Archive Nov 2007: Possibly too level-headed

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Showing other people how I play so that they may beat me at pokah

In between taking a couple of days off (I always do this when I play so late it messes up my sleep schedule) I've been analyzing my play in the donkament and making several videos out of it. So far, I've got about a half hour of raw video, covering just under half the MTT, but it's by far the less juicy half so it looks like my next month Cardrunners schedule is covered early. (Gotta finish this before I head to Vegas on Monday - otherwise, I'm gonna be doing this in my friend's apartment rather than playing. Yuck!) The way I do these videos is actually fairly time-consuming, because I record every important hand and often need several takes to get the commentary right; so far it looks like it takes me about three hours to record one hour of video, not counting prepping the HH for the converter and fixing any crashes. It's definitely not something I'd do for free, but on the other hand, the after the fact play by play lets me rethink every major decision, which is a big help.

Flashback: once upon a time, I was a low to midstakes SNG player just going up to the 100's on Party with a pretty small bankroll. To make a long story short, I was cold-PM'd by Gigabet and asked to analyze the play of all his opponents in the 1K Steps that were just starting to go off at the time. I did that and prepped a couple of dozen detailed scouting reports on people playing the highest stakes games on the Internet at the time. I credit that task to getting me where I am today, transforming my game and making me take a giant leap in my thinking and abilities. CR, PXF and other training sites are a lot easier than poring over every hand that went to showdown for every player in a 10K sample, but I don't think you can beat something like that for getting into your opponents' heads. That's essentially what I'm forced to do when I make a big vid, and it's been doing a lot for my aggressiveness in MTT's since I started recording them.

One question on the topic I've gotten is "aren't you afraid that people will see your play and adapt?" Meh, not really. Most of my game is typical generic TAG, which can't really be exploited well short of 3 betting me light in certain spots, and most people don't pick those spots well so it doesn't even matter. Further, I can and do easily adapt to regulars, and I also have a couple of tricks I keep back even from the vids. It's just way harder to exploit a thinking TAG than a LAG in the same situations, since you can 3 bet LAG's light without being nearly as scared that they've got the nuts. (That isn't to say that good LAG play isn't better. I actually think it is, but it's so hard to do that only a handful of people can pull it off without crashing and burning somewhere.)


The good news about that win is that, coming when it does, it basically seals up another really good year on top of the last one. I've been extremely lucky in that I'm making as much as I would have in my former career path, while playing maybe 1/4 as much as I'd be working. Of the dozen or so people from law school and three good friends I keep in touch with two years later, only two are still on their first jobs, and three or four have already left the law (both are totally standard but still really icky given the amount of loans everyone's got). I'm by far the best story out of all those guys not gunning for partner, and while I have no idea how I got here, I'm definitely enjoying it.

With that win sealing the deal and living in Vegas in the summer taking that idea off the table (how many roaches can you seriously have in one backyard? Damn), I'm officially looking for a condo with my wife. It looks like places I'd like to live in in NYC are about 300-500K depending on the number of rooms and the location; the former's not a problem, but for the latter I'd have to win another donkament somewhere to be totally secure. I plan to solve this by getting there a bunch more times. I can't stress this enough: to be a true tournament professional (that's "donkamenteur" in French), it's very important that you suck out as often as humanly possible.

In conclusion and/or summarizing this entire entry:

1)I'll write some more from Vegas
2)lol donkaments

Tournaments are *so* silly

click to enlarge the image

Step 1: suck out hardcore ~5 times
Step 2: play pretty well
Step 3: set up, then lose a big flip for 2/3 the chips in play 3 handed
Step 4: massively profit anyway and feel pretty good about it

trip report here/CR vid coming eventually.

Tournaments *are* silly

Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving :)

After Sunday, I took another break this week for obvious holiday-related reasons - well, that, and too many good videogames have come out lately. So, today, I wanted to play some poker, spent 2 hours at the 20/40 razz tables on FTP and made 2K. Razz is remarkably easy when you run hot and play better than them; why aren't tournaments more like razz, especially in terms of running hot? :(

I always hate writing about this game because a)I don't know who's reading this, and b)there's so little in print about it that any tidbit of information I release is bound to wind up improving someone's game a little too much. The last time I wrote a couple of posts on a particular subcategory of poker, I singlehandedly made it several times harder over the course of the next year; it's still possible to crush satellites more than any other type of MTT, but nobody's as terrible as they used to be. On the other hand, razz makes for some incredibly easy examples of good hand reading/poker (just ask Sklansky, who uses it in every single book he's ever written) and might also be the most profitable midstakes game available online. (Hell, it might be the most profitable high limit game, too. There are a half dozen 200/400 regulars on FTP, and I know for a fact at least two of them are pretty bad. If I was a shade better and/or properly bankrolled...)

Why is everyone so bad? Very briefly, it's because the aggression revolution that transformed poker since '04 hasn't made it to razz yet, and the one book on it - Sklansky on Poker - is pretty much the most misinterpreted poker book on the market, with everyone involved taking its contents in the most weak/tight light possible. Yes, Sklansky says to call lots of good hands on third instead of raising in order to exploit your edge on fifth and later...but he doesn't say to play passively, and taking that the wrong way makes people give away pot after pot after pot. I would love to go into more detail, because third street in razz is probably the worst played and least understood street in any card game with multiple betting rounds, but somebody's going to have to pay me to write a book in order for that to happen. It's too valuable.

So why is the title of this blog post 'tournaments are silly' when it's pretty much a tease about a game no one plays? It's because donkaments and razz have one thing in common: almost nobody playing either them 'gets' poker. Don't get me wrong - a number of the FTP regs are pretty decent at razz, and the top MTT pros are very good at MTT's. But very few of those people who do not also play cash games understand poker as a whole. They don't make thin value bets, don't understand pot odds except in the context of their game(s), think that 'waiting for a better spot' means giving away pot after pot after goes on. Even on Cardrunners, people don't really understand that when you're getting 1.4:1 on a call when you're a small favorite against someone's 8xBB pushing range, the result is not a 'thin' call and it's got nothing to do with 'calling an all in with A4' or whatever. IMO, in order to 'get' poker, you have to intuitively understand just what your edges are and how to take them, and very few people not playing NL cash/nosebleed limit/HS PLO really grok any of that.

A pretty basic razz concept that gets my point across: as I said, Sklansky says that it's worth just calling a nice hand instead of reraising on third if it makes the other guy play bad on fourth (by calling too much in a small pot), and worth doing the same thing on fourth if it makes them play bad on fifth. But wait - what do people do really, really badly in razz? They take lots of cards off as way too giant dogs on big bet streets. So, how do you exploit that? Well, you can either give away a large number of small pots on fourth to press your edge in a now medium pot on can bloat pots on third with the best hand, get to fifth as - most likely - a big equity favorite, and then get them to call as a big dog over and over again because "the pot is large". This is what Sklansky actually does say to do (just not in so many words), but his advice hasn't been followed, because the people playing the game refuse to raise without the nuts. Their mentality is the same as the people refusing to make pot odds calls on CR, and it likely just kills their results.

BTW, I don't claim to murder those games playing this way, but I'm not even that good at razz - just poker - and I'm already a slight to decent winner at the highest razz games below nosebleed. I hear I'm also supposed to be pretty good at donkaments, but they're silly. Still, I plan on winning a couple of them at the Bellagio next month.

Until then I'll probably just play a bunch of razz and Sundayments.

After I played today

lol tournaments. Jeez, can I stop losing with AA to Ax for a week? I think that's three in a row now. :(

Oh well. In lieu of anything resembling a deep run, at least I've got time to play videogames. In the meantime, here's the hand analysis video I promised:

Hand analysis video

(This should be a live link by tomorrow morning...blurry, but watchable. Why does Google/Youtube blur quality so much?)

Before I play today

I'm gonna set a little goal for myself. Namely, I'm gonna re-read part 10 of Bond's post and stop griping about variance :)

Check out the whole series if you haven't already; it's very good and the type of thing I would love to churn out if I had time. (Which I do. I'm just hideously lazy.) Seriously, though, it's some great stuff.

Okay, on to serious business. I've played okay this week, with few results but an occasional thin value bet (I can always tell when I play well; it's when I'm surprised to get a 'thin' bet called by a better hand and surprised to double up through a much worse hand in the same tourney. Oh yeah, and when I pull off some dumb bluff...wait, no, that's when I play 'inspired'. "Inspired" in poker is often a word that actually means 'suicidally dumb, except they're worse'.) Of course, I hope to change that today, but since we're talking about poker, breaking even would be OK, too.

Good news on two other fronts: my CR videos have been well received, and I'm making some extras for some magazine or other that wants a few. At the same time, it looks like I'm joining Team Wafflecrush for live events for at least the next eight months, which means I'll be playing in at least one of those weird "gigantic buyin events where everyone plays inconceivably horribly" things a month for a while. This has the joint effect of getting me out of the house and letting me experience the thrills of slightly different-looking casinos on every possible continent, in addition to possibly winning a lot of money and/or losing it for other people. Hopefully, it's the first one!

Another minor promise to myself: in addition to making another video tonight, I'm gonna find some hand worth posting and then get an audio clip of me dissecting it on here within a day or so.
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