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. 


S1ndr0me said...

As usual a fantasic post. I've been, well not struggling but lets say swinging my way around NL10 rush for a while now.

looking forward to pt.2

FutureInsights said...

Love your Hellmuth, Sklansky analogy, however, I've only studied Sklansky on Tournament Strategy (I even built a spreadsheet based on his methods).

My NL experience comes from the basic strategies taught in the FTP academy, which has worked well in Rush.

Look forward to reading more of your blog.