeping me out of trouble. The obvious drawback is the late start, meaning that I'm often pretty drained and unfocused upon arrival, especially following a forty minute drive.

I'll spare the details and fast forward to the final table. Even though it's now approaching 3:30 AM, the atmosphere among the nine remaining is jovial- everyone has been getting along, chatting it up, joking, and having an overall good time. Of course, every man there wants to win, but no one is really rooting against the guy next to him, either. With each player that drops, there's a round-table discussion about cutting a deal, yet each time the subject comes up, there's always at least one player sitting on a stack large enough that he politely decline the offer with little thought.

Fast forward another hour and it's now 4:30 AM. There are five of us remaining and I've just knocked out the sixth. I'm now leading with a stack of just over 300k with blinds of 15k/30k and an ante of 3,000. I (humbly, mind you) admit to having a large skill advantage over my obviously recreational opponents, even in this late stage of the tournament. Despite being effectively short stacked at this point with limited maneuverability, I'm in my zone as a short stack specialist. I'm getting a bit tired, but I'm comfortable in this situation and more than happy to keep playing.

As has become a ritual at this point, the guy to my right immediately calls for a deal. Here at the Horseshoe Indiana, deals involving multiple players in small buy-in events are traditionally not settled by chip equity. Serious players of the game are advised to stop reading here and move on to the next article, as the following text is likely to make you physically ill.

Given the friendly atmosphere and recreational culture of this tourney, a deal is an even split of the remaining prize pool, regardless of stack size. Even though I'm leading by a fairly significant margin with regards to chip EV, should I agree to a deal and request a bigger cut, in their eyes I would be, for lack of a better word, a complete dick.

Everyone present is more or less aware of this technical unfairness, so the question isn't whether or not one or more players have an advantage, chip-wise. It's whether or not it's anyone's game at this point, or more importantly, if the deal proposer is insulting anyone's intelligence by asking for a chop when he is practically busto.

In this particular instance, the deal advocate was a guy who had a consistent stack for the last several blind levels and had been sitting next to me at two of the last three tables. He was friendly, funny, and was rooting for me in every all in pot that he wasn't involved in. At this juncture he had the smallest stack, but was still sitting on about 100k or so and still had a reasonable shot to win it.

Everyone else has been more or less amenable to a chop until this point. However, up until now, there was always a dominating stack that vetoed the deal. Shorthanded with an M of about 9, with blinds scheduled to rise in about 5 minutes, I broke two Cardinal rules of professional poker:

  1. Admitting to myself that the money at stake was important to me, and finishing last would be a hit to my presently pathetic liferoll.
  2. Giving up a proportionally sizable amount of chip EV, especially when the request came from the shortest stack.

I had already passed on a chop during an earlier blind level myself when the seventh player busted and no one objected. This time, however, the situation was very different. With higher blinds, the average stack was considerably smaller, and the remaining players were all happy to end it. They all looked over to me expectantly with the implicit understanding that I had the undisputed power to kill the deal.

I didn't feel any pressure to buckle, but it was really late and everyone was tired and eager to pack it in for the night, including myself. In the act of dreading the long drive home, my professional instincts quickly seized my remaining higher cognitive functions and started calculating what I would be giving up if I accepted the deal, but then a new and unfamiliar feeling started to flow through me: magnanimity.

It was perfectly within my rights to bring in the tournament director to divvy up the prize pool according to classic chip EV. However, the prize distribution was really top heavy and an even chop meant that we would all leave with just under second place money. That's not too shabby. I could have been the aforementioned dick and argued for an extra hundred bucks or so, but that rather insignificant amount of money might cost me in terms of goodwill amongst my new acquaintances.

I know it makes me sound soft, but everyone was enjoying each other's company and I liked everyone who was present. I was faced with a choice: waiting around while the prize pool is appropriately cut up and take the extra money for short term gain, or essentially swap out my additional share in exchange for four new friends. Four new friends who could leave on equal terms with each other and go home to their wives or girlfriends and proudly tell them they won the tournament. With this thought in mind and before I could think about it long enough to second guess the decision, I approved the deal and we ended the tournament.

What's the practical value of four new friends? To put it in terms that poker pros understand and perhaps even feel comfortable with, it's quite simple: a feeling of indebtedness that can pay off in the future in unexpected ways...with my odds of unexpected payoff multiplied by four. That's not nearly as cynical as it sounds. A grateful new friend is now the guy who might give you a few bucks for the vending machine when all you have are chips and no cash, the guy that might give you a lift home if your car breaks down, even though he's in a rush to get somewhere, the guy who might fold his small blind to you with a borderline hand when you have just a few big blinds on the bubble, and of course, the guy who will cut you a break and give you a chop when you find yourself as the smallest stack in the same scenario. 

Taking my fair share of the prize pool certainly isn't a bad thing and says nothing about my character. Likewise, sharing my tournament equity is also morally neutral and says nothing about whether or not I am a decent human being, particularly in light of the fact that I did it for vague strategic reasons that are admittedly unlikely to pay off. Yet it doesn't change the fact that option one sends a negative vibe as per the rules of the local culture, which almost always supersede concepts of fair play as understood by online poker professionals who have yet to gain a solid grasp on the social (human) elements of the game. Option two, crudely put, allows for everyone to leave happy on my dime. I'll take option two every time!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Getting Acquainted With the Megaraise

Dice on a short stack of poker chips.

The following article was originally published on Part Time Poker

The following bit of advice will probably come as quite shocking to some people, as it contains no theoretical backing. In other words, you cannot measure the EV of this kind of play in a simulator such as CardrunnersEV. It is highly situational and only profits more than conventional plays by means of gross human error. In other words, you can pull it off against someone wearing a Full Tilt jersey at your local cardroom, but Libratus just ain’t buying it. Should you choose to widen your arsenal by applying the concepts below, prepare to be amazed at just how little your opponents really understand pot odds and implied odds when they call over-sized raises, only to fold on the flop or make unbelievable calls with little or no equity.

I am not asking you to take my word on its are going to have to take a leap of faith and try it on your own. Just be advised: when it fails, you will look (and probably feel) like a moron. However, even when it works and you squeeze out additional chips, you will still appear as if you had grossly overplayed your hand, thus still looking like a moron. The upside of this is that few people will be able to figure out what you are doing, making them less likely to copy your successful new tactics and increasing the overall longevity of their profitability.

WTF is a Megaraise?!

It will vary from situation to situation, but normally has the following criteria:

You are in the blinds and therefore act first after the flop.
You make a raise or 3-bet that is ~1/3 of the effective stack, with a goal of setting up a postflop SPR of ~1, which maximizes your postflop fold equity.
The effective stack is usually somewhere in the range of 20-30BB.
The raise appears inappropriately large compared to conventional bet-sizing.
You are 100% committed and intend to shove or re-shove the flop regardless of texture or opponent action.
I don't claim to have invented the concept, but I did coin the term "megaraise", which you have probably only heard if you happen to travel in close-knit communities of short stack tradesmen who play in 20BB CAP or Hyper SNG's. While best used against fish who can't find the fold button preflop, it can even be used against seasoned pros, typically if there is at least one other fishy caught in the middle. More on that in future articles, as we first need to build upon the basics.

When You Should Use It

You should generally be using this play with non-paired holecards when you are at a postflop positional disadvantage in a situation where you are likely to misplay your hand or lose potential value. The ideal scenario is when a fishy player open limps or overlimps and the quality of your hand doesn't justify the risk/reward ratio of shoving, yet you are unlikely to be able to get a read on him postflop or push him with a standard c-bet. Complicating things further is that when playing with a stack this size, your postflop SPR is such that it becomes difficult to fire multiple barrels against an unknown holding if you whiff the flop completely.

What I describe is a situation where player who is a habitual calling station that pays off is not currently working to your benefit. He limps constantly, floats randomly, and accidentally balances his poor play by mixing in random slowplays. The megaraise punishes all of his poor tendencies while also preventing you from making a single error. It's the ultimate win/win scenario!

I will start with the assumption that you are wary of the concept and understandably don't want to look foolish while embarking on what amounts to anecdotal advice.

That's OK.

It took me several months to work up the courage to try it myself after first witnessing a pro cash game short stacker pull off what looked both brilliant and stupid at the same time, and was really only lent credibility from based on his verifiable excellent results. For this reason, I will start with the example of megaraising OOP from the blind against a single button limper with AK, with an effective stack of 25BB.

The scenarios below are taken from a tournament with blinds of 50/100, with stacks of 2500. You are often going to find yourself doing some quick mental math to figure out what 1/3 of the effective stack is, so I specifically chose to round up to 900 for these megaraises. You will have to improvise frequently, so it doesn't need to be exact. Just try and get the amount as close as possible, so as to leave roughly one pot-sized bet for the flop.

Note: The actions you will see villain making below look positively stupid and beyond belief, and that's exactly why I chose them. I have personally seen much worse, as will you once you start experimenting with it.

When You Miss Completely or Flop a Vulnerable Hand

Believe it or not, this is actually the default scenario, as your odds of pairing up or better with AK on the flop are 2.1:1 against, and you should never forget that fact. I intentionally chose the worst possible flop here, as you can only really see its profit potential when the deck misses you completely. Sure, he called with J5, but that's only because he was "lucky" enough to have flopped the ass end of straight draw. But what if he had J4? That's kind of a sticky hypothetical, as they sometimes will call with just such a hand, and every so often you will see two random cards that seemingly have zero equity. However, it's the J4-type hands that you can expect to blast out on these nasty flops where you will probably assume from the outset that no hand that would call such a large preflop raise could possibly fold. Just try and imagining navigating this flop using a standard iso-raise against a calling station and you will quickly see why you need to add the megaraise to your arsenal.

You are going to continue using the default close-your-eyes-shove line when flopping vulnerable made hands as well, such as a board of KcTc8h. Giving free cards when the pot is this large is a huge error if you are not an overwhelming equity favorite. Even though I might seemingly contradict myself in the next two video examples, you can't just expect villain to try and snag the pot from you if you check or play back at you against small bets. Once you go down this road, you will have to accept that you cannot predict their behavior once the flop comes down. You can only take the most appropriate action for the situation that you find yourself in, and what you see is based upon my own experience and that of others who have experimented with this play and reported back on their findings. Don't forget-- if they were playing anywhere near correctly, they would have never called the preflop raise!

When You Flop Strong

By "strong", I mean a flop that you would have committed to had you made a conventional iso-raise. There is no sense in blowing them off the hand with a shove if you have no reasonable fear of giving cheap cards. If you start with the assumption gleaned from the previous example that they are likely to call it off with anything that remotely catches a piece, then you cannot worry about giving them cheap shots to make two pair or fill a set of deuces that may have folded to a shove. Maybe it would be helpful to think of making a tiny bet as the greatest form of limit hold'em that never existed that allows a guy to dump his entire stack with nothing. The odds you are appearing to give him are only an illusion, as you can fire in the rest on the turn if it becomes necessary, but don't be afraid to check if you pick up a great card, such a king or an ace. The smaller the remaining the stack, the more likely he is to take the "fuck it" route and toss in the rest, as the pot in the middle now seems to justify hopeless bluffs where he is concerned.

When You Nut It

I check 100% of the time in the example, as the board is crippled. Again, you can't predict how he will react, but a crippled board facing a small bet now reeks of suspicion. He might play poorly, but don't assume complete stupidity. He isn't likely to play back with his 74o against a small bet, as anyone can recognize that if you call any raise, he can't possibly hope to improve. Checking, however, not only might give him hope, but also gives him the chance to pair up with a 7 or 4, giving you the chance to stack him on future streets. Should he check back, keep checking all the way through the river before going for a check-raise. Don't let any runner-runner flush draws deter you, as they will have put so much of their stack in play at this point that you can expect them to call for the rest if they have any hope of winning at all.

Similarly, should you find yourself in a way ahead/way behind scenario, such as a flop of K22 or ATT, I would recommend just check calling it down. You aren't afraid of losing, but there is nothing that they can likely call any bets with, so let them bluff it off or just chalk it up to bad luck if they do wind up having it.

Future build-offs of this concept will be more situational based and juggle some potentially complex variables, yet for the most part, can't really be grasped unless you start by jumping in feet first and experimenting right away. For those of you who are brave enough or bored enough to buck convention and try it out, make sure to share your most ludicrous hand histories or Boom Player replays in the comments section on the Part Time Poker Facebook page!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

PPC Poker Tour Facing Demise Amidst Aruba Final Table Payout Scandal

The following article is my first go at reporting for my new gig with Part Time Poker. I have loosely known the guys who run the site for quite a few years now, and I have always found them to have both the best poker content out there, in addition to running the best business. I am happy with the fruits of my first assignment, although unfortunately started to fall very ill during the home stretch and wasn't up to the task of doing a few final edits, particularly with regards to shortening some of the longer sentences. Luckily, it seems I will have the opportunity to go back over it and give it some touch up work, so if you happen to drop in to our site and everything seems perfectly fine, just disregard this part and enjoy it!

Sandy Swartzbaugh and Bryan Oulton of the PPC posing with Aruba Main Event winner Stephen Deutsch
Sandy Swartzbaugh and Bryan Oulton of the PPC Poker Tour posing with the as of yet unpaid winner of the No Limit Hold’em Main Event in Aruba, Stephen Deutsch.

For what in hindsight now appear to be suspiciously vague reasons attributed to gaming laws in Aruba, the PPC put a cap of $10,000 to be paid out to winners at the event, with the promise of full payment coming within two to three weeks via wire transfer. In the time since Philbin broke the news, it has come to light that the PPC has had a history of delaying payments to its winners, a fact that was not considered to be newsworthy until very recently, as reportedly virtually all of the players in question were eventually made whole within a few weeks’ time.

It appears that this time around, however, patient players won’t be getting so lucky. Current news of payment delays not only encompasses recent tournament winners, but also several PPC employees and at least one sponsored pro. The tournament co-owners, Sandy Swartzbaugh and Bryan Oulton, have been dodging the spotlight and gone dark on their communications with the media and debt holders. As news of the tournament’s Aruba troubles have gained traction, they have failed to respond to inquiries regarding the missing funds, deleted any messages or criticisms concerning payouts on their Facebook page, stripped information and links from their homepage, and deleted their Twitter accounts.

Continue reading at Part Time Poker...

Monday, December 19, 2016

What's the Difference Between Pro Poker and Pro Daily Fantasy Sports?

The following article is a piece I had written for publication while I working a brief stint with PokerTube this past summer. Until I offered to do a random topic that their editor needed ASAP that none of their other writers wanted, I knew very little about Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) and cared even less. I gave myself a weekend crash course on the subject that consisted of articles and podcasts and it turned out to be some pretty fascinating stuff. While I have no interest in pursuing any profit motive within the game, given the (hopefully) more or less accurate info I came up with below, I am certain that if I had applied myself to that endeavor with the same intensity as poker, I would have totally kicked ass at it as well....only to find myself broke and homeless again in another 11 years' time!

P.S.  Bonus points if you can spot where I whored myself out to the industry!

There's money to be made in football...
If your guy catches that pass, you be gettin' that ass

What's the Difference Between Pro Poker and Pro DFS?

The massive popularity of Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) has reached the point that it is now a viable contender with poker as a career choice in professional gaming. Assuming that you have the basic understanding of the level of commitment needed to succeed in each of these options and are starting off completely from scratch (like I did in poker), there are several important differences that you need to consider with respect to each when choosing to pursue one of them as a profession.

Scheduling flexibility

Poker may allow you to escape from being oppressed by demanding bosses and a glass ceiling, but in the very short term, you are actually more tethered to your job than just about anyone else. Pro poker players may often find themselves stuck in one spot much longer than they would like, but they do have the option of sleeping in and compensating by grinding it out through the night. This means that players are not beholden to the schedules set by others. Of course, this must be done within reason, as even degenerates halfway around the world get a bit stingy with their vices after 2 AM Eastern Time.

There's a reason that pro DFS players can take a swig off a Mountain Dew bottle without sniffing it first to make sure it's not yesterday's piss. Once you have opened up Draft Kings and bought into your matches, you aren't going to be penalized if you are forced to get up and answer the door for the FedEx guy or have a sudden onset of diarrhea. Many aspiring poker players stray away from tournaments precisely because of the lack of scheduling flexibility, but even cash game players will find that spending too much time on the toilet will quickly eat into their profits.
Waiting for the blinds to come back around to restart your session, or worse, having the fish you were targeting get felted in your absence will inevitably hurt your bottom-line. Having some time being isolated in a tiny white room with no distractions can actually be beneficial to the avid DFS player, as there is no more appropriate place to pick up a copy of Sports Illustrated and stay current!
Draft Kings

The role of study

Not everyone has the stamina or patience to slog through long poker sessions and large tournament fields. Harder still is doing this while maintaining tight focus and keeping your emotions in check. Any poker pro who has had a lengthy track record of success will tell you that in order to stay competitive, time must be allotted away from the tables to study. Nevertheless, poker study is no substitute for actual play, and there are many existing superstars who have never read a book on poker, nor have any grasp of mathematics beyond the sixth grade level, yet still succeed through logical deduction and a strong awareness of psychology.
In DFS, your study time is your play, as there is no room for intuition. Confidence that the Patriots will mop up on Monday Night Football means nothing if Tom Brady slams his fingers in the car door four hours before game time and you were too sloppy to double check if he was actually starting. One hundred percent of your results are determined by your efforts prior to kickoff. Provided that you have done your due diligence in picking your lineup and do your final revisions before game time to ensure you aren't crippled by last minute player substitutions, you can apply all your efforts when you are at your sharpest.

Skill scales in DFS

If we start with the assumption that the king of the hill at Draft Kings is the site's very best player, he got there by being the consistent highest scorer. This means that the strategy he employs at the highest stakes will also be the highest scoring at every buy-in level below. This gives him the ability to click a button and enter every single contest using his top line-up at stakes so low relative to his skill level and bankroll that he is practically on a small stakes freeroll.*
This factor wildly separates DFS from poker. Barring some crazy prop bet, world class poker players have no financial incentive to play all the available high stakes games while diverting their attention to pummel microstakes minnows. When deciding whether or not to go DFS or poker, you should give serious consideration to the pros and cons of this feature. This creates a barrier of entry lower for poker players, as you won't face superior competition while building up your bankroll. However, if you possess enough skill in DFS, you can use this to your advantage as you rise through the stakes.
Poker players moving up the ranks will often experience culture shock once they reach a certain level and the general style of play diverges drastically from what they are accustomed to. This can even happen when switching to a new site with a different player pool, making it seem as if they are playing an entirely different game.

The importance of diversification

Unless you are playing very high stakes poker, it's perfectly acceptable to choose to specialize in either NLH or PLO and make a career from a single game. This is not the case in DFS, as choosing to wager on just one or two sports means that you will be spending several months driving Joey Knish's truck. Since all major sports are seasonal, you are likely to have to get out of your comfort zone if you want to stay busy 365 days a year. This could very well mean that if you want to maximize your earnings potential, you will have to start taking an interest in sports you just plain don't like. The upside of this is that it should be easy to carry on a conversation with the old barflies at your local pub on any day of the week.

Current and future markets

Lastly, and in my opinion, most importantly, before putting all your eggs in the DFS or poker basket. Poker has proven its longevity and is well established, but has suffered through many scandals and is under constant threat from regulators and legal uncertainties. DFS is decidedly legal, but relatively new, and will doubtless face its own challenges. It's very strong at the moment, but don't let the hard lessons we all learned from poker go to waste and stay vigilant!
* DFS sites are taking steps to limit this practice in the hopes that the games become less predatory and more welcoming to new, casual players.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Where's Karl??

I now have a new service that I can add to my writing resume! While it is quite likely that I will never get an opportunity to do something like this again in such an important context, I've always found that one's talents are best applied when doing good things for good people. Thus, when my best poker friend, and one of my best and most trusted friends, period asked me if I could write him a character reference as part of a CV (curriculum vitae) to submit to the Kenyan Gaming Commission on his behalf, I told him it would be ready by the time he wakes up. Even better, he not only allowed me to post this on my blog, he actually thought it would be great to add a back link to it to give it some heft, lol!

Karl Javadi posing for a selfie with a gorgeous Kenyan native.
Karl doing what he does best: making friends and winning hearts at his new home in Nairobi, Kenya.

What a strange idea that this blog has taken me from struggling poker pro, to short stack scum, to widely regarded voice on strategy and the industry, to a paid writing position with River Street Writing, and ultimately to a trustworthy source to vouch for a great man's character. While I sincerely hope that this most recent development will pay off in Karl's favor, I am honored that he would choose me to do so, nonetheless. I'm going to gush and ramble here for a bit, so don't be surprised if the following letter looks different after Karl has had a chance to review it and tell me if and where I may have gone on too long. Here goes....

To whomever this may concern in the Kenyan Gaming Commission:

I have known Karl Javadi for just shy of two years now. I was getting a Sonic the Hedgehog tattoo when he added me as a contact on Skype by request of a mutual friend and poker coaching client of mine. Being that I was forced to stay in one spot for several hours with very little to preoccupy myself, I was able to chat with Karl at length as he laid out the details of what he was currently doing in the world of poker. At that time, Karl had secured a spot as a customer service agent/liaison of sorts for a skin operating on the Klas Gaming poker network.

In our first encounter, Karl immediately revealed himself to be an interesting and forthright character. Having spent many years in the pokersphere, I have learned to take first impressions with a grain of salt, yet I still left the conversation with the strong sense that I had a new ally in the poker world. Later on that evening, when speaking to him further on a Skype voice call, I felt like I had made a new friend.

First and foremost, Karl is very transparent with his self-interests. Being that poker on the professional level is, at heart, a business venture, I am very comfortable with the aspects of one forming new relationships with a profit motive in mind. In this regard, Karl separates himself from the pack in the best way possible-- by making sure that not only are his motives clear, but that he will only move forward with them in a business relationship if he believes that it is also in the best interests of the other party. He very clearly states the risks involved, and makes no promises that he can't make good on personally if the worst case scenario does occur. As the gambling laws of the land vary widely from country to country and sometimes even state to state, Karl is very keen to the idea that what may be legal in one locale may be explicitly illegal in another. Thus, he always advises to exercise caution in any undertaking that may or not put the other party at risk, and makes it known when he is uncertain of the legal implications of moving forward.

In the world of poker, a man's honor is always at stake, and this almost always comes down to matters of money. Currency and trust in poker are deeply entwined, and often transactions of hundreds or thousands of dollars are traded back and forth on a whim and guaranteed by nothing more than a digital handshake. This is where Karl's character has truly shined over the time we have known each other. He always gives first and often asks for little or nothing in return. For example, he has always offered the very best percentage deals in terms of staking arrangements, as he has a strong sense of the notion of taking care of the people he invests in and making sure that these people leave the deal happy, even if that means carrying the burden of additional financial risk himself. On more than one occasion, Karl has even swallowed losses to ensure that his friends and partners are taken care of if something unexpected on the higher level falls through, though it be no fault of his own or otherwise outside of his control.

Going beyond matters of money, Karl has always been available to be a sympathetic ear for personal matters. The most memorable time was when I had gotten into an awful argument with my then-wife and subsequently fell down the stairs (don't ask!). In the figurative sense, Karl picked me up and dusted me off. He listened to the entire story, and then his first move was to hold me accountable for my share of the blame before going on to help me resolve the issue. While it may feel great to be able to vent about personal matters, even though I had only known him for less than two months at that time, I knew that he was exactly the person that I could go to for an unbiased opinion.

I can offer many additional examples if required, but hopefully I have painted enough of a picture of this great man already. Please let me know if anything else is required and I will be more than happy to oblige.


Lorin Yelle, aka "The Short Stack Hero"
My Blog: 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Did Dan Bilzerian Make His Millions Playing Poker?

Dan Bilzerian surrounded by tons of scantily clad women
"Did I really make all my money playing poker? Who fucking cares?"

I rarely claim 100% knowledge on the affairs of people I don't know personally, but I can say with 99% certainty that the answer is "not a chance". Please note that the following text isn't, nor is meant to be, quoted verbatim, yet read on to see why the details aren't important.

Dan tipped his hand when he said in an interview with Howard Stern that he won $50 million playing poker in a single year, with the implication that he must have made far more than that by getting his start as a poker pro. He then thumbed his nose at other high stakes overachievers by saying, "really, who else has done that?"

So how am I so certain that he actually didn't get his start as a poker pro? I've been involved in online poker for 12 years and more or less know of all the biggest names in the game. From what I've read, I'm not the only one who never heard of Dan Bilzerian until a few years ago when he made a deep run in the WSOP $10,00 Main Event, and that's because other than this rather "meh" non piece of news, he never made any significant mark on the poker world. No big tournament wins, no WSOP bracelets, etc. big deal. All serious players know that besides a handful of outliers, all of the biggest winners in poker play cash games, not tournaments. Online players also know basically every single player who plays in the biggest stakes in the world, which one would have to play in order to make anywhere near $10 million, let alone $50 million. 

I say "basically" because there were some players who tried to be anonymous in order to get action, but since players who regularly play in games where millions of dollars are won or lost in a session draw a lot of attention to themselves, the desired anonymity never lasts and their identities are eventually outed. Dan's name was never among these players, and someone boasting of making so much money is completely contrary to the idea of being anonymous.

So we have established that he has no public record of winning a significant sum of money. However, that doesn't rule out one last possibility: that he made a boatload of cash playing in private, ultra high stakes home games populated with celebrities and other wealthy people with money to burn.

I have read that he has played in games with Toby Maguire, and even was able publicly to vouch for Major League baseball star, Alex Rodriguez, that he was not present at this home game on a specific date, implying that Dan was, in fact, a regular at this home game, and thus a reliable witness. Admittedly, since I don't have any real interest in this subject (a total contradiction after writing this much, I know :), I haven't even bothered to verify whether this particular tidbit is true. However, it's not necessary because....

Dan Bilzerian driving an expensive convertible
Paid in full, courtesy of Alex Rodriguez

People don't get invited into private, ultra high stakes games, unless they first have a ton of money in the first place!! In other words, the other players in the game aren't going to ignore their itch to gamble for stakes higher than anything available in public casinos just to let Dan grind up his roll in $5/10 games, even if he is funny and brings entertainment...although it's quite likely that these would be reasons why he would be invited back :)

Final note: 

In another interview where Bilzerian continued the outrageous claim of making $50 million playing poker, he followed that up with a peculiar humble brag, saying that his skill level is somewhere between a good high school player to perhaps the minor leagues, yet he is able to win so much because the players he fleeces play at the tee-ball level (again, not a verbatim quote, but close). Again, this doesn't fit the narrative, as anyone publicly insulting the generous benefactors that they have been hustling isn't likely to ever get invited back in those games.

I do, however, find it to be quite likely that he has won millions in these games, but hopefully we can finally shut the door on whether or not this is how he became wealthy in the first place.

Friday, June 3, 2016

When A Poker Player Becomes a Man

With moist eyes that are hesitant to aim in your direction, your special ladyfriend finally looks up at you and softly utters, "I'm pregnant."

At odds of approximately 4 to 1 against with one card to go, your nut draw finally hit. Maybe you didn't buy enough condoms and were underrolled for the high stakes you were playing, or maybe you just drank too much one night at the casino and carelessly blew your wad in the pit.

Seriously, what did you expect? When you keep pumping your dough into a slot machine, the alarm is eventually going to sound and you will be forced to present your ID and pay taxes on your big score. Rejoice little man, you're about to be a dad!

If you have seen the movie A Beautiful Mind, the quasi-historically accurate account of mathematician and game theorist John Nash, I'm sure you remember that cringe-worthy scene where Russell Crowe attempts to proposition his wife-to-be by saying:

I don't exactly know what I am required to say in order for you to have intercourse with me. But could we assume that I said all that. I mean essentially we are talking about fluid exchange right? So could we go just straight to the sex.

A Beautiful Mind sex quote scene

Since the girl you have been shagging all this time just told you she's pregnant, it's safe to assume that you have only been stealing John's math formulas for personal gain and not his horrid pick up lines.

Nash's direct approach may give him a distinct advantage in a competition to seduce Siri in the fewest possible moves, but this is a delicate situation that must be handled with finesse. In fact, it's probably best that you just turn off your analytical poker brain for a bit and do as little thinking as possible. Any hesitation will be perceived as weakness, so just absorb the information below and keep your mouth shut until you are certain she is done talking.

There are two main questions on every guy's mind as soon as he hears this news. At the point of delivery, the only thing that matters is that you
do not
ask them out loud. This, my young poker padawans, is the relationship equivalent of a negative freeroll. You don't win anything by playing it right, but you have the potential to withstand heavy losses if you blow it. Let me go ahead and answer them for you.

Q: Are you sure you're actually pregnant?

A: Yes dumbass, she is

She's got the test results in her purse right now. She most likely has one or two backups as well in preparation of thwarting any lame argument you were going to make concerning the statistical rates of false positives. By asking to see the results, all you are doing is insulting her intelligence and stalling for extra time. Don't worry, she'll explain later.

Q: Is it my baby?

A: Don't you dare go there, asshole

If you managed to suppress your shock long enough to hold your tongue through the first question, if you ask this, it's going to be replayed back at you in every single argument like the world's worst bad beat story. Sharing a roof with her will be like being locked up in prison with an Alzheimer's-stricken Phil Hellmuth.

If it's not your baby, then it's better to just assume:

A) She probably wouldn't be here in the first place.

B) You would have already heard about it from her much less attractive friend who has secretly wanted to sleep with you since high school.

For now, just concern yourself with disarming the bomb while you are within the blast radius. After she falls asleep in your loving arms, steal her phone and start sifting through her text messages. The truth should come to light immediately

Whether you want to believe it or not, you are a lot closer to John Nash by nature than you are to Neil Strauss. You may think you chose poker as a profession, but it's just as likely that poker chose you. That's why instead of shredding guitar on a stage in front of 20,000 fans, you are quietly mashing buttons in the world's most cutthroat MMO while trying to convince your mother that what you are doing in her basement is actually gainful employment-- right before asking her to make you a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch.

The good news is that not too long ago, Neil Strauss was probably a lot closer to being like John Nash than you are right now, proving that your current uber-dork status is more likely to be a temporary ailment than a terminal disease. Any guy with enough practice can memorize a few psychological techniques strong enough to get a girl's number, and applying a little more skill was probably enough to get you into her pants. From there, it's quite likely that being with you long enough lowered her self-esteem to the point where she actually she convinced herself that you were boyfriend material. If this was the route you took to get this far, getting blindsided by news such as this can hit you hard enough to cause your entire PUA house of cards to collapse in an instant, exposing you as the fraud you really are in front of one of the few people in the world whose opinion actually matters. We can't let this happen.

I'm not entirely convinced you are understanding just how important this moment is, so let's drive the point home a little harder, shall we?

Erik Seidel might be your poker idol, but to the outside world, he is just that scrawny douchebag wearing the ridiculous long billed red visor who donked off all his chips to Johnny Chan when heads up in the 1988 WSOP Main Event. Meanwhile, 28 years later, Johnny Chan as the poker player may not matter at all to you, but to everyone who has ever seen Rounders, he is that Asian stud who brilliantly manipulated some random, scrawny douchebag who would be completely forgettable save for that strikingly hideous red visor.

Erik Seidel wearing a stupid visor.
Erik Seidel back in his "good looking days".

I'm a poker pro, too, so yes, I get it. Over the long haul, variance evens out and Seidel wins the big money. We agree on that. Yet whether you play cash, tournies, SNG's, or whatever, there are always going to be some pots that matter more than others. Ask yourself how many of those TV sponsored players that you publicly criticize (yet privately envy) have launched their careers based on the outcome of just a single big bluff or call while the cameras were tilted their in their direction?

You have the rest of your life to be Erik Seidel, but this is your Johnny Chan moment.

Wait...scratch that. You are never going to be Johnny Chan, period. You can, however, avoid having your infamous Erik Seidel malfunction. While he did earn $280,000 for his runner-up finish,  I'm sure he would happily trade all that money and throw in a few bracelets as well just to squash the feeling of dread every time there is a possible straight on the board or he overhears someone making a Teddy KGB impression at the next table over.

Besides...he's Erik Seidel, for god's sake. While I doubt that Matt Damon can actually play cards worth a shit, there's not a single woman in the world who would pass him up in favor of Erik Seidel, whose natural charm evokes all the excitement of an all night fisting session with HAL-2000 in subzero temperatures.

Let's get back to the situation at hand. You just got the biggest news of your entire life and your knee-jerk response is to preserve your pathetic, lackluster bachelor status and retreat into cowardice. Even if this is the worst thing you could have imagined, steady yourself with the consoling thought that there is
at least one person in the world who will be forced to publicly testify that your junk is in workable condition.


Put on your best poker face, remove your stupid red visor, imagine you just double-barreled some bullshit hand and backdoored a gutshot, then look that sexy woman straight in the eye and say,

"You're pregnant?! That is sooooo awesome!"

Congratulations and welcome to the real world, kid!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Review: YourDoom's "How to Play OOP from the Blinds version 2014"

Disclosure: I am affiliated with YourDoom for this specific product, but the review is completely unbiased. I strongly suggest reading the whole review, or you can skip ahead and purchase How to Play OOP from the Blinds version 2014 and use my exclusive code Z50 at checkout to get a 10% discount. Purchase comes with a downloadable HUD, access to his private forum, and lifetime updates.


In an era when lots of long running poker coaches seem to have been coming under fire for no longer being in touch with the modern game by advising worn out, expired tactics and strategies from days past, Ryan Power, aka "YourDoom" has seen his share of critics.

Ryan, as an active peddler of a fairly large library of premium priced coaching products is, by default, going to be the ideal target of such criticism, whether it be fair game or just the knee-jerk response of jealous and spiteful trolls. Generally speaking, I'm not interested in the product lines offered by other coaches, but not because I doubt their quality or authenticity. Rather, it is because most of the material on offer is too generalized for my taste.

With that in mind, one of Ryan's products happened to catch my eye, as it covered a topic that drilled down into an area of my own game that needs the most improvement, and that is defending the blinds out of position.

In the spirit of self-education and the hopes that I could gain some knowledge to pass on to my own students in an area that is, admittedly, lacking in my own material, I reached out to Ryan in the hopes that he could allow me to personally review How to Play OOP from the Blinds version 2014 it for free, and he politely obliged my request. Here is what I have to say:

First off, for those who may be skeptical of content that simply rehashes old plays that have since been countered and solved, I can immediately put that skepticism to rest. The video is 100% theory based, making it essentially a robust work with effectiveness that won't dilute over time. In other words, it should be just as relevant 10 years from now as it is today, despite any fluctuating changes in the nature of how the game evolves.

This video contains roughly 6 hours of theoretical discussion that is backed up by numerous hand examples that Ryan thoroughly discusses with expert technical knowledge. While it is by no means aimed at a novice audience, Ryan lays out all the information with enough clarity that virtually any player should be able to understand and apply the concepts immediately.

I was impressed by how he was able to flexibly demonstrate how hands of various classes (i.e. suited connectors or weak Broadway combos) should be played vs. a variety of player types with differing steal and c-bet frequencies, as well as being able to interpret combinations of HUD stats along with NoteCaddy notes to dynamically alter his postflop approach.

It also covers a wide range of scenarios, such as flatting the small blind with an eye for how an overcall by the BB will affect the dynamic, the criteria involved in choosing the best line amongst donking, checkraising, or check calling, completing the SB to attack weak limpers, and avoiding pitfalls when choosing whether or not to get involved in multiway pots.

Lastly, my favorite part was when Ryan showed his formulaic deduction process of sniffing out potential three barrel river bluffs for hero calls. Using a combination of villain open and c-bet frequencies, flop texture, and a gradual math-based deduction of turn and river runouts to determine a finely tuned probability that villain has what he is representing. He then cross-references that information with regards to pot odds, without having to resort to the simplistic gut-based, lackadaisical approach to odds that most players seem to apply before making crude decisions. At each decision point in the deduction process, he pulls out Flopzilla, an excellent offline analysis tool, to illustrate the process visually to allow us to easily follow along.

After watching all of the videos, it should be clear to the viewer that playing these tricky spots is all about making clearly defined decisions based on logic and a cohesive strategy, rather than making soul reads or gut-based decisions. Furthermore, it should also be clear that the studious player should be able to emulate this process by reviewing hands post-session and running the scenarios through analysis programs such as the aforementioned Flopzilla.

Of course, even great works could be improved upon, but the only minor criticism I can offer is that I would have liked seeing more situations on scary boards, particularly monotone flops when hero might catch a piece in combination with a weak flush draw. Make no mistake, though: the YourDoom "How to Play OOP from the Blinds version 2014is a fine product and worth every penny.

Should you be interested in purchasing it, don't forget to use the exclusive code Z50 at checkout to get a 10% discount,