Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A day without poker

Someone recently suggested that there needs to be SOME non-poker content in this blog that exposes some personal information about me. That and it can't be boring. Well, how do I do BOTH? Gez.

Last night, instead of playing poker, I had a conference call with my publisher. We are co-designing the new Pirates board-game, based on the Sid Meijer PC game. My game design firm is pretty competent and has a published title to its credit (see links). In the past, I also posted a blog entry about board games for poker players (see post from July 21st).

Anyway, the owner of Eagle Games is a long time poker player. We had a LONG discussion about ring play vs. tournament play. Interesting that he claims there is little difference in how you are successful. Yet, he is a successful ring player who rarely cashes in a tournament. To me, I am a much better tournament player than a cash player (a recent theme here). I can see the field in the context of the endgame. In a ring game, there is no closed context and thus harder to apply pressure in the same way.

A side conversation was interesting. I told him I cashed in my last 3 tournaments and I had stopped "my experiments". When he asked me to elaborate, I exlpained I have been trying to create situations and then experiment with what works in those situations. (it was a -EV bankroll experience).

What I learned:
1. It is not a good idea to play drawing hands at the very start because each chip is still too valuable in the context of stack size. I need to win a couple of hands first with pairs or better on the flop.

2. Once I get past step 1, I can limp with almost any two cards through level 2. So look out. This allows me to play cheap hands for a flop AND establishes a loose image that no one will witness again starting at level 3. But, in order to continue in these family pots, you need to hit the flop hard. 2 pair or better.

3. Once level 3 kicks in, I assess my stack size compared to my STARTING stack (not to avg). M and Q are not important to me yet. I start to take notes on players in my head and watch the "flow" of the table. Drawing hands are situational now. I am looking to identify players who will draw and/or overplay holdings.

4. At level 5, I start following M and Q. I am also watching for opportunities to take advantage of advertised weakness. My favorite is when a player bets the flop and then makes the same size bet on the turn. I usually interpret this as weakness and re-raise. ALso, I will no longer limp FTA into any hand. If I am coming in, I am raising 3xBB.

5. At the higher levels, I start really putting more weight on my OPPONENTS holdings in a hand. This is where the good stuff starts. My goal for each hand:
a. make good decisions
b. get your money in when you are ahead
c. Dont play AJo, 56s, or 99 in EP.
(this can be funny, if you think back to Steve Martin in the Jerk and repeat the list, replacing option c with 'see a doctor and get rid of it')

So, now back to board games. I have always been a pretty good board game player. Why? Because I could convince other players to take actions that help them alot but still help me a little. In poker, this skill has not been of much use to me. So, instead I am working on what makes a good trap. Its not about having a monster. Its about making smart bets when you know your ahead.

What makes a good trap? Getting a player to invest money in a losing hand. Nevermind all that TV stuff about "setting a trap". It's BS most of the time. The secret is identifying your opponents cards. Did you see day 1 of the WSOP when the veteran (?) raises 20xBB with AA. Farhah calls with 33. Why? This is VERY important. 1. He has won some chips, allowing him to play a drawing hand. 2. He KNOWS the other player has AA. There is NO OTHER holding he can have here. 3. He is getting 9-1 on his call.

"WHAT?" you say. "more like 1-1". No. Listen up. When you KNOW your opponents cards, all implied odds can be included explicitly. Sammy knows that if he hits the set (7.5 to 1) he will BREAK this guy (9-1 payoff). Get it? It ONLY works if you are SURE about your opponents cards and you can afford the flop stack wise. Most players would have folded the 33. Me too. Not anymore. I put it all together now. When you can put your opponents holding together, you take control of the hand. Period.

Ever notice when your watching on TV, where one player takes away the initiative from the other? That happens when the player has determined his opponents holding and now can control the action. He can do this, even if he is behind.

"Learn it, know it, live it" -Brad Hamilton (wearing his Captain Hook uniform) in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.


Joe said...

Great post.
The Farha explaination, nice.

Roberto Iza Vald├ęs said...
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