Suckout Theory and Monk’s Lament

I’m Exhausted. On the positive side, I can’t remember ever enjoying my job as much as I do now. On the negative side, I feel like I could sleep for a month. In addition to all of the regular work, I’ve been handling most of the support and sales issues for The Poker Tracker Guide. Let’s just say I have a new respect for support staff. The feeback, reviews, and support for The Poker Tracker Guide has been great, and hopefully the sales numbers will pick up soon.
Life at Full Tilt Poker is good, and always busy. Luckily for me the kitchen is fully stocked with sugar filled products and caffeine, so a (legal) chemical induced “second wind” is just around the corner. I’m anxiously awaiting FHWRDH‘s arrival next week, and I’m looking forward to working with him on a regular basis. If we can keep hiring poker bloggers at this rate, we should have the entire LA crew employed by summer…
Unfortunately I haven’t been able to play much poker, although I was able to win the biggest pot of my life Monday night at a $5-10 No-Limit game with Doyle’s favorite hand, AQ. Although I believe that a good deal of money is lost in big pots when top pair goes down to a bigger hand, this time my queen and the one on the board were good as my Ace outkicked my opponent’s King. I don’t consider myself much of a No-Limit player, but conversations with DoubleAs have made me consider adding an NL game to the mix while multitabling. The games are just so good these days.
I’ve been slacking on the poker theory posts, and I wanted to write something about isolating weak opponents in middle limit games, but I fear I’d pass out in the middle of the post. Instead, I’m going to post a link to my favorite theory post ever, as well as discussing some of the most important points.
If he can’t do it, Abdul can!
Abdul Jalib’s Theory of Sucking Out is probably the best advice on how to play draws in limit hold em ever written. Sometimes I try to picture what Abdul was thinking when he clicked the “Submit” button and published the post on RGP for the world to see. The wisdom in the post set me on the right path to understanding how to play draws, and led to important concepts such as pot equity and counting outs and bets. It took me 3 or 4 readings to get a grip on everything Adbul reveals, but the time was definitely well spent. Here’s a list of three of the most important concepts discussed in the post:
1. “If you have the best of it on additional money going into the pot,
you should try to maximize the additional money going into the pot.”

Abdul leads off the post with a clarification of when it is profitable to “bet on the come.” The key here is figuring out when you have the best of it. Basically when the odds of hitting your draw are better than the odds that the pot is laying you, you want to ram and jam. If the pot is laying us 10 to 1 and we are chasing our flush card with 6 other people in the pot, we can think of every additional bet that goes into the pot as our money (in terms of EV). Our pot equity in hands with many players and we hold the best draw is huge, and we should play these hands as fast as we can. I’m not going to get into gambling theory here, but basically there are many times in limit holdem where the pot is laying you a huge overlay on your draw. Maximizing your profit in these situations is where most of the money comes from in loose games.
2. ” Rules of thumb for calling on the turn: Usually, call one bet with open-ended straight draws and flush draws, and with a medium pot size you can call two cold. With a set you should usually be calling all bets (or raising, of course.) Two overcards are usually no good to draw with on the turn, except sometimes heads-up. When the pot is big, you can call with a gutshot straight draw to the nuts.
Rules of thumb for calling on the flop: Call with any draw that you
would call with on the turn, often for two bets cold or more. Call
with gutshots to the nuts if you can be pretty sure you will only have
to pay one bet. Also for one bet, a pair with a backdoor flush draw
is very worthwhile, and so is a backdoor flush draw with a backdoor
straight draw, and similarly for other combinations of weak draws that
together become worthwhile. Be reluctant to call with overcards,
unless heads-up or the board does not have many draws and you are
pretty sure you have the best overcards, like AQ in an unraised pot.”

It takes a while to be comfortable calculating odds and outs at the table, but rules of thumb are easy to remember. The above rules allow you to play your draws confidently and profitably. Note that you can profitably call with gutshot draws on the flop in many circustances, which goes against conventional poker wisdom (“and son, never draw to an inside straight”). Of course, your implied odds have to be better than 11:1 unless you have other outs.
3. “Your effective pot size is how much you can expect to win at
the end if you indeed win. It’s the current pot size plus
expected action. Generally that will be at least one big
bet bigger than the current pot size, possibly many more big
bets if you expect a lot of action.
You should at least call when your effective outs times
one more than the effective pot size is greater than the number
of unseen cards. The number of unseen cards is usually 46 on the
turn or 47 on the flop. Recast the effective pot size in units of
the number of bets you will need to call.”

This gem helped me survive the loose and wild low limit no fold em at Hollywood Park. The math is simple, you just have to keep an eye on the bets going into the pot throughout the hand, which is pretty easy after you get used to it. The key here is learning how to figure out the effective pot size, or how big the pot is going to be by the showdown. This notion of “implied odds” is something that NL players use on every hand, as they are much more important in big-bet games. Compared to these games, it’s pretty easy to determine if our opponents will call us down if we make our hand.
I recommend reading Abdul’s post a few times; the concepts are complex enough that it takes a little thought to get a handle on them, and his writing is subtle. The three gems above are my favorite, and helped me pick up a pot here and there that I wouldn’t have if Abdul hadn’t been so kind as to share his wisdom.
Ok, that’s my weak attempt at some poker theory. Unoriginal, but far better than anything I can come up with at the moment.
Monk’s Lament
Loyal readers will remember my protege, the brilliant and stubborn Monk, who recently graduated from my tutelage and has been cleaning up at the $5-10 short handed games. Last week, Monk took the leap, and left his day job for a 2 month hiatus to see what the life of a professional online poker player was like.
Monk plays a far more high-variance style of poker than I do. Rarely will I see a hand that he’s involved in past the flop not get three-bet at some point, and Monk seems to have a knack for putting people on tilt. He’s good at extracting the maximum number of chips possible from his opponents, but this leads to huge swings, especially at the wild shorthanded games.
I don’t know anything about playing online poker for a living, but I suggested short session to maintain focus and timing those sessions to coincide with the best games. That was about the only advice I could offer, and I was both nervous and excited to see how my pupil would fare.
The first couple days were great, and Monk went on a 400 Big Bet upswing to start off his “pro” career. I breathed a sigh of relief, as I thought this lucky streak of variance would pad his bankroll enough to make it unbreakable.
And then, after a few days of breakeven poker, the downswing began. Every so often I’d get sent a vicious bad beat that took a bite out of Monk’s bankroll, 15 big bets at a time. Some of these beats were just ridiculous, and it seemed that every time he held an overpair his opponent would flop a set.
Monk’s spirits were obviously pretty low at this point, and the only thing I could do is remind him that it would turn around eventually. It’s a lot easier to say that from the sidelines, but when you’re getting smashed with the best hand with your livelihood at stakes, you’ve got a different perspective. Statistics and faith in your game are the crutches for your spirit during a downswing if you’re a poker pro, but I’ve never had to face anything like what Monk is going through. If it’s hard for me to watch on the other side of the glass, I couldn’t imagine how hard it is for Monk to handle.
As of this morning, the 500 big bet downswing hasn’t been broken. But Monk’s spirit hasn’t either. I think if he can overcome the frustration of this downswing, he’s going to have a great two months. Pretty stressful for the first week on the job, but then again, what job isn’t?
I guess they were right when they say “Poker is a hard way to make an easy living.” Variance is a hard thing to understand, and even harder to handle.
The Reviews Are In
It’s almost time for the first non hold-em poker blogger tournament. At least when I get massacred in the HORSE tournament, it’ll be on my homecourt. I don’t even know what the E stands for– Stud Eight or Better, I think.
I’m going to leave you with one of my favorite email reviews of the Poker Tracker Guide. The support and feedback for the guide has been great, and I want to say a big thank you to everyone who’s bought the book.
My favorite email came from a Poker Tracker Guide reader who was hesitant to buy it because the $20 represented a reasonable chunk of his $.50-$1 bankroll. Here’s what he had to say after reading the guide:
Holy crap! The game-time explanation and mechanics of searching out loose players alone was worth the $20. I had no idea I could use pt like this! Since I play penny-ante I was sure I’d only be using the first section of pt guide. But it was the second section that made me glad I bought it 🙂
I have no doubt that eventually I would’ve found these things out, probably… maybe. But now I know them within just a day or two or having bought pt (and I seriously underestimated what an incredible tool Pat has created).
I thought pt was like a mainframe computer – powerful for analyzing MY play but when you ‘left home it stayed behind’. But thanks to pt guide I see that it’s more like a tiny laptop – you take it with you when hitting the online tables. In fact, not using pt WHILE playing is like telling people ‘please, have some of my money. I insist’.
–Reluctant PT Guide Buyer
PS How much do you want for the rest of the copies? I’m not too thrilled with facing others that know all this stuff (in higher limits). Can pt guide just be our little secret?

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply