Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Is that my hole?

I spent a good chunk of the Memorial Day weekend re-reading a book I'd read a long time ago, Gary Carson's Complete Book of Hold Em Poker, and may have discovered something I'd forgotten. Carson says that in really loose limit games, with five or more players seeing the flop, it's more likely that the best draw will beat the best hand, in part because there are so many draws out there against few made hands.

I also read an article in this week's Card Player that talks about tracking pre flop play, and STRONGLY recommends that one's pre-flop raise percentage should be about 75% of the his VP$IP% (voluntarily put money in pot). In other words, 3/4 of the time, when you put money in the pot, you should be raising. My percentages were 9/21; less than 50%. I'm seeing the right pots, but not building them when I need to.

Combining these two concepts, I played online last night with my last $3.66 at a .05/.10 table,, and in 30 minutes had about $5.50. I went to Palace after work today (family was at other separate events), and turned $100 into $170.

Granted, two sessions aren't enough to call a trend, but percentage-wise, these are two of the biggest sessions I've had in quite a while. This may be the hole that's developed in my game the last several months.

Could be all the ELO songs I downloaded last night, too. You can't beat a bit of ELO. (Edit: getting the quote right, and linking it)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Well I'll be... I'm a loser!

For tournament play, see SharkScope's review of my play: 109 tournaments entered, $84 lost (Pokerstars and FullTilt)

For overall online play, I just created a chart (at right) showing online poker play exclusively (no blackjack, roulette, bonuses... nothing more than pure ring and tournament play), and it looks like I just dropped below zero in mid-March. Surprising to me is the fact that I've never been more than $300 ahead (maxing at $299.80 in November), and I'm at -$47 today.

My live ring game numbers are even more interesting, although there's a lot less information, since I play live games a lot less. Since I started keeping track in January 2006, I've had eight ring game sessions where I've lost $50 or more, and a grand total of one session where I've won more (+$120 at 4:30 a.m. in a short handed Renton Silver Dollar game).

The bright spot? In live tournament play, I'm up $216. And (not surprising) I won a lot more ($3K+) in my bonus hunting phase last summer.

The fact that I sucketh at live ring games shouldn't be a surprise to me. Last October, I wrote:

I'm trying to figure out why I do so badly at live tables with really bad players. ... When I have the best hand, I know I've got it, and I raise the pot. This generally has the intended effect -- scaring all but one or two other players out. With few exceptions, though, they limp along, and hit their winning card on the river.

I'd hate to play so tight that all I do is play sets, flush draws, and open ended straight draws after the flop. Folding TPTK makes no sense, but when six players see the flop with six really random hands, I think I might always be behind two pair every time.

But after reading a few articles (Google search: winning ring games against maniac), I'm more convinced that's exactly how I need to play. I may give it a try tonight.

(PS: Someone else thinks I'm a loser too. To quote them exactly, "fucktard ... know nothing, Dumb Ass... clueless". I haven't been flamed like that since college. Should I be proud to have been flamed on a WalMart discussion blog? Yeah, that's cool.)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Overheard at the table last night

"How did you know I'd hit the straight? You must have ESPN."


I played $3/$6 at Palace again tonight. Results: Not good at all.

Time played: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Number of dealers cycled through: 5

Number of hands won: 0

Rebuys: 2

Money lost; $237.00, the most I've ever lost in a brick and mortar casino.

Pocket kings? Lost to T8o which rivered a straight.

Pocket queens? Rivered by J2s which hit trip 2's.

Pocket queens again? Hit a queen on the flop, lost to a runner-runner flush.

Pocket jacks? Folded to a bet and a raise on a KQx flop.

Pocket nines? Got them twice. Folded once to three flopped overcards, lost the second time to a K on the flop.

Pocket sixes? Bet aggressively with a flop of AA4. Turned out he had A5, and to make it worse, rivered a 5.

Pocket threes? Missed the flop.

AJ? Three times, missed the flop every time.

KQ? Flopped a K, and lost to JQ with a rivered straight.

65s on the button? 98s in late position? Missed the flop. Missed the flop.

Unbelievable bad luck.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Folding a straight flush

I played the $3/$6 table at Palace tonight. The rake + jackpot rake is $1 less than Happy Days, and the atmosphere and clientele are a lot nicer.

I bought in for $100 and bounced between $81 and $125. The table was very loose, and when I sat down, Scott in the seat to my left cautioned me not to fear the $400 in chips that the nervous, A.D.D., obsessive compusive guy in seat 5 had -- he'd had a lot more than that when he hit a jackpot hand an hour earlier. Indeed, seat 5 was in for every flop, and it was the rare flop that was less than $6 to see.

About an hour in, I'm dealt J♣ T♣ in the small blind. By the time it gets back to me, five players are in and the betting has been capped at $12. I figure someone's got a high pair, so I fold. Five players see the flop: 9♣ 4♣ Q♣. I'd have had a good flush.

The betting slows, but four players pay $3 each to see a 3♦ come on the turn. It's checked around to the button, who puts in $6 and is called by the other three.

The river is the K♣. I'd have had a king- high straight flush, which would have paid a jackpot. Instead, two players go to showdown, and the button shows A♣ 4♥ -- she'd have bet to cap it on the river if I'd have stayed in.

Ah, well. That's poker. I continued to play super tight, until about two hours in, with an all-spade flop, I've got J6o (no spades) in the big blind and try to buy it. I scare five of the nine players away, and my pure bluff check-raise on the turn card (a fourth spade) scares away two more.

I pair my 6 on the river, and when the last remaining player checks to me, I bet. She calls, I sheepishly show my two pair, and she folds. The table goes nuts, as they'd pegged me as.a solid by-the-book rock.

As 1:00 a.m. approached, I decided to head home the next time I get the blinds. I fold every hand, go get a couple of racks when I fold UTG+1, and then discover AJo UTG. I could easily leave now, folding this hand, and be up $23 for the night. Instead, I choose to play it, with with TPTK, and go home +$49. Good times.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Poker bot vs. gold farmers: what's the difference?

Am I bot or not? There's a fascinating discussion thread on the 2+2 forums about some bot-like activity at FullTilt.com. The thread is currently at 166 pages long, and I've only made it about halfway through, but it looks like a poker player analyzed more than 300,000 hands and found four players who had statistics that were so similar that it was statistically unlikely (beyond three standard deviations) that they weren't being run by a bot. In addition, among the 300,000 hands at the same game ($1/$2 NLH), the four players had never played against each other. The poster reported his findings to FullTilt in February. The accounts were locked in April, then recently reactivated.

After about 40 pages of discussion -- which included IP tracking and net searches that revealed the alleged bot operator's name, home town, photo, and the fact that he played in the WSOP main event last year, the names of aliases that he uses on several other poker sites, and players razzing him from the rail while he continued to play -- a forum regular, Nation, disclosed that he was an acquaintance of the player in question (nlnuts), and had seen the player's setup: five players on five computers in a room outside of Pittsburgh, with a very specific script, all playing identically, providing each other with encouragement and advice, and sharing in the winnings. Some people on the thread refuse to believe that a team of players can be disciplined enough to follow a script and have results be so statistically similar. Others question whether it's ethical for players not in a hand to be giving advice to someone playing. Others seem to have no problem with it.

I do believe that they've basically got a team of five poker playing gold farmers. The question of ethics, interestingly enough, was brought up a few weeks ago in the Ante Up podcast, when professional player Paul Wasicka (2007 National Heads-Up champion, 2006 WSOP main event runner-up, cover boy on the May 15, 2007 issue of Card Player)...

got this all started with a recent article in Bluff Magazine where he outlined the advantages of joint sessions online (two players share a bankroll and decisions, but play only one hand). He called in to give us his views on it. He admits that he never considered the fact that anyone would consider it unethical when he wrote the article, but was forced to consider the notion based on feedback he got. In the end, though, he decided that it's alright because online poker is a different animal, and since everyone else can use joint sessions or tracking software or any number of other aids, you shouldn't deny yourself the same advantages. His final point: If you play online, you need to be aware of these issues.

The rule forever has been one player to a hand. Because it's not able to be enforced, that appears to no longer be the rule online.

FullTilt's response: "During the investigation we found the evidence to be inconclusive in supporting either determination (human or bot). After careful consideration, the evidence did not warrant the seizure of funds and permanent account closure."

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Playing Roulette as a Business

(In which I drop the phrase "WTF?" several times)

OK, keep laughing. Yes, Playing Roulette as a Business is the actual title of a book out there. I discovered it at the library a few weeks ago, and it's so chock full of misconseptions that I think I was irritating other library patrons with my laughter.

The system? Bet two units on one block of six numbers, bet two units on another block of six numbers, and bet one unit on the five number block of 0, 00, 1, 2, 3. If you know anything about roulette, you're already saying "WTF?!", but if not, let me explain why this is so dumb.

There's 38 slots on a roulette wheel. If you bet $1 on a single number, beat the 38:1 odds, and win, you get $35, plus keep your original $1. The difference between the $36 you get and the $38 you should is the house edge. The edge, on a percentage basis, is the $2 difference divided by the $38 you should get, which is 5.26%. That's a huge house edge -- don't play this game if you are in it to make money -- "as a business". Heh.

If you bet $1 on a six-number block and win, you'll get $5 plus your $1 back. Figuring out the payoff for almost any $1 bet is easy: it's 36 divided by the number of numbers covered. Betting on black, which covers 18 numbers? That's 36/18, so you'll get $2 ($1 won, plus your original $1).

However, the five number block of 0, 00, 1, 2, 3 only pays back $6 plus the original $1, although it should be paying $7.20 plus $1. That's the worst bet in roulette, with a 7.89% house edge.

The author says that the 6/6/5 blocks of numbers he recommends work because they're spread out around the wheel, making it more likely that they'll hit. Again, WTF? Whether the 17 numbers are scattered around the wheel or whether they're one big wedge of 17 numbers, the odds of hitting any of them are the same: 17 in 38.

He correctly disparages the Martingale system, which has you double your bets after every loss. Your bets would be 1-2-4-8-16-32-64-128 and so on. The obvious problem with the system is that when you hit a losing streak, you're betting $64 or $128 after eight or nine losses in order to win $1.

The author's solution? Use a 1-1-1-2-4-8-16-32-64-128 progression. WTF? That's just the Martingale with two extra losing sessions tacked onto the beginning. When you're in the middle of a losing "streak", the wheel doesn't know that you've lost or won the previous spin.

The most amusing part of the book came at the very, very end. On the back cover of the book is the following:

R. J. Smart is the pseudonym of a Nevada roulette croupier. He prefers to remain anonymous and hopes to earn enough royalties from sales of this book to permit expansion of his roulette activities to casinos other than the one in which he works.

WTF? The author of Playing Roulette as a Business is apparently unable to play roulette as a business, and his system apparently doesn't even give him enough bankroll to play somewhere else (WTF does that mean?).

So in conclusion, to play roulette as a business, you've got to:
1) Make the worst possible bet on the wheel
2) Follow a system that the author says not to follow
3) Trust a guy who admits that he's funding his roulette play from roulette book royalties.


Spread, slots, spins, and slowness

A recap of my gamblin' activities in Spokane follows.

Friday: After the pre-event dessert, I returned briefly to my hotel, then moseyed over to the bowling alley across the street. The table games were jumping, but when I poked my head into the poker room, it was like entering a cone of silence. Four empty tables, and a lonely looking security guard talking to the cashier. They said that once the 6:30 tournament had finished, everyone bailed out. They did, however, refer me to "Ringo's" casino just a few blocks down the road.

Ringo's offered $5/$10 and $2-$6 spread. I'd encountered spread once before (at the now-bankrupt Northstar Casino, where I watched a few games of $1-$8 spread), but I'd never played. I like it a lot -- the blinds are lower than $3/$6 (being $1 and $2 instead of $1 and $3), and a too-tight player like me will still get action from a few players when I raise to $4 or $6 or $8 pre-flop. I was up for a while, down for a while, and ended +$13 after two hours of play. It was time to go to bed -- the cache machine was starting early on Saturday.

Saturday: After the cache machine dinner, I considered going to Northern Quest, the big indian casino near Spokane. I knew that their only tournaments were 10:30 a.m. daily, so it'd be cash games only. I wasn't dressed for it, though, and as exhausting as the day was, once I made it back to the hotel to change, I decided to go to sleep instead. That was probably for the best -- I play crappy poker when I'm tired.

Sunday: I woke up earlier than I expected, and figured I'd hit Northern Quest on the way home. I wanted to be home by 6:00 p.m., because that's when the rest of the family would be back from visting the in-laws, and my mapping software showed that it would be a 5½ hour drive from the casino to my front door. To play it safe, I'd have to be out of there by noon. No tournament for me this morning.

I arrived at about 9:15 and signed up on the $3/$6 list. Their poker room is one of the nicest ones I've seen in the state. Ten tables, new looking felt, fairly comfy chairs, lots of room. They gave me a pager, and I went and signed up for the players club. I got a free wooden pen set and deck of cards. Yay. I played on the slots (-$20) and roulette (-$24) for a while. The slots were disappointing, because I thought I'd read that this was the one casino in the state with slots that actually take coins instead of tickets or cards; it doesn't. Roulette was fun, because I tried out a new system instead of betting on my standard numbers. Yes, I know it's a dumb unwinnable game, and no systems work -- see my next posting for my amusing take on this.

I returned to the poker room at about 10:00 and waited, read a couple poker magazines, waited, read news on my blackberry, and waited some more. At 10:30, the $3/$6 game broke, and the tournament started with 60 players at six tables, plus 20 alternates. During the first 15 minute level, nobody busted out. The empty four tables weren't being used, because even though there were 15 people on the list (with my name at the top), they didn't have enough dealers.

At 11:00 I bailed, hit the road, and drove west. Almost two hours, no poker seat open. It's a nice looking poker room, but I question how well it's managed.

I stopped in Ellensburg for lunch at about 2:15, and discovered the Wild Goose Casino. I poked my head in, but a tournament had just started at 1:30, and with a 2-3 hour drive ahead of me, I couldn't afford to wait. I had lunch at Perkins instead, and was back on the road at 3:00, arriving home at 5:00.

Net for the weekend, -$31. That's still cheap entertainment.