Thursday, December 31, 2009

Focusing on the Long Term

Just a few days ago, I began ruminating on the concept of "focusing on the long-term."  Widely accepted as the wisdom of dealing with bad beats and bad temporary results, poker authors everywhere have been regurgitating this advice for years, much to the dismay of...oh, just about everyone.  In fact, I can not think of a more abstract or depressing way of viewing this game.  After all, they say we can never get too high or low about a given cash game session as it is really just one long game that goes on and on and on and on and ON..... Apparently the journey of a thousand miles not only begins with the first step but ends somewhere far beyond the visible horizon at a place that we won't even recognize when we get there.  Luckily for all of you, I have managed to take this poorly constructed yet well-meaning advice and turn it into something usable.  I will be the first to admit that there is nothing groundbreaking that I am about to present here, yet I am sure that some of you have oft overlooked it.

This meditation first began when pondering the effects of attempting to win the rake chase at Pokerworld for the month of January.  That wasn't a typo- for those of you who don't know, a rake "chase" is different than a rake "race" in that there are guaranteed tiered payouts for everyone who reaches specific rake plateaus.  The one in question rewards an extra $1,400 in cash to all those who rake at least $8,000 (high volume, if this is not already obvious) and $3,000 to all of those who rake at least $15,000 (extraordinary volume!).  Being that you are rewarded for consistent performance, this is superior to the alternative.

While this goal seem ludicrous to me personally when I saw it, it seemed quite doable the first time I raked $800 in a single day and realized that it was about 9 hours of play.  Though I knew it was unreasonable to think I could do this every day, I was quite happy to realize that it would only take 19 sessions like this.  Doing some quick calculations yielded that it would take somewhere between 180-200 hours of play of 9-tabling.  Further examination showed me that not only would I bring home that extra dough, it would also glue me to the table and force me to play when I would otherwise quit, creating much higher earns overall.  Being that I can track my rake to the penny using HEM, the previously abstract "long term" now had an end in sight.  When you have a distinct end point in that is actually tangible and achievable, the bad beats become much more tolerable and the long sessions now have a meaning other "win more" or "get unstuck".

The "goal" of winning at poker over the long-term is no better than the goal of finishing college, losing weight, or making Supernova Elite next year.  All experts say that these things must be broken down into manageable sub-goals that are achievable and measurable and preferably have some kind of reward for each step.  The above goals would be better stated as taking 6 credit hours each semester, limiting yourself to 1,500 calories per day, or earning x FPP's each day.  While the idea of raking $15,000 is unheard of for myself personally, I know that I can get through each day visualizing that $3,000 pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

For those of you who would like to follow my progress towards this goal, click here and search for the player name "Papa Rozzi" at Poker World, right at the top of the list!


P.S. A quick word of caution: do not let goals of earning FPP's or rake or rakeback distract you from your ultimate goal- making money.  Do not consume yourself with pushing past your maximum table limits to quickly reach a goal that will happen on its own.  As always, if the amount of money you earn at the tables is ultimately eclipsed by the rakeback you earn on a monthly basis, you are doing something wrong or misusing your focus.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Moving Up and Losing Me Bottle

After last month of playing mostly $1/2 with some $2/4 and $3/6 and showing success in all of these stakes, I figured that the best move would be to start December playing only $2/4 and $3/6 from that point on, being well rolled for both games.  Being that playing the bigger pots in the larger games was distracting me from playing well in the smaller game, it seemed to make logical sense to eliminate the smallest game from my menu and enjoy the better win rates in the larger games.  Naturally, had this worked out so well, there would be no reason to make this post.

What I am attempting to explore here is whether or not you will do better in the long run by moving up now, EVEN IF you are well rolled and competent enough to beat the higher game.  Here is what I have found out:

1. BIGGER WINS CAN LEAD TO SHORTER SESSIONS

Coventional poker knowledge: you should always keep playing when you are winning.  Short stack hero says:  HORSESHIT. Don't get me wrong here: I am not disagreeing with what all of the poker authors are saying in spirit, but rather, what they are saying in practice.  They have never addressed the psychological fact that people experience more pain due to a loss than the joy they receive relative to an equal win.

When I first started the month, I went up about $2,500 right out of the gate, in 3 short sessions.  Most of this came in $1,000 spurts experienced in the course of short runs of about 1-2 hours.  While this might feel quite good while it is happening, it is totally eclipsed by taking a dinner break and giving back $1,000 in 30 minutes.  The result?  It is very easy to go up a lot (relative to the smaller stakes you had been playing) and then find some external reason to quit and enjoy your win for the day.  To make matters worse, we create our own psychological barriers according the law of diminishing marginal utility.  It feels good to win the first $500 of the day and very good to hit $1,000 for the day, yet beyond this point, things begin to change.  Going up to $1,500 will make me feel only slightly better, yet dropping down to $500 for the day will make me feel lousy, with the irony being that had you told me the previous day that I would be making $500 tomorrow, I would be satisfied.

In sum, though $1,000 is still the same to me that it was in November, when you are playing just $2/4 and $3/6, it is an average of 2 full buy ins.  Easy to make and easy to give back.  My mind was simply not prepared for this.

2. BIGGER LOSSES ARE LIKELY TO LEAD TO LONGER SESSIONS

This requires no extrapolation, for all of us have done this a some point.

3. BAD RUNS CAN EQUAL LONGER TIME AWAY FROM THE GAME

We all know by know that poker profits are not just measured by the month, but also by the day, the hour, and to some people, by the hand.  No matter how big a single session is, time spent afterward away from the table will likely hurt your profits more than a long, slightly tilty session if you are a competent player.  The second week of the month was terrible.  I lost about $2,800 in the course of 3 short sessions and ran $3,300 under EV.  I had intellectualized that this would happen at some point, yet I was stilled floored by the fact it not only did, but that it happened so soon.  When you take a loss that is this disruptive, the thought of sitting at your desk becomes burdensome, if not intolerable.  Some people are made of stone and things like this just roll of their backs.  I am not one of them and I imagine that you are most likely not as well.

4. GAME SELECTION BECOMES FAR MORE DIFFICULT

Damn short stackers have completely infested the full ring $2/4 and $3/6 games at Full Tilt (not for much longer, though)!  Rather than whine about it though, I just won't sit and play with them if there are too many and they have position on me.  Likewise, the higher you play, the fish become fewer and less frequent.  So for guys who are used to playing at 16-24 tables with little thought, this just becomes much more difficult to do.


As if it weren't difficult enough to make money at this game, making more money requires even more consideration than simply win rates and bank roll management.  Am I saying not to give it a try?  Absolutely not- just keep this on the back burner and be self-conscious at all times.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Following in Glenn Beck's Footsteps



This post is an apology to our regular readers.  We were going to do a series on the "debate" with narrow minded full stackers but are scrapping it after much consideration.  After all, winning an argument requires a certain amount of cooperation on the part of the arguee - where the person in question decides to submit and see things from your point of view.  Doing so in this case is also counter productive, because it is tantamount to tapping on the glass.  As long as we are dismissed, our play becomes highly profitable.  The minute we are taken seriously, we will seriously need to consider doing something else, like working at McDonald's ;)

As anyone who has been following the last few posts can see, narrow minded fools will not be persuaded under any circumstances.  They simply change the argument when they see a point which they can not possibly win and spout more and more ridiculous things as a consequence.  Had we not let our utterly massive egos get in the way, we would have ignored such blather long ago, and that is precisely what we will do from this point on.

For those of you who have been following this blog over the course of its evolution, you fully understand that this blog was not meant to promote short stacking or any other style of poker.  It was meant to challenge conventional wisdom and groupthink to reach conclusions that help a person succeed in their own fashion.  I should know.  I have read pretty much every single significant text on hold'em since the day I declared that I wanted to be a professional over 6 years ago now.  While I am very grateful for the knowledge that has been handed down to me, I also never had the chance to develop a style all my own.  This knowledge has given me the tools of the professional and given me a good living, though it has also almost certainly prevented me from ever becoming a top player with a unique approach to the game.  I am hoping to break that mold for the rest of you and not further waste your time by engaging in arguments with idiots.  I'll leave that to Glenn from now on.

Monday, November 9, 2009

An Amazing Hand by Any Measure...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Willing to Trade: Short Stack Snake Oil for Baby Stack College Fund




I wanted to offer my services as a coach, perhaps for the last time. As I have vastly improved my game and winnings, I have become less and less inclined to take on new students, and quite likely will stop doing it altogether as of the end of this month. For anyone who is interested, the rate is $150 per hour, or $125 per hour for those who sign up at my rakeback site, with a minimum of 2 hours purchased.

I have included my results since September 1st and this is the last time I will be posting them as well. I don't care to gloss over the content of this site with brags or pissing contests about win rates. I am only including this now for street cred and to show that you can make a lot of money when short stacking correctly and without even putting in extreme volume.

*The oddly staked games came from a conversion error from Cake poker hands where the small blind wasn't posted. All nasty responses posted will be deleted, so don't even waste your time. Just contact me at lyelle@insightbb.com.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Debate #1: Learn to Play Full-Stacked

As we all know, short stackers are a bunch of talentless, uncreative twits who are either lazy or greedy and have no respect for the game. Luckily this is poker and not alternative music and we don't need to pretend that are we here for anything other than the money. So why should any of us "learn" to play full stacked (we have said many times that we do, but since you won't believe us anyway, just assume that we don't)? Here are the objections to this lousy argument:

IS THIS REALLY WHAT YOU WANT?

I assume that since you both play online and take the time out of your day to google poker terms, that this game is important to you and therefore the money that you make (or attempt to make) is also important to you. So if we learn how to play poker, how exactly does this benefit you? You must be assuming that since we are talentless to begin with, you will still be able to crush us in your .10/.25 game where you would proudly reign as king if it were not for those lowly dissident short stackers. Yet what if that isn't the case? You have now turned an untalented fish into a competing force that now swallows fish whole rather than taking a nibble from them and saving the good parts for YOU.

But now here's the thing. If I'm talentless and yet still found a way to win, why would I give that up, especially when giving it up would mean that I would have to work a 9 to 5 job on someone else's terms? At least the people who say "DIE SHORTSTACK SKUM" have their priorities in order....

YOU WOULD MAKE A LOT MORE MONEY PLAYING WITH A FULL STACK

Supposing this is true (I'm talentless), I just don't see how this is any concern of yours. Alas, it's not a concern of mine either. No one has said anything like "you could play so many more tables" or "you will have so much less stress" or "you won't lose any sleep because you got bluffed out of a huge pot" or even "you could play much longer sessions." I eventually came to the conclusion (see article titled: ...And Everything is Illuminated) that these things are what REALLY matter to me. My win rate was probably a little bit better, but the swings made it difficult to play for long sessions at a time and I often would put in 20-25 hour weeks, which could make subpar months difficult to live on.

SHORT STACKING WOULDN'T BE ANY FUN

It's a job dillhole, it's not supposed to be fun. A job that I make a lot of money doing and yet once again, I don't see how this is any of your concern. In fact, this is what should console you and your choice to sweat it out every day and warm your soul when you can't sleep at night. I traded my win rate and variance for the fun that you get out of the game. Is this what bothers you or is it that you worry that I actually DO enjoy it? I DO...sorry, you lose again!!!

YOU ARE TAKING THE FUN OUT OF IT FOR REGULARS!

This is just stupid. Making the game fun is something that you do in a live setting or home game to keep the fish around. I don't recall anyone saying that this is some kind of rule for online play, and chances are that if you are making it fun for someone else, you have been doing something wrong. In other words, if guys are following you around from table to table it isn't because of your quick wit or because they admire your play.

And besides...all those regs hate each other, and they hate you as well. Case closed.

SHORT STACKING IS A SIMPLE, ROBOTIC, AND LAME STRATEGY

First of all, let me clarify that short stacking falls into two categories that I now like to coin: passive short stacking and exploitive short stacking. Passive short stacking is the one that most of you are familiar with and I fail to see how this is a problem in your normal game. Those are the guys who sit around and wait for premium hands and try to get all in with them before the flop. I don't understand how or why you think guys like this are ruining the game, because all you need to do is fold to their raises and steal their blinds. They are out there looking for large edges and since those come along very seldom, these guys won't be playing a whole lot of pots with you. In short, quit acting like a fucking cry baby, because that is what you are if you are complaining about this. And don't worry- these guys aren't making much money.

If passive short stacking is the poker equivalent of pan handling then all you would need to do is cross the street to avoid them. An exploitive short stacker is a back alley mugger who will chase you across the street and stab you just to take the quarter that they just saw you stick in your pocket. They are masters of finding small edges and aren't afraid to stick in all their money to get it. This what the truly successful ones are doing, and some of them are making upwards of $400,000 a year, in other words, what you would make in approximately 80 years in your normal .10/.25 game or 26 years working your job at McDonald's.

Now if there were a Nobel Prize for poker, the person who created exploitive short stacking surely would have won it. You might think it is simple, yet it is actually a superior strategy when placed side by side with ALL of them. "But it's so simple...." you whine. Exactly. It's what made Windows superior to DOS, which made computing accessible to the masses. Full stacked poker is actually a very weak strategy (let's lump them all together, for argument's sake), because for most people it does more harm than good. If it is only available or usable by a small group of elite players, then that says more about the person wielding it than it does about the strategy.

Pretend for a minute that someone were attacking you with a knife. What would you rather defend yourself with, your own knife or a can of pepper spray? With the knife, you have to get in close where you are in the most danger, strike better than your opponent and hit vital organs and then jump back before they can strike back. With the can of pepper spray, you can stand back at a distance, shoot it in their general direction and then run away while they curse you.

It has been said that if you don't know what you are doing then taking a knife to a fight poses more danger to yourself than it does to your adversary. After all, I'm not out to kill anyone, I just want to live to fight another day...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Law of Unintended Consequences

We see this everywhere. A smoking ban in bars leads to more drunk driving deaths when people drive further to get to bar that has heated outdoor smoking areas. Obama's "Cash for Clunkers" program hurts the Demolition Derby sport by causing a drought of old vehicles that now going straight to the junkyard. Why should we care? Because all players who are upset by the short stack epidemic are witnessing this happening right now. The culprit? A powerful new generation of poker software that we all love and enjoy.

Many people have suggested that we raise the minimum buy in. I would like to point out, though, that the minimum buy in has always been 20BB pretty much across the board. Yet if you peel the layers back a little further, you will see that there only exists a short stack swarm at sites where the newer highly advanced HUD's are not only rampant, but encouraged. After all, the 20BB minimum buy in exists at the Cake Poker network as well, yet there are very few short stackers who exist there and none of them are particularly dangerous...because of the site wide ban on this software.

The highly detailed HUD's available through HEM and PT3 et al. paved the way for short stackers who can now slice through you with razor thin margins because of a huge list of very specific stats that can track your patterns of play from every single position at the table and can feed this information into advanced simulators on their free time like StoxEV that can measure their expected value down to the PENNY. Even if a player has never logged any hands against you, they can still purchase hand histories by the million and have a complete profile against you as soon as they wake up at noon.

So is this new generation of software aids the true danger to the game? I would wager a "yes" here. Even Kyle "Cottonseed" Hendon made a remark in one of his videos on Stox Poker that the HEM HUD is so good that it is almost like cheating. While the lines have blurred tremendously since their inception, it is certainly quickly reaching that point. Had you explained to an old time pro back in 1999 what people were doing now to the game they almost certainly would have called it such.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Intermission


Friday, August 21, 2009

The Perils of Emulating Your Own Success

It would seem a very rational thing to do. You pick the game of your choice, learn the fundamentals and mechanics of solid play and then slowly become a winner in that game. Though you don't quite know fully what you are doing yet, you try some creative plays and some of them turn out to be brilliant. Perhaps you got a little lucky here and there with these plays, but mostly they were fundamentally sound and based on good observation of your opponents and the flow of the game. You congratulate yourself and vow that you will do these good deeds again. Well done!

On the other hand, during your experimental phase you also make some plays that don't turn out quite so well. Actually, that is an understatement- they are monumental fucking failures. In fact, had you eliminated two of the plays from your session, you would have actually come out a small winner for the day. You take these harsh lessons to bed with you, only this time you vow to never make these plays again.

Now that you are bumping around less frequently in the dark and have pruned all of the major atrocities from your game, you start winning fast now...and BIG. You could keep on trying new things, but you are a professional and you have bills to pay, so better to just stick with the formula- at least for now.

Right now I play x tables with y win rate for z hours per week. If I play x + 3 tables for z + 15 hours a week, even if I can maintain a win rate of just y - b, I can pay off my car and my credit cards in 5 1/2 months!! ...And all I have to do is keep doing what I've been doing!


Except for one tiny little problem...it just doesn't work anymore. Is it the variance? The bad beats? The fact that your opponents are catching on to you? Perhaps a combination of all these things, but they are merely symptoms of the real problem. The real problem is that by failing to react appropriately to the situation at hand yet still playing fundamentally decent in a formulaic fashion, you moved from an exploitative/optimal strategy to one that is only approaching optimal, at best. This what occurs when you begin applying your commonly most effective lines to every single hand.

Once this finally dawns on you, it truly becomes easy to understand. Your best lines were developed in response to game flow that existed THEN but is not likely to be present NOW. In the past, you were to trying to play GREAT, not just ADEQUATE. However, in all likelihood, the lines that you are using formulaicly at this point are probably rarely awful, but they also going to rarely be great as well. And great play is what creates good win rates and solid monthly incomes. Making the occasional horrific play that you would not normally make is not necessarily something to be avoided at all costs, but rather shows that you still have blood pumping through your veins. The only types of plays that should be cut completely from your game are those odds defying blundering all-in calls on the turn.

By emulating your past success, you are settling for mediocrity and being just plain lazy. The bottom line is very simple- you must strive to get a little bit better every day. That is how you got to where you are right now. This is the very minimal requirement, even if you plan on only keeping your current win rate. As they say "if you aren't slowly getting better, you are slowly getting worse."

Friday, August 7, 2009

Some Poker Haiku, an attempt at Suckout Therapy

My Queens versus fours
Please Dear God no fucking four
That is such Bullshit

Douche bag sucked out
I bounce around in huge Tilt
I hope he gets AIDS

I hate this damn game
I will never play again
and then I reload

Now Douche bag will pay
Just need a fresh beverage
Will kick him in cunt

Why does God hate me
Douchebaggery Rewarded
This site is rigged

Holy Shit, I won
Finally Motherfucker
Suck on these Nizzuts


I hope these Haiku brought some Peace and Serenity to you as the did me....I would love to see some from our readers if any of you get inspired....

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I Had a Sneaking Suspicion...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My Favorite New Line and Why it is Perfect for Short Stackers....

One of my Favorite things about Poker, and especially ShortStacking, is using players preconceived notions against them. This is part of the "changing gears" that you hear about all the time, but you can take it much farther than that. One of the nice things about Shortstacking is that you don't have to take the time to establish a table image, as most players already have a preconceived (and misguided) notion about what type of player you are the moment that you sit down at the Table. My new favorite "value line" is nothing new or groundbreaking, but it takes perfect advantage of those notions and the ego that SS haters attach to the style.

The basis is this: If you flop a big hand that is obvious, start with a bet. Lets say you raise preflop with AQ of hearts and get a caller. The flop comes down 9 6 3, all hearts. You flopped the nuts. Conventional wisdom, and natural urges tell you to slow play and let them catch up. The problem with this is that they are going to be very suspicious of any flop check with a big move later, and unless they have a set or maybe the K of hearts, you might get some money from them, but not much. So since there is nothing to lose, bet it. It looks like a steal and since most players see SS'rs as tight, overly aggressive push-monkeys, they aren't going to buy it. They will call with a lot of single pairs, weak draws and ANY overpair.

Now that you have set the stage and got them involved, check the turn. It almost doesn't matter what the card is. Check it. Now it appears that you took a shot to win the pot but you are a spineless, unimaginative push-monkey and are giving up. This sets the stage for the next step....

Shove the River! By playing this line, it appears that:

You missed the flop and continuation bet the flop to take it down. Their call scared you. The turn didn't help (or you would have shoved, that is what you do, after all) and then, when you smelled weakness, you tried to buy your way out of your bluff by shoving all in (it only costs a little for you to shove, you are a Broke-ass SSer after all and it is the only move you know).

I have found that this is almost universally how they perceive this line.

Imagine their chagrin (and my titty-rubbing joy) when they call and I turn over the nuts to crap all over their A-9 (or whatever crap they tricked themselves into thinking was good enough to beat your "Bluff") and show a play so imaginative that they NEVER saw it coming from a "simple-minded Shortstacker".

There are of course a few exceptions to this line, but it works great when you flop that obvious big hand and want to extract value (it works very well when you flop the trips on a paired board as well). It really tends to throw opponents off balance because now they can't pigeon hole you into a non thinking shove monkey which is where they are comfortable with you being. Play around with it a little but I guarantee that it is a VERY worthy addition to your arsenal.

If you generate any feedback with this line or have variations, please let us know. We love the discussion.

P.S. Congrats to our own Short Stack Hero, Lorin Yelle for buying his first House. He closed last Friday and moved in Yesterday. He now has a Righteous "Man-Cave".

Friday, July 3, 2009

Bing Blang Blaow- Cashout (on my Titt1es)

From the mind of the legendary $.25/.50 heads up no limit player, Ch3ckraise. With no further ado, I now present to you the remastered version of Bing Bang Blaow- Cashout (on my Titt1es).



ch3ckraise: BING BLANG BLAOW
ch3ckraise: CH3CK RAISE IN THA HOUSE
ch3ckraise: I JUST WON $50.00 FROM YOU
ch3ckraise: U COULD HAVE USED IT TO BUY SOME FOOD
ch3ckraise: BUT YOU CANT NOW
ch3ckraise: CUZ IMMA CASH IT OUT
ch3ckraise: AND RUB IT ON MY TITT1ES
tilted1: wtf


ch3ckraise: BING BLANG BLAOW
ch3ckraise: CH3CK RAISE IN THA HOUSE
DANGEROUSS: fish
ch3ckraise: I JUST WON $50.00 FROM YOU
ch3ckraise: U COULD HAVE USED IT TO BUY SOME FOOD
ch3ckraise: BUT YOU CANT NOW
ch3ckraise: CUZ IMMA CASH IT OUT
ch3ckraise: AND RUB IT ON MY TITT1ES
DANGEROUSS: fhaggot, stfu w your stupid ni**er song

Iplay4funn: omg
Iplay4funn: how can u call with with that
ch3ckraise: BING BLANG BLAOW
Iplay4funn: hmoron
ch3ckraise: CH3CK RAISE IN THA HOUSE
play4funn: is calling the only thing u kno how to do donk?
ch3ckraise: I JUST WON $50.00 FROM YOU
ch3ckraise: U COULD HAVE USED IT TO BUY SOME FOOD
ch3ckraise: BUT YOU CANT NOW
ch3ckraise: CUZ IMMA CASH IT OUT
play4funn: whats wrong with u
ch3ckraise: AND RUB IT ON MY TITT1ES

ch3ckraise: BING BLANG BLAOW
ch3ckraise: CH3CK RAISE IN THA HOUSE
DANGEROUSS: donkey
ch3ckraise: I JUST WON $50.00 FROM YOU
ch3ckraise: U COULD HAVE USED IT TO BUY SOME FOOD
ch3ckraise: BUT YOU CANT NOW
ch3ckraise: CUZ IMMA CASH IT OUT
ch3ckraise: AND RUB IT ON MY TITT1ES

(Observer) oneOuttedsir: GOD DO U EVEN KNO HOW 2 PLAY
(Observer) oneOuttedsir: I HOPE UR MOM GETS CANCER
ch3ckraise: BING BLANG BLAOW
ch3ckraise: CH3CK RAISE IN THA HOUSE
(Observer) oneOuttedsir: LETS PLAY $100NL HU PU SSY
ch3ckraise: I JUST WON $50.00 FROM YOU
ch3ckraise: U COULD HAVE USED IT TO BUY SOME FOOD
ch3ckraise: BUT YOU CANT NOW
ch3ckraise: CUZ IMMA CASH IT OUT
ch3ckraise: AND RUB IT ON MY TITT1ES
(Observer) oneOuttedsir: IM SITTING WAITING FOR U

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Alternative Line #2: The Mega-Raise Pot Shove



Unlike the previous example, this one does not actually need to be AK per se, but rather any medium-strong hand with showdown value. Here is the criteria needed:

1. You are in one of the blind positions.
2. You have a medium strong hand that doesn't play particularly well post-flop out of position, preferably in this order:
AK, AQ, AJ, 99, ATs, 88, KQs, KQo, ATo, KJs
3. You have no more than two limpers in the pot and first limper must be very loose, with a VPIP of 30% or higher. The higher the VPIP, the looser on the above scale you can go.
4. You raise to approximately 1/3 of the effective smaller stack.
5. You shove all in on any flop when called.

The theory: You do this because the alternatives are to limp (which clearly sucks and will never show any real profit), make a normal raise, or move all in. Making a standard raise makes your stack size really awkward for post-flop betting and makes these hands very difficult to play since you will miss the flop about 2/3 of the time. Moving all in is a fine, though sub-optimal play. Even a fish realizes that he needs a showdown value hand to call a bet this size and it will scare away his business virtually every time.

So let's be straight here from the get-go: usually when you attempt this play, your opponent will fold. In that regard, it is no different than shoving over a raise with your premium hands. You don't expect to get called with those hands in every instance, though you are happy when you do. When he does call, take a look at what happens in the example above. By raising one third of the effective stack, you are facing your opponent with a pot-size bet on the flop and offering him odds of 2:1 to call. In other words, you are putting him in the position of making the largest mistake.

Surely, for a bet this size on the flop, your opponents will only be calling when you are beat, right? Wrong. Here is a list of common calls you will see in this spot:


1. Top pair or better
2. Any pair
3. All draws including gut shots
4. Overcards
5. Naked aces

In a nut shell, very few good hands and a whole lot of complete shit. Once again, this play in not done for any kind of deceptive purposes, but rather is a strong psychological lure for weak-minded opponents and gamblers. By targeting exclusively loose opponents who have pretty much already told you explicitly that their hand was not good enough to raise but they wanted to see a flop anyway, you are seducing them into making a bad play.

Of course, when you flop a relatively strong hand, you should either bet very small or check. Typical opponents who are bad enough to call a raise this large in the first place are primed to make a hopeless bluff at such a large pot. By relatively, I mean relative the the board and your opponents likely calling range. A hand like AK on an A-2-2 board is extremely strong and even weak opponents are not likely to stack away with QJs in this spot (though they sometimes will!), but of course he is not getting helped by any free cards, so give him a chance to piss his money away.

Why does this play work? Perhaps it is best not to ask such questions. Never in my career have I been bad enough to get lured by such an obvious ploy, so I can't even begin to imagine what is going through the mind of someone who does. Admittedly, this play was not created by myself, but rather snatched from the hands of a short stacker who is much better than me. When reviewing his hand histories, I was astonished by the horrible calls his opponents were making, including a K7 on an A-A-5 board when he was holding KQ! I began making this play indiscriminately only to soon find that it was never working when I wanted it to, and "working" when I didn't want it to. It has only been recently that I have found it to work astonishingly well against very loose opponents. Against typical opponents or unknowns, you are better off either limping or moving all in with these types of hands.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Consequences of Failing to Listen to Your Inner Voice



Am I on tilt right now?
Am I getting too tired to play?
Should I leave this table?
Should I call this raise?
Should I play ATo under the gun?
Should I go ahead and bluff here?
Should I steal with this turd of a hand?



No matter what the question is, the answer never changes. It's always the one you least wanted to hear. Notice how the simple act of asking yourself that question gives you the answer. Also notice how failing to act on the advice given back to you is a mistake about 90% of the time.

Ahh...one of the beauties of this game of poker. That same voice inside you that you use to consistently lie to your girlfriend, your wife, your parents, your kids, and even yourself will not persuade the powers of the universe that you are not completely full of shit. Because when you deny that inner voice, you are betraying your well-honed poker instincts in favor of your ego or your emotions, which are the least suited for rational decision making at the table. Decisions made on the fly are almost never good ones. Great decisions are planned in advance with contingencies already put into place for any card that can hit on the turn or river.

Though it is never easy, this is some of the most solid advice you will ever receive: if you have to ask the question, you already know the answer.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Busted!! The Short Stack Hero is as Cheap as I said...

Here, as evidence to back up my previous claim as to How Cheap The Short Stack Hero is, are pictures shot by an accomplice of Lorin in all his Cheap Ass Glory!!!


This is him stealing a butt from an ashtray to smoke.....



...and here is him snagging his tip back from the bartender.....

I may be fat but I can always go on a diet. This kind of cheap lives forever!!!!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Alternative Line #1B: Defending Against the Limp Re-raise

It is undeniable that after reading the previous post on how to play AK that some short stackers out there will undoubtedly be using this play. The question is, how should another short stacker respond? Rather than come out and say it, let's just look at a hypothethical example.

A short stacker (abcy123, perhaps?) limps from early position. You are dealt QQ on the cutoff. Should you raise? No!!!

Why? Pretty simple. Mr. Abcy123 has just played his hand face-up. If you raise, you know he is going to shove and you are right back to a 54% favorite (vs. AKs), and you are essentially flipping for the pot with no real advantage, which is contrary to why anyone would short stack in the first place. Of course, your hand is clearly too good to fold, so what should you do? Break the short stacker's one Commandment and limp, goddamnit!

Why limp? If it isn't 100% obvious at this point, then I will state the obvious. The AK is 2:1 to hit on the flop. If you limp and someone else raises, you can now get all in as a favorite against one or two players. Not perfect, but certainly better than getting all in against a single player as a 50/50 proposition. Even better still, you get to see the flop in position and you can instantly bail if the dreaded A or K hits or you can even slow-play if you hit a Q and the AK bricks. What could be easier than playing a hand face-up?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Don't be that Guy: An introduction to the "Kruger Complex"



We all know that guy. Unfortunately, most of us have been that guy even if only for a moment). But let me urge you.....DON'T BE THAT GUY!!! In case you are wondering to which guy I am referring, it is the guy that bitches and complains that the game is rigged and yet continues to play anyway. He will swear that the game is rigged, speak knowingly about the "Doomswitch" and try to utterly convince you that the poker site that he plays at deliberately rigs the deck, just to keep him from bankrupting every player on the site and thus ruining their business. Their arguments are sincere, numerous and ultimately, retarded. This kind of mindset not only taxes your emotional bankroll and limits your ability to accept the realities of, and therefore improve your game, but it also proves to everybody around you that you are, indeed, a total douche bag.

Lets start by looking at their arguments and pointing out the stupidity of each in turn:

"Everytime I get all in and am ahead, somebody hits a 4 outer to beat me! This game HAS to be rigged!!!"

This is the most common one. This generally develops from two main shortcomings. One is the general disability of the people dumb enough to believe this shit to accurately figure out the outs that beat them. They also tend to believe that if they are ahead, they deserve to win. The other main reason that this theory stays around is the phenomenon of SELECTIVE MEMORY. The brain doesn't usually bother to register the 3 times out of 4 that AK holds up against AT (that's right, you should only win that 3 times out of 4 so quit your bitching. It is not a guaranteed win.) That is the expected result so your brain doesn't bother to take much notice. It will, however, go bat shit crazy when it fully expects to win and doesn't. The rush of adrenaline, mixed with shock, anger, diappointment, and then some more anger (not to mention the deep seeded psychotic, murderous rage directed at the galloping donkey that beat you) is a pretty potent cocktail of mnemonic devices. No wonder you remember every single bad beat. Of course it seems like you always get sucked out on. In your memory it is 100% true, but in reality the universe tends to work itself out as it should, and you, even in all your poker glory, are no exception.

My next favorite theory is the "deep" one that provides the motivation for the site to cheat you. I mean, every murder (especially of a bankroll) has to have a motive. The motive, the pundits say, is that the poker sites want to keep the fish around, to keep them contributing rake to the site. In order to keep the fish from going broke, they have to take money from the "good" players to keep the fish in the game. They do this through bad beats. This argument is stupid for many reasons. First of all, fish are fish for a reason. They will keep coming back. Period. Have you ever known somebody that thought that they were good at poker just give it up? No. Nor will they. They may take a break for a couple weeks to raise the cash for another deposit, but after they grab some cash from mom's purse, they will be right back. The sites know this. Another debunker for this asinine theory is that it is always the douche bag that is down to the felt that is the biggest proponent of this theory. The only problem is, he is the argument against his argument. If the sites are doing this to share the wealth and keep everybody in the game, why do they keep busting you? Because they know you will come back. Saddle up to the hook and have another worm Mr. Fishy....

Another one of my favorites is that there are just too many big hands online as compared to live. It's just not possible. So the Poker sites must be stacking to deck to make hands more exciting. My response to this is simple. You probably haven't played enough live games or you are a total fucking moron. First of all, you are going to see more large hands while playing online. Even if you are only playing 1 table online, you will still see almost twice as many hands an hour as compared to live play. So if you would see one unusual hand in an hour live, you would see one on average every half hour or so online. Now keep that in mind and factor in that most players are playing anywhere from 2 to 24 tables. If you don't see something weird pretty often, you should be concerned. Not to mention, those bumbass bad beats happen live as well. Just last week Lorin and I went to the local casino. We were playing at a pretty loose $1/2 game and on my fifth or sixth hand I raised with 99. Got 2 callers. Flop came 9 6 4 with 2 spades. I bet $25 and get one caller. The turn card is a beauty...4 of spades. I have the top full house and if that guy was drawing for a flush, he just got there. I check, he bets $35 and I just smooth call. The river is the 7 of spades. I bet, he raises, I shove, he calls and tables 44 for a turned set of quads. Fifth hand at the table. I didn't even have to work my way up to that kind of ass whooping. I just laughed. That is poker and it goes to prove that stupid shit happens live. It happens all the time (maybe someday I will tell you about Frenchy and the "one-out-mouth-piss hand").

The reason that it is so important to not be that guy is that you won't really progress in your game if you find shit to blame your results on. Variance is part of the game. As it is in life. I think that one of the things that draws most of us tho this game is that it is so similar to life. You can do everything right and bad stuff can still happen to you. As a matter of fact, it is guaranteed to happen to you. Poker should be teaching you how to deal with those things, not teach you to write it off on some imaginary admin behind a curtain somewhere who is laughing his ass off trying to get you (see pic above, to see how stupid this is). I have seen that truly intelligent and very gifted poker players that hit a wall in their development because they either don't accept the leaks in their game because they don't see their losses being due to leaks, or they live their lives in a perpetual state of TILT because they sit down at the table believing the world is against them and they are going to lose. And they do. It is a self fulfilling prophecy. So for that reason, don't be that guy. You are wasting your time trying to advance in the game if you will let yourself fall into that kind of trap. Also, don't be that guy because it is fucking annoying.....

If you have any other theories on this, we would love to hear them. Both the silly shit that people say to prove the sites are rigged, or the multitude of realities that debunk them. Personally, I could have written for another hour or two on this but I am a little tired of being sober at the moment, so I am going to take care of that.

Hope to hear from you all on this and good luck at the tables (and away from them as well.....)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Short Stack Sexiness- Low Volume/High Win Rate


The month of May was pretty relaxing. I was still working on my new website, so about 25 hours of these results came from 4-6 tabling. I have also been out shopping for a house, so I was "forced" to take several days off for that as well. Although this win rate (measured in ptBB/100) is not likely sustainable, I am certainly enjoying the current run.

Here are the totals:

Hours: 113
Short Stack Winnings: $7,987
Tournament Winnings: $205
Rakeback: ~$1,500

Total: $9,692
Hourly rate: $85.77

Friday, May 29, 2009

Alternative Line #1: The Limp Re-raise



The Criteria:

1) You have 4 or more players between yourself and the blinds.
2) Your stack is no more than 27.5BB.
3) There are no early posters.


Why do this?

The benefits of this line are very simple and were designed to avoid the negative nature of playing AK from early position. Before I get started, let's take a look at what happens when you open raise.

When you open raise AK from early position, you are necessarily folding out many weaker hands that you wish would have called you, such as A3 or K9. Naturally, not everyone is folding these types of hands, but it is a given that when you raise, the average hand that plays against you increases greatly in strength and players holding these hands are more likely to fold than if you had limped.

Now supposing that you had raised, you are now building a rather large pot out of position against many hands like pocket pairs who will likely put you to the test if you bluff but fold against your value betting boards that contain an Ace or King. And of course, there are many boards that come up so bad that you are forced to immediately give up (8h-9h-Th comes to mind) and concede the pot to a weaker hand that cold-called you in position such as AJ or AQ.

Although playing AK when you miss is actually one of the more rewarding aspects of being a short stacker since it is a real test of your hand reading skills, it is important to never lose sight of the fact that the only real reason that we are here is to learn how to make money. Many fledgling short stackers tend to either overplay or underplay their AK from early position, so limp re-raising is a simple way to counter costly mistakes with this hand.


The Benefits

The main benefit comes from players who are unaware of what you are doing and your tight image and mash the pot button in response to your limp. So if you limp and they raise and then abandon their hand, you have now benefited greatly, because not only have you picked up extra money from a pot-sized raise ($9 in a $1/2 game), you have won without a showdown and picked up the blind money, all without paying any rake. This benefit is magnified when there are several limpers between yourself and the raiser, thereby increasing the size of his raise and your potential reward. If there are cold-callers, all the better. In the past, I have more than doubled my stack several times with this play without ever seeing a flop!

The second benefit comes from one of the Great Truths of Poker, which is:

Once a player has committed money to a hand, he will trick himself into committing more money in blatant acts of denial.

Notice what happens to the sorry douchebag who calls my shove in the replay above. I was able to double up only because we got all in before the flop. Even a fish wouldn't 3-bet an early open raiser with this turd of a hand and also wouldn't stack away on this flop without hitting one of his cards, so I maximized my profit by getting all in pre-flop.

This is also why short stacking works. You often read on the forums about players who claim that they just won't pay off a short stacker, but the truth of the matter is that very, very few players actually play correctly against a short stacker. They tend to either call far too often or fold far too often.

The final benefit actually comes from when no one raises. Now you will usually be playing against only the blinds, only now YOU are position. When they check to you, just fire 2BB's and you can get folds most of the time on pretty much any board. If you are playing against other limpers, just check and fold your hand if you miss or lead out strongly if you hit top pair or better, fully mentally committing yourself to the hand.


The Drawbacks:

The only real drawback here is that you are making yourself very readable. But you know what? It doesn't really matter, because this play will still work over and over again, even against players that you have played thousands of hands against. Remember this: you will make the bulk of your profits by playing your hands in a straight up manner. You aren't doing this to be tricky, but rather because AK plays best when you get to see all five cards or never take a flop at all. Even still, since a few of your opponents will pick up on it and adjust, you still need to balance your range just a little bit by sometimes limp re-raising AA or KK. Just a little bit though...limp re-raising your very best hands is still playing sub-optimally and you will make the most money by open raising with them and generating a pot.

A secondary drawback is that this play does not tend to work very well at stakes above $1/2, even at Cake.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A New Series: Alternative Short Stacker Lines With Big Slick

AK is the lifeblood of short stackers. Being that you get dealt AK more often than AA and KK combined, learning to maximize your winnings with AK is crucial. Though you are essentially a coin-flip against lower pairs, AK profits most when you are able to avoid a showdown altogether. Combining hand replays with in-depth analyses, this new series is guaranteed to open your eyes to the dangers and opportunities available when playing NLH's most infamous hand.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

With Friends Like These...

This is a replay of a typical conversation that Lorin and I have in the afternoons under the guise of doing real work.



P.S. We would like to thank our graphic artist, Adam Hicks for the outstanding job he did on our site artwork. If you are interested in seeing more of his work, click here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Cake Results and Shameless Plugging



Ok everybody...I have been pimping Cake Poker out forever and I am finally showing why. The players there are either very bad or just don't care about their money. I only wish I could have had the Cake Hand Converter way back when, but the results would still be roughly the same. The Cake Hand Converter is a nifty little contraption that converts Cake hand histories into Poker Stars ones so that you are able to upload them into your PT3 or HEM database. I decided to start using PT3 for analyzing hands but HEM for the HUD (which I have been experimenting more with), though even with the HH's from Cake, it is still not possible to use a HUD.

A few notes about my progress at Cake:

1) The bad news: I play as many $2/4 - $3/6 games as possible, though sadly, they run sporadically and are not always available. The good news: the quality of play at at $3/6 (and some at $5/10) is somewhere between a $.50/1 and $1/2 game at Full Tilt.

2) The $5/10 game there is unique in that it does not have a core group of regulars. Since it comes together rather infrequently and is well above a typical (good) $2/4 player's comfort level, it tends to consist mainly of 6-max players and people looking to gamble it up. Beatable as it is, I am still easing my way into it, as you will often find yourself flipping for $200 or more, which can easily turn an otherwise good session at $1/2 into a quick loser.

3) A little more shameless plugging: the support staff is phenomenal and the payouts are fast. I have been getting pretty ticked off at Full Tilt for having screwed up a $5,000 cashout numerous times and basically leaving that money in limbo for 50 days and counting. I guess they threw the payout doomswitch on me. The better attention I get at Cake combined with the horrific level of competition makes it a solid winner in my book.

What's more? This is an incredible network to bonus whore and build a bankroll. Of the 4 skins offered at Rakebacknation.com, all of them are no longer taking ANY deductions from your rakeback, including sign up bonuses and comp purchases. You can also change your screen name weekly- a short stacker's wet dream!!

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Further Examination of Relative Value: Moving Beyond Theory and Into Practice




This hand is a direct continuation of the concept presented in the last post with a very different outcome.

Raising TT under the gun is obviously a standard play and I am naturally hoping for only a single caller, but those hopes are dashed when LostOn4thSt enters the pot in the BB. However, being squeezed in position here is actually better than facing two opponents acting behind me, due to the fact that if the BB and I both check the flop and the last player takes an action, I effectively act last.

So we take a flop and it comes J high with a wet texture. Unlike in the previous example, wet board textures provide many more semi-bluffing opportunities and dilute the quality of the information you receive in response to your bets. Had this hand been heads up, I would normally lead out and give a crying call to a raise because there are many more opportunities for a lone opponent to take a deceptive action on a board texture such as this.

Naturally LostOn4thSt checks, but this isn't just a normal check. He insta-checks. It has been my experience that the insta-check is most often meant as a ruse to lure me into betting and then snap me off with a check raise. But that's not all: LostOn4thSt and I have a lot of history. He has probably won as much money off me as anyone I have played against as a short stacker, in various ways. He always either shows up with the goods or draws out horribly, as he did earlier this session when we got all in pre-flop holding KK and 55 respectively. I spiked my set and he caught runner-runner straight with his fives. The bad beat is not the point, however. He enjoys butting heads with me and would almost certainly enjoy cracking me for a third time in a single session. Therefore his range could be quite wide in this spot, though my experience with him tells me that he still would not pass up the opportunity to re-raise me with JJ+ and AK. It would not surprise me though to have him show up with many top pair type hands, J9 for 2 pair, or a set of nines or sixes. 96 is always out of his range, as he is a good player and though I am sure he would like nothing better than to crack me, he is not stupid either. Of course, he is playing a lot of tables and just as easily could have mentally checked out of this hand so as not to waste any more time than is necessary. However, his quick action definitely gives me pause.

I check my hand and evaluate the action behind me.

Now let's examine the cold caller's range. I have a note on this chap that he has cold called me with AA before, and that's clearly bad news. Truth be told, this is actually a great defense against short stackers that only the clever or the dimwitted tend to use. Typical players are so ritualistic that they just can't bring themselves to make a flat call with a big pair to be deceptive or draw other players in the pot. Opponents who break this long standing tradition give me fits. After all, I am folding TT if I get re-raised by anyone outside of the blind positions, but flopping good is a recipe to going broke against said players. So here is the problem: QQ, KK, and AA are all still in his range. JJ is mostly discounted because most decent players understand well the dangers of building a large pot with a vulnerable hand such as this.

Here's the kicker: just like the previous hand with QQ, I am relying on the third player in the hand to give me the information that I desire from my nemesis in the BB. But get this- in a three way pot like this, the wet texture of the board is now working FOR me rather than AGAINST me!! Here is how:

1) If he cold called me with QQ, KK, or AA, this flop has surely made him panic. If he was screwing around with any of the above hands, now is the time to quit fucking around and take down this pot. He might try a smallish bet against just myself, but with another full stacked player with an undefined range, he is virtually always betting 2/3-full pot with these hands.

2) If he did flop one of the many available draws here and decides to bluff at it, he will either play it strong or choose to take a free card. I know that he has picked up on my range and that he understands that I am just as likely as he is to play this flop fast against two players, so my check has clearly labeled my hand as bricks, specifically AK in his mind. Therefore if he is betting around 1/2 pot or less, he is clearly full of shit, the way I see it.

3) If he flopped a set with 99 or 66, I still expect him to mostly play it strong to build a good pot with the full stacker while his hand still has maximum value. He could have possibly chosen to re-raise me with 99, as players often do to me, but generally speaking a set is a rare hand, so I still am forced to play the odds here. Top two pair is virtually always going pot here, and I don't even concern myself with the possibility of J6 because even fish don't really play that hand.

But in any case....

After my check he bets $10, roughly half the pot. He's trying to buy it because he thinks I completely whiffed!

As soon as the BB folds, it's time to escort this gentleman to Value Town and shove it all in. Since players are never truly predictable in a vacuum, I can estimate that I am ahead about 85% of the time when he makes such a weak play, but there are even greater benefits here. When the betting gets back to him he is now getting slightly better than 2.5:1 to call, and just as importantly, he knows he has no further decisions to make. When I execute this play, I often see some truly horrific calls, like 22, A7, and sometimes even two undercards drawing virtually dead. So not only have I gleaned the value of my marginal holding using a bit of short stacker sleight-of-hand, I have also maximized value by doing so.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Glimpse Into the Mind of The Short Stack Hero




This is just an example of how I determine a line post-flop as a short stacker BEFORE I commit any money to the hand. This replay is a hand that had developed during a sweat session with one of my students. Although at first glance this appears to be nothing special, this is a common scenario where many short stackers tend to get lost because they do not understand the proper analysis. Though sweat sessions don't tend to be the ideal teaching tool, particularly for short stackers, I was very happy that this hand came up because this is a frequent danger spot.

Key concepts to note:
1) Position
2) Number of opponents
3) Board texture

When I raise from early position, as a short stacker I generally give my opponents credit for picking up on my tight image, therefore, I can usually (though not always) expect them to re-raise with better hands because they expect that I will be getting all in with them. So the first player calls. Given that the overcaller will be forced to play this pot out of position against two other players, I can expect him to re-raise all hands that beat me and even a hand such as AKo virtually 100% of the time, particularly because the original caller's stack is only 40BB. I can also expect him to re-raise with JJ and sometimes even TT.

Now that their pre-flop ranges are somewhat defined, we take a flop. The fact that the flop comes up K high is not necessarily a disaster. The board is very dry, particularly when coupled with the fact that I have removed two queens from the deck, reducing the probability that either of my opponents could be holding precisely QT, the only legitimate drawing hand that fits this flop. The only thing questionable here is my position after the flop.

Since AA, KK, AK, and JJ have mostly been eliminated from my opponent's ranges, this board is not particularly bad. A partial concern here is giving a free card that beats me, namely to gut shots. However with only 4 outs to a gut shot, I am far more concerned with getting my money in bad on the flop than letting either opponent draw for free. The question that remains, however, is how to get my opponents to reveal the accurate strength of their holdings without overcommitting myself in a potential two-out disaster.

Given that the board is so dry, this is surprisingly easy to do, though it really is a function of several years of experience reading common opponent tendencies and bet sizes. The small blind begins by checking. No matter the strength of the small blind's hand, I expect him to check every time. He clearly is never folding anything that beats me, but of those hands that do, I expect him to almost always either check call or check raise. Far more importantly, I am interested in how the last player to act will respond to both of our checks, but I already have my line in place.

After two players check, many online players will tend to bet despite the quality of their hand. I have noticed, however, that the size of their bets is often teeming with information. The presence of the third player in the hand tends to glean higher quality information than when he is absent, and coupled with the dry nature of the board and the effective stack sizes, I can expect that he will:

1) Value bet precisely between 2/3 to full pot with top pair and two pair strength hands with the full intention of commitment.
2) Check behind sets, which have pretty much been eliminated from both players' ranges, with the exception of a set of fours.
3) Check behind on a miss or weak draw.
4) Bet 1/2 pot or less with 2nd pair type hands, open straights, and sometimes even gut shots, and complete air.


Therefore my plan with this hand is to check fold if the last player bets EXACTLY $13 or more or bets $10 or more and gets either raised or called by the small blind. If he bets $12 or less and the small blind folds, I will check raise him all in, or if he bets less than $10 and the small blind just calls, I will check raise both of them all in, because now my stack-to-pot ratio is very good to get it in with 2nd pair and perceived weakness on both players.

I prefer this to leading out because in order to get back the right quality information, I need to bet a substantial portion of the pot, approximately $13 or more. At that point, it becomes a very expensive probe and I am nearing a threshold where I might find it difficult to fold even though I am almost always getting my money in with very little equity. Betting less than that will often get low quality information because it would appear exactly to be what is was: a probe with a weak hand. Furthermore, if I lead out and do not get raised (as I would expect to after giving the illusion of flop commitment and they like their hand), then I will have to push the rest in on the turn, barring some highly unusual information. Due to the dry nature of the board, I can reasonably expect that they might tread somewhat cautiously with the few semi-bluff type hands in their ranges, fearing that I may be slowplaying on a board such as this, yet even still, most players are so senselessly terrified of giving that free card that I can also expect that the last player will still bet a K even when he is highly suspicious of being beat and then proceed to talk himself into cashing away for the rest.

But that is not all- if the last player checks behind, I now get to see how the small blind reacts on the turn. I am somewhat concerned about an A or J hitting on the turn, but the quality of my hand has still not been defined enough to be all that concerned about getting drawn out on. Just to restate, I would rather get drawn out on holding a weakish hand having only invested $6 than be drawing to 2 outs having invested $45.

When the turn is a veritable blank and the small blind leads out for pot, most all bluffs have now been eliminated from his range and he is betting to take this pot down, most likely getting a little leery of the developing flush (once again, for no good reason). His bet sizing is unrestrained and very much looks like he is committed. I can now safely fold with a clean conscience.

On a final note, had the small blind bet another amount, I would have to re-evaluate how to proceed, but given the actual turn card and his decisive action, with the player left to act no longer being any concern and given his flop inactivity and barring any unusual draw out (namely a low set) I am effectively playing this hand heads up.

Drunken Musings on Poker and The Book of Five Rings

In his seminal work "The Book of Five Rings", Miyamoto Musashi laid down a treatise for out thinking your opponent in combat. A major basis for this philosophy was using all the tools available to you. For example, samurai at the time carried 2 swords. A long sword called a Katana (which was the standard weapon of the samurai) and a mainly ceremonial short sword called a Wakizashi which was basically carried to be used when indoors after the samurai had politely surrendered his Katana at the door. The right to carry 2 swords was reserved only for the samurai class, so as a mark of station they all carried them. In combat, however, no samurai used both swords. This seemed asinine to Musashi, if you had two swords, why not use them. He was never defeated in battle by the way and retired a legend (and still is today).

He expounds on this principle further when speaking of a carpenter and his selection of material. Know what kind of wood is good for what and use it accordingly (this was a note to Generals about the use of their troops but follow along). Use stong but gnarled and knotted wood for supports inside the wall. Use the straight and even but weaker wood for decoration, etc...you get the drift. Now take a second and apply that to your poker game.

We all have our own skill set. We have been trained through our devotion to this cruel mistress of a game to push all the small edges. Too often I think that we apply that concept to cards, pot odds, position, dead money and all the other galaxy of concepts that we try to keep in our head. When was the last time you tried to push YOUR edge? When did you use YOUR skill set to establish situations that give you an edge? Are you disciplined enough to wait for the right situation? Are you better at post flop play? Do you have the ability to fire a 3 barrel bluff when you need to? There is a reason that even Top Pros don't play exactly the same. Nobody would argue that Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu aren't both great poker players, but their styles are very, very different. They were both able (as well as every other truly great player) to figure out what they do well and use it. They took the wood they had and used it to build a palace....

Another great example of this is Bruce Lee and his Art of Jeet Kune Do. Unlike most other styles which taught all disciples to fight the same way, Jeet Kune Do stressed taking the natural strengths of an INDIVDUAL and finding the style that worked for THAT INDIVIDUAL. Bruce's system was based on Wing Chun Kung Fu, Boxing, French Fencing, and the Japanese Tea Ceremony (I couldn't make this up, I'm not that clever) because that was what worked with his personality and his bodies natural abilities.

Now don't get me wrong, we all have to work on our weaknesses. Which we all do. When was the last time you stopped and thought about what advantages you have over your oppenents? Lorin and I are pretty good examples. We have entirely different skill sets. He has more discipline (when it comes to poker) than any person I have ever met. He is also very competitve and very analytical. He wants to find THE answer. You put those together and he is fucking ICEMAN from Top Gun. He doesn't make a mistake and will wear the whole table down until they get frustrated and do something stupid. He is too proud to get impatient or make a mistake. I, on the other hand, have very little patience, rely a little more on reads and look for AN answer, not necessarily THE answer. We traditionally played very differently, but fortunately we have found a system that allows both of us to use our particular skill sets, and helps us develop those skills we lack while providing a safety net of sorts.

If you are reading this, you are either a serious devotee of the fickle Poker Bitch, or you have entirely too much time on your hands. Regardless, do yourself a favor and before you log in for your next session, put down the book that somebody wrote about how THEY play, and think about how YOU should play. What are your strengths (and how can you use them) and what are your weaknesses (and how can you not let them be a liability while you fix them). What is your second sword? If you can really master that, someday I will probably be reading YOUR book....

Good luck at the tables (and away from them as well)....

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Lesson in Creative Hustling- How I Beat Online Casinos for over $50,000

There is a saying that is abreviated as TANSTAAFL. “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” Bullshit, I say. To those who take this attitude, I say “you will never have YOUR free lunch.”

Almost 6 years ago, I decided that I wanted to be professional poker player. Being that the only knowledge I had of the game at the time consisted of what beat what, I decided that it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to search the internet for some tips. Lo and behold, when searching for poker strategy, I came across a paid link that said, “Cheat at Blackjack.” Funny…

So just to humor myself, I clicked on the link. It brought me to a page that had instructions on how to abuse online casino match bonuses by playing blackjack according to a card. I had dabbled with such bonuses in the past and had wondered on the house squeezed out your cash, assuming that the house always had the advantage in such a proposition, but this site had explicit instructions on how to beat the house at their own game. It offered a strategy card according to a given casino’s rules that allowed you to just fall short of breaking even, but when offered a great match bonus, you could expect to show a profit over the house- a very large one!!

Here is how it went:

Suppose Casino X offered you a 100% match on a $200 deposit. Therefore you deposit $200 of your own money, they add $200 to your stack and now you have $400 sitting in front of you. Since they aren’t quite dumb enough to let you cash out right away and squirrel away $200 of their money, they add a few stipulations. The terms and conditions say that you can’t play barracat, craps, roulette, yada yada. SFW. BUT…if you decide to play a game such as blackjack, you had to wager the sum of the deposit and the bonus 12 times. That means that you would have to make 12 x $400 ($4,800) in total bets. So if I were to bet $5 on one hand and lose and $5 on another bet and win, my balance wouldn’t change but I would have made $10 in total wagers. Ok, great, but how does this help my cause?

Now… suppose if you play a by-the-book strategy at this site, the house advantage would be 1.5%. So your expected loss after doing the required amount of wagering would be $72. (FYI, it’s been a long time, so I hope the math here is correct!). So $200 (the given bonus) - $72 = $128 would be your expected earn! When betting about $5 a hand, this originally took me about two hours to complete. As I got better, it eventually only took me about 30 minutes.

Simple enough, right? But so few sign up bonuses and so much time. So then I make the call: “Hey dad, guess what? I found this great way to make money playing blackjack online, so…uh…can you spare me your identity?”

“Sure, Lor.”

“Oh, and by the way, I’ll need, like… $600 to get started.”

“Um… yeah, sure. I’ll give you my credit card to make a deposit. Just don’t tell your mother.”

Yeah, my dad was one of the pioneers of internet poker, so this didn’t seem all that far out of line for him. I had already made about $2,000 at this point, so I could hand him the cash to get started. In any case, I made the rounds again and scored even bigger. Eventually I got all of my friends involved. I’d give them $400 in cash and they would give me a unique IP address, a new name, and a place to cash out the dough. This may have been a breach of ethics, but come on now, do I really give a fuck? It was still legal!

Eventually the easy money ran out, so I had to get creative. I had become a master of manipulating the T&C’s of any casino and finding all of the best deals. But then came the greatest one of all…

Millionaire Casino…

They had a 100% match bonus of $350. The only catch was that you couldn’t play the standard restricted games and you couldn’t play blackjack either, or video poker, for that matter. To top it off, you had the pick of any sucker’s game and you STILL had to wager the whole thing 20 times! It seemed impossible to beat- but wait! I’m too smart for all that…

The interesting thing about this casino was that if you had lost the deposit bonus, you could just cash out your original deposit. Hmmm…

I spent about two days thinking this over and finally concluded that I needed to make a huge score to begin with and then I could afford to wager on a sucker’s game like Let it Ride to make the wagering requirements. So what paid out the best? Roulette!!

You see, betting on a single number on roulette pays back 35:1. The actual odds are 37:1, but I was playing with their money, right? Right!! The maximum bet you could lay on a number was $100. That meant that I had 3 ½ chances to make that big score. Furthermore, if I was lucky enough to get it on the first try, that meant I got a refund on the original $350 bonus, a $3,500 score, and I had already wagered $100 towards the total requirements. All 100% positive!

So I decided to place a $100 bet on the number 10. My palms were sweaty as the ball spun around the wheel. It graphically bounced a few times and landed on………10!!! My hands were shaking real hard at this point and I had to look at my balance to believe what I had just seen. It now stood at $4,200. A remarkable freeroll, if there ever was one! To make a long story short, I ended up getting lucky at Let it Ride and cashed out for about $4,350.

It wasn’t much longer that my tenure as a professional online sucker’s game player ended. I started getting the hang of poker and have made my living as such ever since. But when it was all said and done, I had collectively taken $55,000 from online casinos in a year and a half, beating them at their own game.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Trusting your "Gut"

Let me start this off by explaining in no uncertain terms that I am in no way superstitious. I don't play hunches. I did however realize a few years ago that certain "gut feelings" have merit. It was after I saw a social anthropologist talk about the subconscious and how it pertains to instincts. You see, the subconscious brain can analyse and interpret data way faster than your conscious, thinking mind can. Then it pushes you in the right direction.

Let's think about that. Have you every met anybody that you "just didn't like" and couldn't figure out why? You may have been picking up on subconscious gestures that he was untruthful or insincere. Later you found out some really shady stuff about the guy and said "I told you so". Or has one of your friends talked you in to trying to kidnap a Llama while drunk from a guy known to have a shotgun just to win a drunken bar bet? Yeah, I had a feeling that wouldn't work out very well, and it didn't. It wasn't that I could see into the future, it was that my brain added up all those layers of risk and realized that there was very little chance that this wouldn't end in some kind of disaster. Now, my conscious mind was way too hammered to see all those, but my subconscious (as drunk as it was) knew it was no good.

Even Lorin, as much of a tight ass stickler for the numbers as he is, finally learned to trust this about me, and himself for that matter. After spending years playing poker and watching hundreds of thousands of hands, you should have (as long as you weren't playing too many table to pay attention) accumulated massive amounts of information on the tendencies of players and the type of hand that is going to bite you in the ass. While you can process a lot of that information consciously (K9o sucks...period) quite a bit of it is just filed away in your brain, waiting for the chance to be used.

A hand that I played a few days ago, made this point screamingly loud. I had about 17bbs on the table and hadn't played a hand in FOREVER. I decided to use my tight image to steal a pot from the hijack with 87 suited. I raised. The small blind raised all in and the the BB called. I instantly went to muck my hand, but couldn't do it. I literally had the clicker over the Fold button and could not click it. My reads on my opponents were that the initial raiser had AK and that the BB had AA or KK. And I was pretty sure about this. I still couldn't fold. I thought about it for a minute and called. The SB turned over AQ (I was close) and the BB had aces. I flopped a pair of 8s, and a gutshot. I turned a flush draw and made the straight on the river to pick up a little over $100 pot.

I got up and immediately called Lorin because I had to figure out why I had done that. It was a hugely weird feeling. After a while, we cranked out the math and realized that with my read and the pot odds, my call had a slightly positive EV. We couldn't believe it. I think that my subconscious had worked that out even though all my training says that it an easy laydown.

To make a long story short, if you have been playing poker for years, don't discount experience. If all things are equal or it is a neutral EV situation, go with your gut. Now it may take you a while to figure out the difference between a gut feeling that is boredom or fear (or a bad burrito) and one that is a subconscious tug, but if you listen close enough, you can hear it. If something about a guy's betting pattern seems off but you can't put your finger on it slow down and listen to that gut. As long as it isn't an obviously mathematically stupid situation, go with it. That is why your teachers told you that if you didn't know an SAT question, just go with your first instinct. You know a lot of shit that you don't know you know. And now, hopefully you know that......

Good luck at the tables (and away from them too)

Short Stack Coaching and The Poker Power Nap

Due to the recent inundation of short stack coaching requests, we have decided to add that option for all aspiring short stack professionals. We are starting a new site that will going live hopefully within a week to accommodate all of those requests. For all of those looking for great and rare information about short stacking, please contact Travis on his profile page. Now that this matter has been settled, let's get back to business...

The Poker Power Nap


When the inevitable frustration builds from this game, the power of taking a single day off can dramatically increase both your mood and your profits. Of course, this type of advice is nothing new. But I have actually spent a lot of time figuring out how and why this always seems to work. But before I get into this, let's figure out how you know when to take a day off. It's not whether or not you are winning or losing, but about your overall approach to the game. Here is how you can tell: when you wake up in the morning and absolutely dread playing, yet feel obligated to do so because you have to pay the rent, break your downswing, win that rake race or achieve that next Iron Man level, meet your hour quota for the week or month, or achieve that lofty earnings goal you set for the month. For the record, all of these reasons are bullshit. The logic here is simple. If it will cost you a few hundred or a few thousand dollars to try and meet any of these goals, then obviously you have failed in each and every one of them.

That being said, if that feeling of dread is pervasive, it is time to take a day off. Or maybe two, or even more. You know it is time to come back when you have worked through your fears and misgivings and are actually excited about playing again. So the question is, what exactly happened to your brain during that downswing or God mode session? And this is what I figured out.

During an extended downswing or hot streak, your mind slowly begins to distort the true odds of a variety of occurrences and reverts to your natural human state of pattern recognition. Pattern recognition is the basis of our superstitious behavior and odd ritualism. Our minds are NOT hard-wired to understand the true odds of anything in a vacuum. That is why a typical player continually makes bad odds-based decisions, even though most of the time they still understand they are making long shot plays. On the converse, when running hot, we begin to overestimate the odds of our winning hands holding up. In fact, quite often a long hot streak interrupted by a moderately bad day can have devastating effects on the psyche as well, even though anyone looking over your shoulder would tell you that you have nothing to complain about. But of course, that is not how our brains actually work.

Most of us spend a year or more conditioning our brains to base poker decisions on true odds, thereby forsaking our basic human psychology. However, long bouts of play, particularly that which is not examined in the heat of battle or after, will inevitably erode that conditioning. Taking a day off releases that built up tension so that we can regain the effects of that conditioning that we have worked so hard to achieve. So next time before taking the reflexive action of attributing bad results to simply running bad, take some time off and allow your mental muscles to time retract and let things fall into focus on their own.

Monday, April 27, 2009

"Clearing the Desk"...and Other "Non-Poker" Poker Tips

One of the things that I've realized (as I am sure that most of you have) is that there is so much more to this game than the cards sitting in front of you.  And no, I will not bore you with the cliche about playing your opponents cards or even playing your opponents.  People way smarter and vastly more qualified than myself have written entire books on the subject.  What I am talking about are those little things, completely removed from the game itself that can cause you to not play at your best.  With how competitive the game is becoming and the overall higher skill level of the players (as compared to say, 3 years ago) means that in order to be successful,  you can't EVER play below your best.  Here are a couple of mistakes that I have made (or still make) and I invite anybody that has any of there own "detrimentals" to post them up so the loyal readers of The Short Stack Hero can all improve our games a little bit.....

1.  Clear the Desk

This is a term that you will sometimes hear in the corporate world.  It generally applies to finishing off little tasks before going home, leaving for the weekend or taking a vacation so that you are not distracted while away from work with those little things hanging over your head.  My experience with it has been a little different.  Just recently I went through a definite downswing for about two weeks.  When looking at it afterwards,  the cause was obvious.  It wasn't bad beats or any crap like that, it was that I hadn't "cleared the desk".  During the same period I was working on a project.  I had no set "due date" to complete the job so I found myself pushing it off a little even though I knew that I should be working on it.  Instead, I would log on to play cards with the thought "I can play for 90 minutes, then I need to get to work".  I found myself being a little too aggressive to try to eek out some winnings in my short time span.  Meanwhile I was slightly distracted thinking about the work that needed to be done.  Then when I would take an (inevitable) loss it would feel twice as bad, because if I had just been working like I should have, I wouldn't have dropped $200.  While it wasn't a huge financial loss, it sure felt a lot worse because of the situation.  We have all heard "don't play with scared money".  I think that playing with "scared time" might even be worse.   Clear the desk before you play, so that you can  bring the full brunt of your focus to the table and not needlessly sap your Emotional Bankroll.

2. Don't Throw Out the Baby with the Bathwater

When going through a downswing (even as short as 2 or 3 days) when you have just been getting your teeth kicked in, one of two things happens.  A donkey will  automatically blame it on bad luck. This may or may not be the case, but they never seem to even consider the chance that it may be of their own doing.  A good player will sometimes over-analyze everything to the point of insanity.  This is the situation to which I am referring.  They think that they must have a glitch in there game so they start trying all kinds of things.  Playing more hands, playing fewer hands, making more bluffs, making no bluffs, laying down to any raise or never laying down, no matter what.
If you have been a consistent, winning player, stick with what works.  There is actually something I say to myself all the time (mainly because I have so much faith in Lorin's System).

System + Time = Money  
And it is so true. Lorin has started telling his students this as well and it is a great way to get through the bleakness of a downswing.  If what you do works, feed it some hands and let it do it's job.  We will all have those standard deviations from the mean.  And while I have found that a downswing is a decent time to do some evaluation and tweaking, don't throw out the baby while dumping out the dirty bathwater.  If a pitcher has a bad game, he may check to make sure that he was arching his back or that his release point is where it should be.  He doesn't just scrap his entire motion and delivery and start over, and neither should you.

Well there are two points to start off with.  I plan on doing more in the series on mistakes (it could take me years to cover all the ones that I make).  I do hope that you will throw up you own little tidbits here on The Stort Stack Hero.  It's not giving away any strategy,  and maybe it will help exorcise some of your own little poker demons by having to call them out into the light of day.

Best of luck at the tables (and away from it for that matter)......

Friday, April 24, 2009

Coaching....Recession Style

I am pleased to announce that I will now be offering coaching sessions. I will only be charging half of what Lorin charges. Unfortunately I only know 10% of what he does, so the way I figure it, if this sounds like a good deal to you, then you are just the kind of student to which I have something to offer.....


Thanks, and I REALLY look forward to hearing from you (and collecting your money)

Travis "TheDirrty" Rose

Platonic a Hoax... Identity of Finnianp in Question

With the unfortunate demise of Platonic, Travis and I began questioning the identity of others as well. Here is how our conversation went.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Who Are You, RIGHT NOW?

I am a regular listener to the 2+2 Pokercast with Mike and Adam. In my opinion, it is simply the most entertaining and thoughtful one running, with the most talented radio personalities. In their last one, they were reviewing a recent SCOOP event where former WSOP Champion Greg Raymer was complaining about his luck when he lost deep in an event to Christian Schlager when his quads lost to bigger quads in a game of PLO. He had mentioned that this did not surprise him as he had been running very bad lately. Schlager, ever the one to speak his mind in an apparently frank and obscene way had quipped that anyone who has won the World Series of Poker Main Event loses all rights to ever complain about running bad, ever again.

Is this true? Personally, I disagree with Mr. Schlager.

After all, Vanilla Ice had sold 11 million copies of his debut album, To the Extreme. Even still, I don't see anyone lining up to trade places with him. In fact, I would bet my entire bankroll that anyone reading this wouldn't even cross the street to piss on him if his head was on fire. So where is he now? Does anyone know? Do they even care?!

You see, Joe Hachem was fortunate enough to win the WPT championship the year after he claimed the title at the WSOP. In his own words, he felt like he was floating, that this was even better than his accomplishment the year before even though he had won less than a third of that this time around. It was instant validation, and everyone knew it. Raymer, on the other hand, has pursued a career in poker and has since had no titles to show for it and in a sense has gone the route of Chris Moneymaker. I certainly respect Raymer for his accomplishments and all that he has since done for the game of poker in America with his work for Poker Players' Alliance, but I can sympathize with him as well.

Look back on your own life. Should everything be OK just because you starred in your 5th grade play? Is life simply wonderful because you threw the touchdown pass in your homecoming football game? Will you die happy because you married the prom queen?

All jokes aside, this is a lesson that Platonic would be wise to learn. No ones cares if he was once a baller at the small stakes at William Hill. Today he is just another broke grinder begging for a stake. You are only as good as your last session and the relative size of your bankroll. Nothing else matters. Who are you today, in this very moment?