Friday, February 26, 2010

Twitter and Tourney

Hi Folks,

On the brink of the big day and I have just gotten set up on Twitter so that anyone who wants to can follow my progress at the Midwest Regional Poker Championship.  My name is lyelle01 and hopefully I got everything set up correctly.  Leave me a quick comment if anything needs to be changed.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Rush Poker, Part II- Strategy Tips

Not too long ago I heard a brilliant saying that I would now like to quote: the man who understands how will always have a job, the man who understands why will always be his boss. Much like leading the horse to water, this post is not just going to be about what I think is good to do, but more importantly, why it should be done.  In the poker world, and often even among many low-mid level professionals like myself, there is an obsession with how to do things and emulating the people who do them well.  Those that developed these concepts and strategies did so because they understand why they work.  If you can follow and understand the "why's" that I will provide below, you should soon be developing similar strategies on your own and will gain deep insights to the intrinsic nature of the complexities of poker.

I will begin by explaining what I like to do on the button and then follow it up with a rather long, yet easy to understand explanation.  The good news is that you can easily execute the "how" for a profit without understanding the "why", yet fully grasping the "why" is necessary if you want to excel.

THE HOW: I open min-raise ANY 2 cards and follow it up with a 2BB c-bet if against only one opponent.  If both blinds call, I give up unless I hit something good.

THE WHY: Stealing the blinds is important.  In fact, it's huge.  As David Sklansky has said in several of his earliest works, all hands of hold'em begin as a battle for the blinds.  This concept is so simplistic and obvious that the fact alone makes it easy to overlook.  Those who believe that the game is just about winning huge pots are slowly losing money to people who are comfortable with this very basic truth about the game.  Min-raising makes this very easy, as it is a simple odds play and therefore only needs to work 57% of the time to break even since it is so cheap to do.  I can already guess what some of you might be thinking: if this is so easy and effective to do, why not do it all the time in any kind of game?  To answer this, we must now ponder the flip side of this equation by asking "why not?"

WHY NOT?  What prevents you from doing this normally is your table image.  This is one of those concepts that I had previously explored in theory for short stacking (in which case it is a very sound strategy and some players actually use it or something similar).  Even otherwise nitty and uncreative players would soon go to great lengths to prevent you from doing this and though your great hands would get payed off nicely, your marginal to medium-strong hands would suffer greatly after the flop, as it would be very difficult to figure out what to do with a hand like QJ when the flop is J95 and you face a large check-raise by a TAG.  Naturally, much more of your hands fall into the second category.

WHY NOW?  The constant shifting tables in a large player base make it very unlikely that you will face the same lineup in the blinds in the same steal situation more than a couple of times per session at most.  The small blind, who has made half the investment as the big blind, has little incentive to stick around with a couple of turds in the mere hope that he can make a 3-bet bluff to pick up your $2 raise when he can fold immediately and hope to pick up aces on the very next deal...even if he knows what you are up to!  Given that he can move on to the next hand with precious little thought, it is easy to assume that this is exactly what he will do, approximately in the ballpark of 60-70% of the time on average.  Essentially, this means that you are only facing one opponent over half of the time and his cards are completely random and you will have position on him the entire hand.  Knowing this, as well as the strong incentive to try to cash in on another lotto ticket immediately if he folds makes him more inclined to refuse to get tricky and just pass.

Attempting to steal the blinds in Rush poker is very similar to a back alley mugging in the real world.  With no witnesses around, your crime is not only more likely to succeed, but also very importantly, it is less likely to face retributive action from others.  Once they have folded their hands, the other players have been moved away from the crime scene and allow you to do your dirty work without their scrutiny.  While this has no bearing on the current situation, it makes it more probable that you can continue to get away with this for a long, long time.

But doesn't raising the minimum give him great implied odds?  Absolutely fact, his implied odds are very poor.  A little known secret about implied odds is that they are only available when you choose to cooperate with your opponent and pay him off with a lesser hand.  Therefore if you are raising with trash, I recommend that you only commit a large portion of your chips if you make at least two pair or better.  Too many people instinctively believe that implied odds are a necessary component of specific two card combinations like 98o or 54s.  Unfortunately for them, flopping a large hand with their own breed of trash will occur very rarely and far more rarely will you have a hand that you are willing to commit with yourself.  The likely result is that they will frequently call with their pus and then fold to your tiny continuation bet.  Furthermore, by keeping the pot very small, you can fire another cheap bet of around 1/2 pot if your opponent check calls and a scare card comes on the turn.

The min-raise also has a very strong and yet subtle psychological aspect to it.  When you make this play, since calling is very cheap and folding feels compellingly weak, your opponents will often become indignant and call with a hand that has no post-flop potential out of stubbornness alone.  The small post-flop pot combined with a complete lack of information of you as a player makes them more likely to fold than normal because the incentive to play the hand out with some potentially very difficult decisions is simply not worth the hassle to many players.

WHAT ABOUT FACING LIGHT 3-BETS?  The question is: is it really light?  Here is how I would recommend determining if the 3-bet is indeed light.

1.  The small blind has 3-bet you.  For the reasons above, the incentives for the small blind to both plan and execute this kind of bluff are simply not there.  He also does need to be at least somewhat concerned that the BB might have picked up a large hand behind him, and although not likely, this is just one more facet to discourage this play.

2.  His stack is below 100BB.  Since short stacking is not allowed in these games and the typical reg is always sitting with a full stack, you must assume that anyone with less is either A) almost broke B) playing on scared money and C) just not all that likely to be very good.  Playing with a stack of 20BB or less can give you an automatic advantage and 100BB or more gives you maximum maneuverability against most players at the table.  Anything in between is no man's land and all good or aspiring players know this.  What's more?  Good players are also the ones who understand that defending your blinds matters.  Therefore, if a player has less than 100BB, be apt to give him credit for what he is representing.

3.  You see that your opponent in the BB has more than 1 entry in the game and you see him playing day after day.  This is the one who is most likely to be pushing back at you with air.

It is important to realize that the advice I am providing here is not new or original.  It took me about 15 minutes of play to realize that this was possible and therefore it was no surprise to be reading about it by other more well-known players.  When advice such as this becomes wide spread, good counter strategies are likely soon on the way.  The obvious solution would be to start light 4-betting opponents who fit the above criteria.  This was also very clear when I noticed that my legitimate 4-betting hands were causing most 3-bets to fold.  In light of this observation, I find that flat-calling with your best hands is preferable to 4-betting.

Originally, I was hoping that HUD's would never enter the scene.  This is not because I don't believe in them as a strategy tool.  After my rants against them this past summer, I came to grips with the fact that I must suck it up and learn them or put myself at a serious disadvantage to those who harness their power.  I did not want them in this game because I felt that this gave me a better edge against certain sectors of my competition who would be weakened without them.  I am also concerned that they will hurt the profitability of the plays recommended above, but these plays are sturdy and powerful enough in their own right that they should be effective in this particular arena regardless.

Given the news that PT3 and HEM are now offering fixes to make their HUDs usable in Rush poker, I will have to take this advance into consideration as I delve further into this game.  At this point in time, I have not had the opportunity to incorporate the new HUD features into this game and therefore am not qualified to comment on their effects (or lack of) at this time.  Hopefully, you guys who are reading this and experimenting with this game will try this out and share some of your insights on its effectiveness.  In a future post, I will supply and examine some hand examples in these situations with some in-depth commentary.  Best of luck!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

December and January Results

Cash: $23,619
Rakeback: ~$6,750
Tournament Winnings: $573
Gold Stack Bonus: $323
Gold Card Race: $310
Race Chase: $3,200

Not shown: ~$350 Rush Poker (played on my laptop)
$120 Heads up

TOTAL: $35,145

I was kind of reluctant to post this at first in light of recent security attacks on my FT account, my rakeback account, and the blog itself.  Rest assured, there is no more money in any of these accounts, as I cashed it all away on one misclick against Isildur1 shortly thereafter (though it is still in dispute on a datamining charge).  If said hacking scum is reading this right now, you know who you are and I hope you die in a grease fire.

Essentially this was all made in about 6 weeks time, as I was actually stuck about $500 as of the middle of December and then immediately began to run like Cantu.  Over this span I ran over $5,000 over EV, but would have certainly been happy running totally even or below.  I did manage to skeet by on the January Rake Chase which added heftily to my January total, which also pushed me past the $20k mark for the first time ever in the cash games, which was truly exciting for me on a personal level.

Though I spent the first week and a half away from the tables this month, things are still looking solid, though I have a rather moderate goal of making at least $6k since I have not been able to log the hours.  Other than that, I am very excited to be an official affiliate of Rakebacknation and also have been invited to do some writing for, their affiliated site.  Though the details have not yet been worked out, I plan on offering more original content on that platform and hopefully offering my share of deranged humor as well!

As an aside, I would like to send a special thank you to my friend and colleague, Crazy Bear, whose influence on my game boosted my results practically overnight and without his help, none of what you see above would have been possible.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

How to Cause Tilt

I found this as an addendum to a great article by grapsfan on Pocket Fives.  It was written by Jennifear and I consider this to be absolute gold:

I'm not much of a chatter, and you won't find this advice anywhere in a book, because it doesn't promote the game.  If you want to tangle in the chatbox and have a little fun, then I have one word for ya:


If you want to tilt someone in a nasty fashion, use an argument devoid of logic.  The reaction you get is priceless.  When you beat KK with A4, then "it's about time I won a coinflip", or "no aces flopped last hand, so I felt they would hit this hand".... this even works better if the flop last time contained an ace. 

"It was suited."  "It wasn't suited so I had TWO chances to hit a flush, not just one."  "I had a feeling."  "I have all the chips now, so I must be better than you."  These one-liners work.
If they can't beat your argument with logic, they will become very frustrated and tilty.  Plus you aren't getting mad, your goal is now truly to get them upset, and use your newfound image to your advantage, so you won't get caught up in defending your plays.  One last word of advice if you are going to use the chatbox as a weapon:  Fight right, nice left.  You want the player on your right to call your 3-bet value raise out of frustration, but you want to be able to continue to steal from the player on your left.

Friday, February 12, 2010

An Appeal to Capitalists

I plan on playing in the main event of this series on the 27th of this month and I am looking to sell pieces of myself.  The total buy in is $2,100, of which I will be paying the first $1,000 as well as the $100 entry fee.  Anyone who wants to contribute will actually be getting a small overlay on their money (100% rakeback!) with an added bonus that if I place in the top 3 spots, I will be paying out an additional 10% of my winnings.  For example, if someone wants to buy a $100 dollar share of the $2,100 buy in, they will be contributing just over 4.7% of the total, but will be receiving a 5% share of the prize.

Here is how I plan to do this:

I will sell pieces of myself in increments no smaller than $25 with returns as explained above.  I will list all contributors and the total amount purchased at the end of this post and will keep amending the list as more people contribute.  Should anyone prefer to remain anonymous, your contribution will be listed with only your first and last initial labeled.  All stakers should send the money to Poopatron at Poker Stars and then follow up by email to let me know of the transfer.  If you do not have a PS account and would like to be involved, please email me and we can make an alternate arrangement.  I will be providing up to the minute updates via Twitter and will be taking photos from the event as well.

Here is a list of the contributors thus far:

$25- Jerry Hodges
$50- Adam Monteiro
$50- Jonathan Novak
$100- Daniel Yelle
$50- Rakebacknation Rob
$100- cucinella
$100- Crazy Bear

Total Raised- $475


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Rush Poker, Part I- Structure and Theory

By means of popular demand, I decided to take on this topic first.  Rush poker, in essence, is the action player's wet dream and finally fulfills the demand that has driven recreational play online in the first place.  For those unfortunate souls who have yet to try it, the premise of Rush poker is thus: you enter the game without having to post, as positions are dealt at random with the player who has gone the longest without posting the BB being the one who must take it.  From there, if you do not like your starting hand, you have the option of using a "quick fold" feature where you immediately leave your current table and are seamlessly transported to another and are instantly dealt into a new hand with an entirely new set of opponents.  Tables are unobservable as the action consists of one large player pool that is constantly shifting.  A full ring table that would normally deal between 55-80 hands per hour now averages about 250-275.  If it isn't already clear, the implications of such play are profound, as are the means of profiting from such play.  Here is my take on the advantages:

1.  No time spent on wait lists or waiting to post

Recreational and serious amateurs will have a hard time grasping how important this is to your overall profitability.  Given that I consider our readership here to be above the curve in general, this shouldn't really require an explanation other than to state the obvious: more time at the tables = more $.

2.  Lack of specific reads

Many people consider this to be a fault but I consider this to be an advantage.  The truth is that this is, in fact, neutral.  Those who admit that this burdens their play have unwittingly revealed a weakness in their game and all weaknesses can be exploited.  Naturally, that specific reads are difficult and often impossible to achieve works both for and against you.  So who benefits?  The guy who actually knows how to play fundamentally strong poker!  The Phil Hellmuths of the world would get slaughtered and the Sklansky-bots would reign supreme.  Being that your average work-a-day professional falls into the second category, this is good news indeed!

3.  Ease of folding makes hand reading easier

Funny how most people like to complain that a group of fish drawing against your aces makes the game impossible to win and then go on to complain that the fish now have very little incentive to play their crappy 53o now that they can instantly be dealt into another hand.  I can't say that I really care either way, except that now if you raise from EP and get a cold caller in the CO and they need said 53 to make the only available straight in a heads up pot, they almost CAN'T have it!  Likewise, elaborate bluffs will almost never occur except as the result of a draw that bricked on the river.  Naturally no game variant could ever be this predictable, but it certainly is to a higher than normal degree.

3.  Easy to rathole

No, I do not mean this in the short stack sense.  Though I plan on taking this concept one step further in my future post about reflections on a year of short stacking, I will have to touch on this briefly in order to make the point clear.  Pretend that you are 200BB deep and then look at the following examples and notice the error in thinking:

A. When I have AA, I want to be able to stack someone holding QQ.
B. When I have the nut flush, I want to be able to stack someone holding the K high flush.
C. When I flop a royal flush, I want to be able to stack someone who flopped a straight flush.

Here is my quick take on the above examples:

A. When you are this deep, it will be extremely difficult to get someone holding QQ or even KK to commit a ton of money preflop, and made much more difficult when there is essentially no game history established.  Furthermore, a bad flop such as 8h7h6h when the QQ holder does not have the appropriate suit and already made suspicious of the possibility of being up against aces is likely to make them clam up and play passively or simply make the correct fold early in the hand out of nothing more than fear alone.

B.  This is pretty much the same as the example above, with the added fact that if the board is paired or the fourth of the suit falls, they are very likely to play passively when there is a lot of money behind, but would of course have happily stacked off in the common 100BB scenario even when the above scare cards are present.

C.  This is the whole concept of "I want to be able to stack someone when I flop a set" taken to its logical extreme.  Naturally, this scenario is ridiculous due to its rarity, but it is something to consider when chasing what I like to call "jackpot hands" like small pairs.  Flopping huge is not the same thing as flopping huge and getting paid.  The deeper you are, the more difficult this becomes to do as a large favorite.  I don't know about you, but I would not feel particularly good about getting all in 200BB deep with a set of 2's on a rainbow board of K92. 

So what does this mean?  Being really deep adds significantly to your total bluffing equity but quite likely subtracts significantly from your value equity.  Unfortunately, with the lack of metagame built into the structure of Rush poker itself, exercising large bluffs on a regular basis would be suicide.  I would strongly suggest that you rathole your winnings when get much above 100BB and just re-enter the game with a full stack. 

While I am sure that this advice will ruffle a few feathers, my short stack experience has shown me the truth of the situation.  My win rate over the past 5 months has been about 1.5ptBB/100 (a true short stack artist can enjoy a WR in the 1.75-2 range).  With my somewhat extensive use of PTR, I have determined that this is approximately equal to what an ordinary full stack professional earns.  A very good full stacker can expect a WR of 2.5BB and only a small elite group can hope to ever earn anywhere near 3BB or higher.  Please don't draw on the example of Nanonoko, as his LTWR is extraordinary and he should be considered an outlier on all accounts. 

What sort of assumptions can we draw from this information?  That the first 20% of your stack provides the majority of your entire earnings!  Furthermore, the remainder of your stack forces you to take greater and greater risks for a proportionally poorer and poorer return on your investment.  While ratholing might be preferable in an ordinary situation, external factors like good seating and long wait lists make this a Catch 22 when playing in a good game.  They might hate that they are sitting the the right of a great player when they are both 200BB deep, but reluctant to leave a huge fish on their right who is spewing away all his money.  The constant reshuffling of tables and seating in Rush poker make this a non-factor and should be exploited to the fullest.

This concludes part I on my take on the basic structural theory of the game, and I will conclude part II with my advice on HUD availability and late position strategy.  I am really hoping for feedback from you guys so that we might be able to delve even further into this fascinating innovation of online poker.