Monday, December 29, 2014

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Practical Solution to Poker Liquidity

Squeezing blood from a stone
Keep on squeezin', my brother!

With all of the proposed solutions to solving the, ahem, "problem" of the predatory nature of poker, one tiny, but not completely insignificant improvement that I have not seen mentioned is to target the "Player Search" feature found within most poker clients. As far as I can tell, this feature is just a relic from the pre-Boom days when players actually considered online poker to be a fun pastime and would choose to sit and play with their friends, had fun and meaningful chat, and said quaint things like "nh" without the slightest hint of sarcasm.

Yet what purpose does this serve in the modern game? Virtually all serious players eliminate themselves from the search by ticking a box within the settings. Since the pros are doing this, and yet a certain portion of the recreational players aren't, it only makes sense that either:

1) Hiding yourself from the search conveys some kind of advantage.

2) Not hiding yourself from search puts you at a disadvantage.

I actively participate in #1 and can't say if that makes a difference to me as a winning player, but I can say definitively that #2 makes me jump for joy. It means that I can find my new best friends wherever they are sitting, and even though I'm typically not a fan of playing 3-handed, I'll happily jump up a limit or two and seize the best seat to make sure I get a slice of that pie before it gets gobbled up if it just so happens that I like the flavor enough.

Clearly, this arrangement is ass-backwards. If the sites won't or can't (seriously doubtful) eliminate this, they should at least make this lame feature opt-in, rather than opt-out. At the very least, this minor improvement would be neither invasive, nor outright disrespectful to the regs and pros who hold the completely contradictory position of simultaneously being a site's best customers and most loathed patrons.

Removing this feature or having players choose to be involved should make a small difference, and certainly wouldn't ruffle the feathers of the regulars, who despite obviously being considered to be a burden to the site (which I don't necessarily buy, or at the very least understand, due to the fact that most tables are populated almost exclusively by regs), are consistently being pecked away at by sites who want to ever-lower their winrates, with the absolute scummiest banning them altogether.

I have no idea of whether or not this matters from a marketing perspective, but so much for selling the dream of becoming the next poker millionaire. This only seems plausible by promoting WSOP winners or having site-owning superusers steal easily from their players unnoticed and untraceable in the anonymous tables. Makes me wonder if there wasn't some internal scandal at iPoker which caused them to eliminate them to cover it up, but one thing is for sure: it hasn't done shit for their cash game traffic. Quite likely the opposite, it appears.

The never-ending squeezing that poker pros are subjected to is just one more reason why I expect legalized American poker to flub. Quite frankly, if they intend on copying the worst practices from existing offshore sites (which I fully expect), I am hoping that they fail.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Human Cost of Opportunity Cost

Bottles of piss from poker players
Stay hydrated, my friends.

Pro poker players tend to be a big fan of the concept of "opportunity cost", which is defined by as:

"The money or other benefits lost when pursuing a particular course of action instead of a mutually-exclusive alternative."

Let me translate it to the definition as defined by poker players:

"The money lost when mowing your own lawn or otherwise engaging in unnecessary, menial activities that are beneath you when you could be slaving away at your computer and pissing into an empty coke bottle."

There is a problem here. 

Although the concept is essentially true, it can be used to justify basically whatever you are too lazy to do, while also being cherry-picked to a greater degree than the King James bible.

How so? Well, ask yourself which of these you would pay for in terms of opportunity cost:

Put a figurative check-mark next to all that apply.

1. De-cluttering your garage.
2. Renting the private room in a club with premium bottle service.
3. Assembling your new computer desk.
4. Sleeping until 3:00 PM.
5. Playing video games for 6 hours straight.
6. Trimming your bushes and cleaning up the debris.

These all have something in common: each one is costing you money in terms of opportunity cost, yet options #2, #4, and #5 are completely frivolous.

I should know.

Other paying someone to set up my desk or renting out a private room in a club (however, I once did pick up a $70 bar tab for four previous co-workers to feel cool, which is a super douchebag move), I have done all these things. One could point out that perhaps the trip to the club wasn't during play time, but the resulting hangover and inevitable next-day sluggishness is inarguably cutting into your profits.

I can't remember the guy who did this, but there was a tourney pro who boasted of being so lazy that he offered his two roommates 1% of his action in a high stakes tourney to assemble his new computer desk. Apparently, he hadn't completely thought it through, because he went on to bink it for $400k and had to pay out $8,000 for a $10 job. He laughed at the notion in a post-tourney interview, but I'm sure that he now cringes whenever he thinks of it.

For my own part, about two years ago, I hired a guy I found on Craigslist to mow my lawn once a week. It cost me $I5 each time, but I always tossed in an extra $3 as a tip. I did this because I convinced myself that the "opportunity cost" of doing it myself was too high to justify doing it because I would be passing up on more valuable time at the poker tables. Besides, we had a really shitty mower that rattled around, wasn't adjustable enough to cut as low as I preferred, and was too small to have the weight needed to keep it moving in a straight line while passing over uneven terrain. I did want a new one, but my little Hyundai Elantra wasn't large enough to fit one. Thus, the "opportunity cost" of scheduling a convenient time for my good buddy Travis to help me move one in his much larger SUV was simply too much of a burden.

Really, I was just lying to myself. The times when I would be available to do it are times that I would never normally be playing poker, like right after dinner. It also turns out that unlike what I had convinced myself, I actually could fit a new mower in the backseat of my car, because [feigning shock] they came in boxes, not fully assembled like the display at Home Depot. Who knew?!

The fact was that I just didn't want to do it.

I can't remember what spurned it- perhaps I got tired of paying or could no longer afford to have it mowed for me, so I sucked it up, pulled out the wallet and got a new mower. I put it together myself (which took about 5 minutes), filled it up with gas, and got to work with it. Once I was done, sweaty and reeking of gasoline and chopped onions*, I looked back over my work and felt something completely unexpected. It was pride in my home, a connection to my fellow man, and a sensation of masculinity.

Yes, you read that correctly. Sociologists be damned, a man's need to FEEL like a man is in his DNA, and despite how "cool" you think it might feel to play poker for a living, any activity that has you sitting on your ass for hours on end for a paycheck will inevitably strip away this feeling that is essential to your overall well-being. Tilt-punching your desk and putting holes in the drywall while getting bruised and bloody knuckles is NOT a suitable replacement.

More surprising than the initial sensation itself is the fact that this event happened over 3 years ago, yet that feeling still hasn't diminished one single bit. Though I realize it sounds silly, my lawnmower is still one of my most beloved possessions and I still get a quick thrill whenever I give that initial yank on the cord to start it up.

Like it or not, your days as a poker player will end at some point. If you have simply been throwing your money at all your problems or anything that inconveniences you, not only will you have nothing of value to put on your resume, you will have a complete lack of skills concerning anything essential to your survival out in the real world. Just get out of bed, drop the attitude, and make your mama proud.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention...keep the piss bottle handy. The cost of sitting out and flying down the hall with your dick spraying everywhere is the only thing you really have to worry about ;)

*Green onions grow wild on a lot of patches of grass in Louisville and therefore the scent is usually associated with cut grass and summer.