Saturday, December 31, 2005

Recognition from the general public

I end the year with the smug satisfaction that my reputation as a poker player is now gaining nationwide momentum. It has even reached this relatively obscure Florida-based blogger, who now joins my rapidly expanding fan base.

Thank you, Florida-based blogger.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Bunching in hold'em

In the 2+2 thread "Button play: Number of folds matter?", Mason Malmuth posted the following on 27 August 1997 :

The bunching factor is the idea that as people throw away their hands it tends to leave a remaining deck that is better in "good" cards. Years ago I did some programming on draw lowball and was able to show that the bunching factor did have a noticeable effect once many hands were passed. However, in hold 'em I have always felt that the bunching factor's effect would be insignificant. This is because you are only dealt two cards as opposed to five and many of the hands that you throw away will consist of a "good" card and a "bad" card.

Recently, Wayne Russel did some programming for us and he essentially verified our results. That is despite what you may occasionally read elsewhere, the bunching factor has essentially no effect in hold 'em. Put another way, if you are on the button in a full game and everyone passes, the distribution of hand strength that you will face from the blinds will be approximately the same as the distribution of hand strength you would face if you were on the button in a three handed game.

A few months later JP Massar came along and showed that according to his simulations, there was evidence of bunching in Hold'em ("Bunching in Texas Holdem: Simulation Results", 25 January 1999) :
Depending on your assumptions about how the other players play, there is a 'bunching' effect in Hold 'em, as I will show via simulation results below.

Whether or not the magnitude of this effect is enough to influence how you play is left to the reader, or for further analysis by experts...

I confirmed this in a separate post in the same thread :
Nice work. I can also confirm the "bunching" effect for a sim I just completed, the assumptions being that the 7 players before the button play S&M Groups 1-5 only.

Probability of button having Group 1-5 hand = 0.181

Probability of button having Group 1-5 hand given all 7 players folded before him = 0.197

Like you, I leave the interpretation of these results to the readers.

So while the "bunching effect" was there, we were hesitant to conclude whether it was exploitable or not. Mason Malmuth has just written a very interesting article in the December 2005 issue of 2+2 Internet Magazine in which he shows how bunching can be effectively used in hold'em :
Last time we looked at why the idea of bunching, as it is normally used, is fairly worthless in hold 'em games. That is if you are at a full table, are in late position, and everyone has passed to you, it does not mean that the chances of running into a strong hand have gone up over what standard probability would dictate. Part of the reason for this is that hands that players normally fold are made up of big and little cards, while other hands which are frequently played are not necessarily made up of just large cards. Today let's look at a couple of different examples.

Suppose you are in late position and hold

3c 3d

There is a raise by a player in early position, and three other players call him. Should you call the two bets cold?

First notice that you almost always need to flop a set if you play to win the pot, and that it is 7½-to-1 to flop a set with a standard 52-card deck. Furthermore, just because you do catch that third trey, it doesn't mean that you have a guaranteed winner. We have all flopped sets and have gotten them cracked, and that's not any fun. So what this means is that your implied odds when you flop a set and win need to be higher than 7½-to-1. I think that 10-to-1 is probably about right.

Notice that in this spot you're likely to get immediate odds from the pot of approximately 5-to-1 since there is blind money in there as well as the other four active players, and one or more of the remaining players, including the blinds, may come. So this means you need to make on average an additional five double-sized bets those times you flop a set and have your hand hold up for this call to be correct. In many games that seems like a tough order to me, so the obvious conclusion is that the pair of treys should quickly hit the muck.

But not so fast. Let's think a little about bunching. Since the initial raiser is in early position, he should have a good hand which probably does not include a trey. Furthermore, by the same argument, none of the callers should hold a trey. Of course a trey could be out there in the discarded hands, but in this situation there are fewer of them than normal. So it seems to me that it is a little more likely to flop your set here than it would typically be. My educated guess is that instead of being 7½- to-1 to catch that third trey, a better estimate is more like 5-to-1.

This means that your implied odds don't need to be 10-to-1 to make this hand playable. Indeed 7-to-1 might be acceptable, and that should be easily achievable those times you make a set and it holds up. So I'm definitely playing any small pair here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The old KK quandary...

Finally, some sorely lacking poker content. Shelly recently posted an interesting hand she played at the Trump, Atlantic City :

What would you do?

I'm going to leave out most of the information regarding reads I had on my opponents. If you care to respond, please explain what you'd do and why. I'll update with my reads and what really happened.

You're at Trump in the 2/5 $200 max NL game. You've got about 4x the max buy-in in front of you (800). A tilting short-stacked player limps ahead of you (his stack: <75). You raise 5x the big blind to 25 (standard raise for this table is 20). You have KK. Action folds to the big blind, who pushes all in. He has you covered (ie. he's got more than 800 in chips in front of him). Tilting short-stack calls all-in.

What do you do? Call or fold?

I left the following comments to the above post :

For me, this is a clear fold. There is no need in putting the BB on a range of hands nor for any EV calculations. With only $25 invested in the pot, great confidence in my post-flop playing ability, and all the time in the world, I don't feel the need to risk my entire stack (four buy-ins) no matter what he's holding. And while I said before there's no need for any hand reading here, for the BB to risk $800 pre-flop there is a good chance that he has AA. But even if he has 93o, good luck to him. To be honest with you, I wouldn't even be interested in knowing what he had. This ain't no tournament. I'm folding. Next hand.

Of course if I only had $200 (one buy-in) in front of me, I would insta-call.
Absent any other concrete information, this is an automatic fold for me. The last person I want to tangle with is the other large stack, unless of course I'm certain that I have a substantial advantage. So yes, I'd call in a heartbeat if I had AA. And if he showed 66, I'd call with 77. But here, I muck the kings, face down and very quickly.

Shelly has since posted a follow-up in which she outlines the reasoning behind her play and I urge you to spend the time to read it as I will not repeat it here.

Great post and thanks for sharing, Shelly. I've already outlined my opinion in the comments section (above) and even though I disagree with her, I believe there is no right or wrong decision here, just a matter of preference. This becomes even more apparent after we are informed of Big-stack's previous predilection for the all-in move.

Without trying to proselytize, allow me to provide some further food for thought vis-a-vis probabilities and stack sizes. The odds Shelly states of having a KK vs. AA matchup do not take into account conditional probability. Given the size of his bet, his penchant for all-ins notwithstanding, the probability of his holding AA could lie in a subjective range anywhere from 20% to 80%. She has given us his holdings (AK twice, AQ, JJ, and TT) for his previous all-in moves. But what did he have on the previous Degree All-In Moments when Shelly had raised 5 BB? Is there even a data set? So her perceived edge may not have been as high as she initially thought, perhaps 60% favorite or even less.

Let's assume she was 60% favorite. Poker is all about applying small edges repeatedly. I can apply small edges repeatedly when my stack size is similar to most other players'. Forgetting the smaller pots for the moment, each all-in with me as 60% favorite will, in the long run, yield me $x. No problem, bring 'em on. When I have my little edge, there will be no shortage of opportunities to make $x. And the law of averages will take care of me. But what happens when I'm the large stack and there's only one other at the table? Sure, my expected gain per showdown is $y, where y>>x, but I'd like to be able to apply this edge repeatedly, not just once every 20 sessions, or how often it is that I and at least one other soul are fortunate enough to quadruple up. Naturally there is a point at which I'm willing to turn a blind eye to this social inequity, but I'd have to be 80% favorite or better. I'm assuming that I'm playing at the highest level my bankroll permits and that the maximum buy-in is capped.

Shelly's point of view is legitimate in that poker is one long session. She's young and has more time than I do.

Only 3 more days...

I can hardly wait for New Year's Eve.

Look what I won in a Sit N Go!


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

For those who need reminding...

poetic license n. The liberty taken by an artist or a writer in deviating from conventional form or fact to achieve a desired effect.

Monday, December 26, 2005

SnailTrax RIP

It is with great regret that I report that Daddy has pulled the plug on his blog, SnailTrax. His contributions to poker blogging in general, and animal husbandry in particular, will be missed.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Rock bottom?

If someone hadn't been so selfish and had sent me their winning SnG strategy, I wouldn't be spending this Christmas Eve singing carols for handouts outside the Applebee's on Desert Inn and Maryland Parkway. Where is the selfless idealism, the willingness to lend a helping hand, the spirit of sharing? Only in movies and blogs, that's where.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Poker according to Felicia

I currently subscribe to 141 poker blogs. As I am limited to 30 minutes of internet access per day, this necessitates culling and skimming on my part when going through the dozens of new posts each day.

Felicia has an interesting slant on the future of poker. It is a very long post but I didn't skip a word. I'm sure you won't either.

Happy Birthday, Mr Subliminal

This Wednesday, December 21 2005, marks the first anniversary of this blog. Ironically it wasn't a poker blogger who inspired me to start this little venture, but rather a friend living in Tampa, Florida, who had just started a blog of his own. It has been an enriching experience, due in no small part to the supportive community of poker bloggers I happen to be a part of. I never in my wildest dreams thought that one day I would have a paying sponsor, and I am grateful to Full Tilt Poker for the opportunity.

Here's to another year!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Radio Days

This morning I'm tinkering around with my crystal radio set, as I'm wont to do on days when I don't feel like getting out of bed. I love catching broadcasts from all over the world and today I land on WQAM, apparently a Miami-based sports station. Some talk-show host called Neil is taking a call from some guy called Bob. They talk for about 10 minutes and I find it rivetting. Then some music and I fall asleep for a few minutes, awaken and try tuning in to another random radio frequency.

Monday, December 12, 2005

You gotta love the poker bloggers...

It's not easy being penniless in Vegas, especially when you're out of work. So when a certain blogger invited me to join him today for a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon, I jumped at the opportunity. We took off in idyllic weather and as I had taken this trip before, I felt no shame in dozing off.

I awoke to the magnificent sight of the approaching West Rim of the Grand Canyon and to the surprising thrusts of the aforementioned blogger who had by now unbuckled my seat belt, opened the side door and pushed me halfway out of the chopper. Any struggle was futile and I decided to conserve my strength by trying to maneuver myself down onto the landing rails, where I could ride out the rest of the journey. I knew I was the victim of some kind of prop bet, what with all the degenerate bloggers in town, so I didn't take it personally.

Apparently news of this little escapade had reached most local TV stations, as a throng of reporters were waiting at the tarmac for our return. The last 10 miles were the hardest for me, as by then I was literally hanging with both arms from the rails.

Who was the mysterious blogger? What exactly was the prop bet and why was I singled out? Who cares? All I know is that I start with
Cirque du Soleil on Wednesday!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

What a blast!

The general consensus seems to be that the only thing disappointing about yesterday's WPBT Winter Classic was that I didn't win it. I was eliminated in 32nd place by Ryan, whose KJ took down my AQ. StudioGlyphic emerged victorious among the 107 bloggers who participated - well done Phillip!

Bill Rini is to be congratulated for organizing an event that proved to be a huge success, with PokerProf, Linda, CJ and others lending a hand. PokerStars added $2,000 to the prize pool and, together with Full Tilt Poker, gave away hats, t-shirts and other goodies. Guest speakers were Barry Greenstein, Charlie Shoten and Michael Craig, all of whom made interesting presentations. To round everything off, the Imperial Palace poker staff were both professional and friendly.

I met many wonderful bloggers and will not list them by name - there are too many. Even though I made a conscious effort to introduce myself to as many new faces as possible, I am aware that there were many bloggers I didn't meet. Hopefully next time.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


I awoke in a cold sweat, unsure if it was a nightmare or reality. I still had no airline tickets for the WPBT Winter Classic in Vegas. Would it be too late to make a booking? I looked at my watch but it wasn't on my wrist. What was happening?

Then it slowly dawned on me. I actually live in Vegas and my watch was in the pawn shop. I smacked my forehead and went back to sleep.

Monday, December 05, 2005


Day Three: The Final Table Takes Shape
Michael Gracz had a quick fall on day three, busting out in the first round when Don Zewin moved all in after a flop of
A 9 4. Gracz called with the A K (pair of aces), but Zewin showed pocket nines (9 9) for middle set. Another ace on the turn gave Gracz four outs to survive, but the river card was the 2. Gracz was out in 28th place, but only the top 27 received POY points. Somewhere, John Phan let out a sigh of relief as his quest for the Player of the Year award survived another scare.

"Tournament Report : Doyle Brunson North American Poker Championship" by BJ Nemeth, from the latest Card Player magazine, November 23, 2005 (Vol. 18, No. 23)

BJ Nemeth does a commendable job with his tournament writeups for Card Player magazine. His proofreader, however, should be more alert. After the turn, Gracz has seven outs to survive and not four, as stated in the article.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

On target for 2005

As the above graph depicts, I have completely depleted my poker bankroll and am now living on fumes. I was hoping for a bout of positive variance to reverse the trend, but, alas, it was not to be. This makes the task of winning the upcoming WPBT Winter Classic even more crucial.