Fortune Smiles and A Slick Sim

“Every man is the architect of his own fortune.”
It sure feels good to wake up after a big win. You grind, grind, grind, and always there is one player filling his 5 racks after catching cards all night, while you sit there with your 2 big bets per hour. And then finally, your hands hold up for once, and it’s you bringing your tower of chips to the cashier with a big smile, and that smile just keeps on goin until the next day.
After 7 hours, I racked out at $580 in the always-insane $6-12 game at Hollywood Park, one of my biggest wins to date. I had plenty of good hands cracked, but I managed to flop big with most of my AKs and AQs, and won most of my money from players trying to suck out with second pair. The table was so good that people were calling to the showdown with third pair on a consistent basis.
Bad beat of the night: loose guy raises Under the gun, I find KK on the button and 3 bet. He bets on the ragged flop of J 9 7 rainbow, and I raise. He calls, and the turn is the harmless looking 6. He checkraises me, and I have no idea what he has, and just call… river is a rag, and he shows me T8 suited for the straight.
Yeah, yeah, another bad beat story. But there’s actually a reason for sharing this one– I found myself clueless as to what to do on the river when a relatively harmless looking card fell. Most of the time (when I wasn’t drawing), I was pretty sure my hand was good, but since people were calling with second and third pair, I never knew if the river had given them two pair. I took the risk-averse strategy on most occasions, and ended up checking for fear of a raise. I gave up about 6 or 7 big bets on the river by playing scared, and I’m still not sure for most of these situations if betting was the best play.
Example: raise from middle position, I call on the BB with pocket tens. Ragged flop, and I bet all the way to the river, and get called by the original raiser, who is a fishy loose aggressive player. The river is a Jack, and I think I’m probably still good, but I check, he checks and he looks at his cards for a minute before mucking them. I caught a peek at the bottom card, and it looked like a 9, so I’m guessing pocket 9s.
I think the value bet on the river against a calling stations who could be holding almost any two cards is one of the few tough decisions to make in a loose-passive game. It pretty much comes down to the question:
Is the probability that your opponent is beat and will still call one more bet greater than the probability that they caught something on the river?
I think in most cases the bet is correct, but I’m not sure. I would appreciate any comments…
The low-limit no-limit $100 buy in games were rocking as usual, and I had previously thought I would stick to these games for live play, as my intuition told me they were more profitable. However, I rethought it on the way to the casino, and wasn’t so sure.
In the $6-12 game, the caliber of players is several notches below the $100 NL game, if you can get a seat at one of the better tables. Since we make money off the mistakes of our opponents, I tried to figure out how much the mistakes in $6-12 cost the players versus the cost of a mistake in the no limit game. I find that in the no-limit game, people make pretty good decisions preflop, and then can’t release their hand if they hit any piece of the flop. In the limit game, people are making huge mistakes preflop, but then correctly calling after the flop since the pot is usually big enough to justify a call if they catch anything (such as bottom pair).
The NL game is also considerably tighter, and usually ends up with 2 or 3 players by the turn. In the limit game, it’s common to have 4 or 5 people seeing the turn, so there are usually a greater number of people making mistakes. And of course you can play more hands in the limit game, since you almost always have odds to play any draw, and no one can bet you out of the pot.
None of this is new to anyone, but in the end I decided that I’d rather face a greater number of players making many small mistakes than a small number of players making a few big mistakes. So I stuck to limit, although I was ready to move if I couldn’t find a good table. Fortunately, I found a great table and my cards held up.
Check out Lou Krieger’s article in CardPlayer for a much better discussion of the limit vs. no-limit debate:
Decisions and Leverage in Limit Hold’em.
“The recent surge in poker’s popularity has produced one possible compromise in game structure: the introduction of no-limit games with a fixed buy-in. These games, in which there’s a cap on the amount a player can buy in for — a typical game features blinds of $1-$2, with a maximum buy-in of either $100 or $200 — provide no-limit decision-making and the ability to protect one’s hand with a big bet. But because of the cap on the buy-in, they also mitigate the catastrophic nature of a single bad decision. While some players derisively refer to these games as big-bet poker with training wheels, the game structure straddles a middle ground between limit hold’em and real big-bet games.”
How big is big slick?
Although I feel I’ve settled into the grind, accepting the tight-aggressive style and collecting a couple big bets an hour, I find that the learning epiphanies that were so frequent in earlier days are long gone. As I’ve said before, learning new things is harder to come by, and comes in smaller increments. So in order to take my game to the next level, I’m trying ask harder questions. Questions that go beyond intuition and odds, and require heavy duty simulation to answer.
Enter Turbo Texas Hold ‘Em. On Friday I read an interesting tidbit from the archives of the writer whose advice for loose games is unparallelled: the mighty Izmet Fekali.
“Of course, this is not the best example of reverse implied odds, as you might lose a lot postflop when a scare card hits and you cannot know whether your opponent’s bet is a bluff or not. But I’m sure you understand the logic. A better example would be a hand like AKo which will usually win more than it’s fair share against many opponents preflop and therefore MUST raise for immediate profit.”
A little bell went off in my head as I remembered reading simulations that say AKo does terrible against many opponents. I even managed to remember where I’d read it:
Player’s Guide: A New Guide to the Starting Hands in Texas Hold ‘Em Poker. Although the study design may be a bit suspect, the most interesting thing I took from this article was the conclusion that AKo does very poorly in big multiway pots. Its mean rank among all hands if 6 players go to the river is 40th (of 169), meaning that in family pots in a no-fold ’em game, AKo isn’t too far from toilet paper. Take the simulation for what it’s worth– a preflop raise followed by an Ace on the flop isn’t likely to have 6 players on the river, even in LA. But the point is that the simulation contradicted the words of the mighty Izmet, which meant I had to fumble around with my own simulations to see what I could find.
The Simulation
The question I really wanted to answer is whether or not we should raise with AKo in a family pot, or if it’s more profitable to call. However, the simulations aren’t quite that flexible, so I settled for an analysis of three separate profiles (keep in mind that the deck was stacked so that AKo is the only hand played):
Profile 1: Pure Aggression (PA)– always raise. No matter what the action before him, PA always raises
Profile 2: Call Raises (CR)– Raise if opening or pot has not been raised, otherwise call
Profile 3: Calling Station (CS)– always call, never raise
I ran each profile on 3 different table types, using the pre-packaged lineups included in TTH:
Table 1: Loose Aggressive
Table 2: Average Passive
Table 3: Regular Low Limit
The sim was run for 2 million hands for each table, playing $10-20 hold ’em with a typical 10% rake.
Hypotheses: I expected that on the loose aggressive table, PA and CR would have the highest win rate, since every raise punishes people limping or raising with marginal hands. I figured CR would end up slightly ahead since capping with big slick would run into big pairs enough times that it would make PA slightly less profitable. Similarly, PA should do well on the average passive table, punishing limpers with raises, but losing a bit of equity perhaps by 3 betting against solid raises. On the low limit table, I figured CR would probably triumph, although if the “Player’s Guide” simulation was right, then CS might come out with the highest win rate.
In each cell, the win rate in percentage is followed by the net $ won per hand.

Call Raises Calling
Loose Agg 48.1%  $6.44 48.1%  $6.49 57.4%  $4.75
Avg. Passive 56.8%  $4.67 56.9%  $4.73 56.9%  $4.74
Typical LL 57.4%  $4.75 57.3%  $4.73 57.3%  $4.69

Discussion: Surprisingly, there wasn’t much difference between the win rates, except on the loose aggressive tables. I have to think about these results some more, but they were somewhat surprising. Not surprisingly, pure aggression can lead to a slightly higher win rate, but comes with higher variance.
Poker Blog Patrol
Well, I think The Blogfather has posted his longest post ever. It took me 3 sittings to read all the way through (including the links), and my head hurts. There is some great stuff in there, but it’s cutting into my poker play… The guy’s been collecting poker wisdom for 6 years, I picture him digging through a box of 100 gig hard drives with labels like “POKER 1998-2000” before presenting us with these gems. Iggy is taking a break from blogging, so I hope someone else will tell me which 2+2 and RGP posts to read while my “filter” is busy killing the games.
The Poker Prof and Flipchipro had the honor of interviewing one of my favorite poker writers, Tom McEvoy, this week. Check out their interview, and after that, take a peek at the 2004 WSOP photo gallery. Here’s how Tommy Mac got his start:
“I started playing professionally in 1978, the best thing that ever happened to me was getting fired from my job that year and that gave me the opportunity to pursue poker full time. I spent about 6 months flying back and forth and during one 5-10 game I made over 1,000 dollars, well, this is over three times what I was making at my accounting job and more then the President of the company made (he made about 50,000 a year).”
I’ve been meaning to link up to No Limit Poker Club since I met Mike, the owner of the site, at the Horseshoe during the WSOP. Mike lives and works in Vegas, and gives us an insider’s view of low-limit hold ’em on the strip:
“First of all, this poker room is not crowded with fish. I had clowns! sitting next to me. Get it? Clowns instead of fish at the Circus Circus casino? Can I get a rim shot?”
I also have to thank Grubby and Chris for guiding me to the free money from blackjack bonuses before the sites were attacked by bonus hunters. Although the bonuses are still there for the taking, they have gotten harder to find. I encourage all of you low-limit players trying to build your bankroll to head over to Poker Grub for the best bonuses on the net.
Oh, that reminds me, I have to throw in my two cents about the whole ALLIN Magazine debacle. I’m not sure what’s going on over there, but I knew that the first issue would get a lot of publicity and would expose people to our little blog community, so I was happy to spend a few hours writing up an article for them. I won’t drag you through the details, but some of the editor’s suggested changes were difficult to swallow. All in all (no pun intended), it was a good experience, but there were plenty of tilt-inducing moments about the whole thing. I enjoyed Iggy’s take:
“I’m not going to besmirch ALLIN Magazine after they were kind enough to allow an excellent six page spread about the poker blog scene, written by Hank. But there are plenty of folks complaining on RGP about them….people have requested rate cards to no avail and most people haven’t even received their first issue. For the record, the magazine was riddled with typos. In the real world, that I work in, you would be terminated with prejudice for even one, much less a dozen.
Hell, they called PokerGrub = PokerGrab. Oh the humanity. Hire an editor and a REAL art director, guys!”

I can’t tell you how annoying this was. Sadly, one of my strongest suits is spelling, and this typo definitely wasn’t mine. I suspect the editor thought I had made a spelling error, and took it upon himself to set it right. Ah well, at least I was able to get something in the first issue… any bets on the odds that a second issue makes it to publication?
I have to congratulate my man T for his win in the Party Poker Million Satellite. T is a $15-30 player who has been living in bad beat city for the past couple of weeks, and was down to 10 chips early on after he flopped trip queens on a Q T x board, and someone called his all in on the turn with KJ to river the straight. In true “chip and a chair” fashion, he came back to win the satellite. T’s moral: “There’s always hope.”
A little pot limit anyone?
I’m off to Sweden for 2 weeks on Friday, so it’s hiatus time for The Cards Speak. I haven’t had a vacation since last summer, so I’m really looking forward to getting away from work for a while. I’m also excited to reunite with Monk, who I haven’t seen for a year. We’ll be making a trip or two to the Stockholm casino, to terrorize some Swedish fish (rimshot). I’ll be hanging with the wife’s family, so who knows, you may even see the first post from the other side of the pond.
Thanks for reading, enjoy the grind…

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