Weary the path that does not challenge. Doubt is an incentive to truth and patient inquiry leadeth the way.
–Hosea Ballou
I haven’t had any major poker revelations lately, so the blog has been languishing a bit as of late. Unfortunately there isn’t much poker to speak of, but there will be in the near future (the wife is off to native Sweden for a month, and much poker is planned in her absence). This is mostly due to the heavy hours I’ve been putting in for a certain online poker room (note: no affiliate link). I really like what I’m doing, and I’d like to believe that my work is in some part responsible for Full Tilt’s steady growth. We still have a long way to go before we get the player base of some other sites (especially this one, which is doing all the right things, thanks in part to one of the best poker bloggers out there), but I really believe that we are headed in the right direction. Hand histories are on the horizon, and our team of programmers is fiendishly working away at various functionality improvements. This is not an attempt at shilling– I’m just saying that I’m proud of my work and the efforts of the poker-playing-programmers that I put in the hours with every day.
But enough about Full Tilt. In lieu of a well thought-out post, I’ve got some ramblings that I’ve picked up over the past few weeks that I thought I’d share.
On Gambling Theory
One of the biggest mistakes beginning players make in no-limit hold ’em is overusing the all-in. Basically, they take the saying “I’d rather win a small pot than lose a big one” way too far. While this axiom is often correct in tournaments, where losing all of your chips is a disaster, all-in bets in deep-stack No Limit holdem are rare and usually a bad play.
Let’s look at a simple example to illustrate why the all-in overbet loses you money in the long run. You’ve got pocket eights and limp in along with 3 other players. The flop comes 8c 2h Ah, giving you a set and the rest of the field a heart draw. There are 4 small bets in the pot, and you are first to act. Let’s say you have 200 small bets in your stack. How much do you bet?
Now, if we’re totally risk averse, we simply go all in with our near-nut hand and if we’re called, we’ve maximized our value– anyone calling is probably making a monstrous mistake (unless they’ve already got us beat or have a monster straight flush draw). But our opponents are probably not likely to make such a big mistake, so most of the time the only time we’re called here is if we’re beat.
If we know our gambling theory, we bet out an amount that encourages our opponent to make a smaller mistake. In this case, a pot-sized bet gives a flush draw 2:1 odds on making their 4:1 flush on the next card. This is a pretty big mistake over the long run, and one our opponents are much more likely to make than calling a huge overbet on a draw. Of course, we’ll lose 25% of the time when our opponent calls and makes their flush on the turn, but 75% of the time we get to extract more money from our opponent with another pot sized bet on the turn. This doesn’t include times we’ll be raised by one of the 3 opponents who acts after us.
Monstrous overbets violate gambling theory, in the sense that no intelligent gambler will call such a bet unless he already has you beat. Good gambling (and good poker) encourages smaller mistakes that add up in the long run. I think some of the reason for all of the overbetting I see is that many people learned to play No-Limit in tournaments, where the all-in is often a correct play, and in short-stack (33 big bets or less) No Limit cash games, where you’re often pot committed on the flop.
To me, deep stack No-Limit holdem is at it’s best when the all-in is used as a weapon to put people to the test– on hands where there’s a lot of money in the pot, the overbet can be used to force our opponent to ask, “Why would he overbet like that? Is he trying to steal the pot or does he really have me beat?” This is the difference between no-limit and pot-limit, and it’s what makes the game so great. Betting 100 big bets to win 4 or 5, however, turns the game into a “wait-for-the-nuts” contest with little skill involved.
On Overbetting Bots
Speaking of overbets, I found this series of 2+2 posts on an all-in-or-fold bot enthralling (thanks to 92o for the link).
My two favorite comments:

  • 23 blinks is correct, but at lower levels he folds in 9-11 blinks.
  • This morning I watched him/it go from 6 Players left $1100 in level 4 – to taking First Place by doing nothing more that fold or go all-in preflop.
    It reminded me so much of my own game I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or puke…

On the WSOP
I’m taking a few small shots at qualifying for both the June 2nd event and the main event, but nothing serious. I think it would be a great experience, but for anyone to think that they are going to be the lucky person to win this event is a bit too much. I’m all for hopes and dreams, but with the main event expected to be 6600 deep, that puts me at 2200:1 even if I think I’m better than 2/3rd of the field (not likely). Even if I’m better than 5/6th of the field, that puts me at 1100:1… hitting runner-runner perfect cards is 800:1 if my memory serves me correctly.
That said, it would be a great experience to play in either of the two events. But probably just too expensive an experience for me. So I’ll try to win my way in a couple times and hope for the best.
On the Online Poker Industry
Most everybody has probably seen this site already, but many people don’t look very deeply into what’s there. PokerPulse has a wealth of information about the various online poker rooms, and it really lives up to it’s name– it really gives you the Pulse of online poker. I’m not going to go into detail, but if you click around a bit you will find some very interesting numbers. Nothing to do with Poker, but if you’re interested in the Online Poker industry it’s worth checking out.
On poker books
I’m halfway through Dan Harrington’s excellent first book. Well written and well-thought out, the book takes you through the thought processes of one of the best No-Limit tournament players in the world.
After I put Action Dan on the shelf, I plan on reading Matt Matros’ new book. If you’re having doubts about the book, this page convinced me to buy it– I think it’s the best analysis of a hand I’ve ever seen.
If you’re planning on playing 15-30 limit poker anytime soon, I highly recommend Ciaffone’s Middle Limit hold em book. It’s probably the toughest poker book I’ve read, but also the most rewarding. Lots of subtle and advanced concepts are hammered home by “the coach.” Be prepared for some deep thought before picking up this book.
That’s it for now. Hope you found something of interest in these ramblings. Poker content to come soon. Thanks for reading.

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