I got a hunch, fat man

“You know, I got a hunch, fat man. I got a hunch that it’s me from here on in. One ball, corner pocket. I mean, that ever happen to you? You know, all of a sudden you feel like you just can’t miss? ‘Cause I dreamed about this game, fat man. I dreamed about it every night on the road. Five ball. You know, this is my table, man. I own it.”
–Fast Eddie Felson (Paul Newman), The Hustler
There aren’t too many things better than seeing that little jumble of pixels that represent the letter on a face card match up to that first letter, especially when it’s an “A” or a “K”. I got a little tingle each of the 3 times I was dealt pocket kings in my first 7 hands. That’s 5 times I’ve met with the cowboys in a 59 hand span (lights candle for poker gods). Yeah it was only $3-6, but when the cards are hitting you like that, you just know it’s your table. You make the laydowns, and you make the right calls. And you win.
I’ve been trying to play focused poker for the last week. 3 $3-6 tables and careful thought about as many aspects of the game as I could fit in my head. Pot odds, opponent tendencies, and how other players view me. I’m hoping my renewed focus has contributed to my winning streak, but the cards certainly haven’t hurt. Iggy‘s mantra has served me well: “You make money from other players’ mistakes.” And there are a lot of players on PartyPoker. And a lot of them are making many, many mistakes. After every session I’ve played this week, I’ve had to pinch myself after seeing what people go to the showdown with in my PokerTracker results.
Party has some new features. Fish finding has never been easier with their new “search for a player” function. But I’ll probably use it instead to find Grubby, whose $5-10 shorthanded games are more exciting than Gus Hansen’s. Talk about aggressive. But besides that I wasn’t very impressed. You’d think a site raking hundreds of thousands daily would be able to add some cooler features. How about the ability to resize tables? It’s really not that hard. I really can’t understand why some of their competitors don’t spend the money on marketing to lure some of the fish from Party. But hey, where else will you get called down with King high?
With the WSOP coming up, we can only expect more of the uninitiated to log on and start losing money rapidly. Just yesterday, while eating dinner with my wife and the bartender at her last job (who we happened to meet at the restaurant), I was invited to a weekly No Limit Tournament that the bartender hosted. After he informed me that the 5th card was called the flop, I told him I would gladly participate.
Me: “What’s the buyin?” (please say more than $50, please, please, please)
Bartender: “5 bucks.”
Me: (heart sinking) “5 bucks?”
Bartender: “We try to keep it social. I rebought 5 times last time.”
Ah well, I guess I’ll have to develop my hustling skills and try to get someone in a heads up game.
What makes a great poker player?
I had a discussion with a co-worker about what differentiates the world class poker player from the top pros. Is it card sense? An innate feel for the “flow” of the game? Or is it solely based on the ability to read other players? Doyle believes in ESP, and claims to have known with absolute certainty what an opponent held on many occassions. I ended up rambling about the World Class Player’s sense of smell… if dogs can smell fear, isn’t it likely that humans have the ability to smell the fear in their opponents? Isn’t it probably that some players have a better sense for pheromones than others? Maybe Stu Ungar just had a good nose for fear. He may not have known why he sensed weakness, but maybe at an instinctual level he sensed it.
Aside from the instinctual differences, the more poker I play, the more I believe that the winning poker player is defined by his ability to see patterns. The “feel” for the game comes from absorbing (on both a conscious and subconscious level) the connection of the board cards and the series of checks, calls, and raises. After studying a fair bit of Artificial Intelligence, my thought has been biased by humans’ natural ability to learn patterns. It’s amazing the amount of programming it takes to have a computer learn a pattern that a 3 year old could learn in minutes. Despite all of the negative talk about bots, I strongly believe that it won’t be long before a bot beat the crap out of a top human player. In most Machine Learning problems, the biggest obstacle is acquiring enough data to “teach” the bot. But with online poker, there is an almost infinite set of examples to train the bot with. The best human player has maybe 500,000 hands to learn from in a lifetime. A bot can take in 20 times that in a couple hours. Don’t believe the hype– bots will rule poker if anyone ever takes the time to put the effort into building one.
Alright I’m running out of steam here. I should be pimping all the great blogging going on out there, but instead I’m gonna finish this last beer and go to bed. I hate getting up for work.

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