Sunday, August 20, 2006


It has been pointed out to me that I didn't in fact fix my Email address on the right, I merely attempted to fix it, and my Email address was thus, essentially, half-fixed. I've changed it now (or at least I intend to when I post this; I'm composing it offline), so if you sent me an insightful analysis of my previous post, and the Email bounced, then you can send it again now.

A Response

Gil did respond to my post, though, and since he has my phone number he doesn't need my proper Email address. I prefer to exchange Emails rather than talk through a problem like this because in Emails (or letters, or whatever) one stays on-topic, or if one goes off on a tangent one eventually returns to the main topic. Those are both problems for me in conversation. Perhaps with Gil, too, since every conversation with him turns out—surprise!—to actually really be about Aristotle, only I hadn't noticed. Those familiar with "strange attractors" in mathematics might see the analogy.

In any case, Gil's written response seems to be (Gil doesn't write very well) that I'm assuming that TheRabbit is a poor player from his description as a timid player. Jacobs describes TheRabbit as "a delightful player to have in the game—loose, passive and utterly transparent," before alluding to his timidity. TheRabbit might not be fresh off the turnip truck, but the description makes him sound like pretty much any of the poor players at the casino's $3/$6 game. To me that means he's unlikely to fold once he's committed to a hand and that bluffing and semibluffing aren't that useful against him: You've got to make a hand against him.

More Quotes, Same Question

Gil printed out something else that he attributes to Sklansky at Two Plus Two, although the part that Gil printed doesn't actually have any attribution. (Gil also only printed a piece of my post from yesterday before he analyzed my analysis, and also chopped off any attribution.) The article begins with seven things that are not keeping a marginal player from becoming a winning pro, and goes on with twenty things that pros do do well. On the latter list, there are a number of points I don't score highly on, but I want to focus on this one:

  1. Raising skill. Most merely good player usually know when to call or fold and when to check or bet. But they usually don't raise enough. (They especially don't check-raise enough.) There are lots of reasons to raise with non-obvious hands as in the example above [on isolating players]. Pros recognize them. (They also recognize who not to raise with very good hands.) Knowing raising strategy is unquestionably an attribute of pros that separate them from non-pros.

The reason I quote this is that this seems to be my problem in a number of problem hands. Until I went through the problem hands enough that I knew the right answer just from the last time I read the hand, this one from Small Stakes Hold'em always got me (pp. 271–2):

7. You have A♣4♣ on the button. The small blind raises, and the big blind and everyone else call (12 small bets). The flop is K5♣2, giving you a gutshot, an overcard, and a backdoor flush draw. The small blind bets. The big blind calls, and the first limper raises. The next two limpers fold (16 small bets). What should you do?

Answer: Reraise! Individually, each of your draws is weak. Taken together, however, you have a relatively robust hand with decent winning chances. Getting 8-to-1, folding is clearly wrong. The pot is almost big enough that you would call with only a gutshot (e.g., six-four). You are just under 11-to-1 to complete your straight on the turn. In a pot this big, if you make your straight, your opponents are almost certain to pay you off for several big bets. Since you should probably call with just a gutshot, you should definitely play with your gutshot, overcard, and backdoor flush draw. Thus, the only question is whether you should call or raise.

Reraising has two important advantages over calling:

  1. If you reraise, the small blind might fold a better ace. Since he raised preflop, he could easily have a hand like ace-queen or ace-jack. If he folds, it could buy you two more outs. For only one more bet, even with those weak hands, he will probably call. For two bets, he might fold.
  2. Since you have the button, reraising could buy you a free card on the turn. If you do not improve, you should almost certainly take it if you get it. The player who raised this ragged flop likely has a king. Do not expect him to fold.

So, unless you are very unlikely to get a free card, you should probably invest the extra small bet and reraise.

I'm not sure I really expect some magic-bullet answer to my problem here. Mathematically I agree with everything Miller says in his analysis. It boils down to, "Your hand isn't great, but you should win more than your share of the time: This play should make you money in the long run." But it's not an opportunity I often spot. And I don't really expect someone to suddenly come up with some magic easy-to-use formula for this: "Whenever the board shows Queen-Ten, raise."

That said, if anyone has any insight, I'd be happy to listen.

Since I've now borrowed heavily from Jacobs and Miller, perhaps a minor critique of the two: I like Miller's analyses a lot better than I like Jacobs', in the way that they're constructed. Miller usually structures his arguments using formal logic: If A, then B; B, therefore C. (I've asked others who were trying to "prove" things to me to structure their arguments the same way, because all I was seeing was fuzzy logic, and generally I got fuzzy logic with a lot of if-then statements. See, for example, the post a couple of years ago where Gil and I discuss the nature of infinity.)

But Is There Any Actual Poker?

Well, in short, yes. I don't have a lot of money to show for it, because I was being staked, but I've had a fair run the last half-dozen or so times I've played casino low-limit, I think four and two in the win/loss column. Generally I've felt that I've played pretty solidly, and that's been enough to book small wins (in absolute dollars, $100±$50). The two losses were no cards, and a lot of drawing hands that didn't get there. Maybe my whole problem while I was in Vegas was a form of fancy-play syndrome? Hard to tell from six sessions; that can't add up to more than 600 hands or so. But it seems like I might be +EV at low-limit again.

Possibly bearing this out is that my online stake has, until recently, been slowly inching upward. I'm not playing a lot of hands, and I'm playing only 50¢/$1, but that's generally been positive.

The games quite definitely seem tighter than I remember them from two years ago. It's unusual to see any truly bad players even at $1/$2. I would say that my 2004 "pro" career was mostly about me playing $3/$6 like a rock, and letting the bad players throw money around, and that was enough then. I don't think it would be enough at $3/$6 now. Just my impressions; I haven't looked at PokerTracker stats then versus now.