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Author Topic: Ornery U: Learning Poker
Paladine
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This is the first of the threads to be spawned by the "Ornery U" idea, where some of our members offer to share a bit of their specialized knowledge with the rest of the forum. I want to start with a few ground rules for the thread (and I hope those to follow. Then I'll go on to answer KE's questions. I'd encourage anyone interested to please contribute more questions (even the very simplest). I hope you enjoy the thread. [Smile]

[ February 21, 2008, 04:41 PM: Message edited by: OrneryMod ]

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KnightEnder
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Paladine, thanks for the info.

If I start playing more online should I use one of those systems that calculates other players tendencies, etc. DO you use one? (Seems like a lot of the players on the poker boards do.) And if you do, or I should, which one would you recomend?

KE

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martel
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Paladine, could you start somewhere just explaining how to play? I know value of hands, etc, and have a rudimentary idea of when to raise, call, etc, but really not much idea of what to do.
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Rallan
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quote:
That is a lot more obvious if you are sitting around an actual table. Another possibility is that some of your opponents are using a computer program to play; I do not know how good the poker programs are yet, but this could be a problem.
On the computer programs side of thing, it should be noted that nobody has ever written a bot that can kick ass at poker. Playing poker well doesn't just involve a knowledge of the odds (which any computer can handle) and a willingness to play sub-optimally for the occasional bluff (which you could get a computer to do by making its behavior a bit random now and then). It also involves being able to make accurate guesses about the behavior of the other players, and that's one thing a poker bot just can't do. If you've been playing someone long enough, you can get a feel for when they're probably just bluffing, and for how much you can raise them without making them scared or suspicious. Computer programs just can't do this, and can be very easily beaten by experienced players (attempts to compensate for bluffing humans generally end up with a program that's either ridiculously cautious and easy to bluff, or completely random and easy to clean out whenever you get a good hand).

Basically, online poker sites don't ban bots because they're worried about honest players being ripped off, they ban bots to maintain appearances. Whoever runs a bot is trying to cheat, and even though bots don't work, you can't just let cheaters sit around playing all day without consequences.

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Rallan
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quote:
Originally posted by martel:
Paladine, could you start somewhere just explaining how to play? I know value of hands, etc, and have a rudimentary idea of when to raise, call, etc, but really not much idea of what to do.

It's a hard game to teach. You can teach anyone the rules of the game in a couple of minutes, and they'll get the hang of everything they're allowed to do after a few practice hands. But how to play well is a matter of experience. What sort of hands are unbeatably good, what sort of flops you shouldn't bluff on, how much you can raise without spooking the other players, how regularly you can bluff before everyone else gets wise, how to read other players.

Once you've got the rules and a rough idea of the probabilities figured out, your best bet is to just get out and play. Have poker nights with your buddies for small change. Find out if any of your local bars have a cheap - or better yet, free - poker tournament now and then, and have a go at it.

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Paladine
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quote:
If I start playing more online should I use one of those systems that calculates other players tendencies, etc. DO you use one? (Seems like a lot of the players on the poker boards do.) And if you do, or I should, which one would you recomend?
I'm not *quite* sure what you mean by a "system". I tend to make certain assumptions based on peoples' actions (if I have a strong opponent who raises from a certain position I can infer certain things about the range of hands he's likely to be playing and act accordingly on that and subsequent streets). Can you try and ask a slightly more narrow question (or a few) so I can see what you're getting at a bit better?

quote:
On the computer programs side of thing, it should be noted that nobody has ever written a bot that can kick ass at poker. Playing poker well doesn't just involve a knowledge of the odds (which any computer can handle) and a willingness to play sub-optimally for the occasional bluff (which you could get a computer to do by making its behavior a bit random now and then). It also involves being able to make accurate guesses about the behavior of the other players, and that's one thing a poker bot just can't do. If you've been playing someone long enough, you can get a feel for when they're probably just bluffing, and for how much you can raise them without making them scared or suspicious. Computer programs just can't do this, and can be very easily beaten by experienced players (attempts to compensate for bluffing humans generally end up with a program that's either ridiculously cautious and easy to bluff, or completely random and easy to clean out whenever you get a good hand).
While the best LHE players certainly maintain a significant edge over computers, I have heard reports of computers beating limits as high as 30/60 or 50/100. The vast, vast majority of players are weaker than winners at these fairly high stakes, so I'd be careful about dismissing computers out of hand. They certainly are capable of beating the vast majority of poker players, even those who are fairly serious about their game. The programmer who recently invented a computer which plays perfect checkers has announced that the next game he'll attempt to solve will be heads up Limit Hold 'Em. While I'm not certain he's likely to do it, the fact that he can very likely come close is testament to the growing abilities of poker programs.

You used an interesting (and somewhat complicated) word in describing a type of poker play: "optimal". One interesting thing to consider is what really makes a play "optimal" in a game like poker. It's not quite as clearly discernable as in a game like checkers or chess. That could be fairly fertile grounds for discussion should anyone care to explore a bit.

quote:
Basically, online poker sites don't ban bots because they're worried about honest players being ripped off, they ban bots to maintain appearances. Whoever runs a bot is trying to cheat, and even though bots don't work, you can't just let cheaters sit around playing all day without consequences.
Yes and no. A very large part of it is about appearances. Another significant element to consider is that winning players are a poker site's natural enemies, where losing players are its natural friends. People who have programs multi-tabling low and middle stakes games tend to make money and cash it out. That's not what poker sites really want to see. They want a bunch of break-even players trading money back and forth while giving the site a piece each time, and having to deposit again when they bust out. There are certain counter-arguments to be made, but winning players are a net minus for sites since they remove money from the circular flow rather than adding to it. I'm not disagreeing that sites are much more interested in protecting their reputations than making sure the player doesn't get ripped off, just expanding a bit on their other motivations. [Wink]

quote:
Paladine, could you start somewhere just explaining how to play? I know value of hands, etc, and have a rudimentary idea of when to raise, call, etc, but really not much idea of what to do.
I certainly could start with some general rules and concepts. Firstly, I'd strongly suggest that you start with Limit Hold 'Em (despite the fact that NL and tournament poker are much more popular and "fun") because the skills you learn in that game translate most easily into other games. LHE gives you a solid footing in poker theory and translates more easily into Omaha 8, Stud, or Stud Hi-Lo, which also employ fixed limit betting structures.

The best book on the subject for beginners of which I'm aware is "Small Stakes Hold 'Em", by Sklansky, Malmouth, and Miller. It was a really revolutionary book when it first came out, and transformed the low and mid stakes limit metagame. While players are now significantly stronger than when SSHE came out, it remains a wonderful "textbook" for a beginning player.

I'll put up a few general rules and ideas as well. I have a few busy days in front of me, however, so I hope you'll be a bit patient with me.

quote:
It's a hard game to teach. You can teach anyone the rules of the game in a couple of minutes, and they'll get the hang of everything they're allowed to do after a few practice hands. But how to play well is a matter of experience. What sort of hands are unbeatably good, what sort of flops you shouldn't bluff on, how much you can raise without spooking the other players, how regularly you can bluff before everyone else gets wise, how to read other players.

Once you've got the rules and a rough idea of the probabilities figured out, your best bet is to just get out and play. Have poker nights with your buddies for small change. Find out if any of your local bars have a cheap - or better yet, free - poker tournament now and then, and have a go at it.

I absolutely agree that there is no substitute for experience. I'd suggest going to one of the major poker sites and depositing a small amount of money and playing there. This allows you to play any time you want for as long as you want for whatever stakes you want. Games as small as .02/.04, where a standard buyin would be $1-$2, are offered on the vast majority of websites out there. Play money games are also offered where you can play for free, but I don't encourage using these for long.

They're fine to play for a few minutes to get a feel for the mechanics of the game, but once you know what you're doing you should play for at least a tiny amount of money. It'll make both you and your opponents care at least a tiny bit more about what you're doing, which will make the game more interesting and rewarding. Plus, why not make a little pocket change while gaining a valuable skill? [Wink] If anyone's serious about learning but doesn't have the means to deposit a bit, send me an e-mail and I'll probably be open to sending you a few bucks to get you started.

Poker nights might be a great idea depending upon what your pool of friends is like. I gained a lot of my early experience from playing poker with a very competitive group of friends. Today I'd be very hesitant to play with any of my non-professional friends, however, as I wouldn't consider it ethical. If you have friends who are also interested in the game and want to learn with you, there's absolutely no better teacher than competition.

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Paladine
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Alright, things are a bit slow for a bit, so I'll try and squeeze in a little "lecture" here for those of you who are just starting out. I want to start first by talking about some stuff that's not really technical poker material. Just a few insights about how to learn and how to think. This stuff's a lot more important than the technical aspect of the game.

1. An Admonition Against Results-Oriented Thinking

My grandmother used to have a magnet on her fridge with a prayer on it which might be familiar to some of you "Lord, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to help those I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." Religious or not, I always thought this was an extremely valuable sentiment for people in general and gamblers in particular.

In poker, as in life, we find ourselves in an environment full of uncertainty, where our decisions have a limited impact and a great many things lie outside our control. In such an environment, it's easy to judge the quality of our decisions by their eventual outcome. It's easy to conclude that because things are going well for us that we must be making good decisions, or that because things are going poorly we must be making bad decisions.

To judge our decisions by their outcome is to fail to understand the limitations of our ability to control things. Our task is to make the best decisions we can with the information we have available and to have the serenity to accept whatever the consequences of those decisions might be. This enables us to continue playing sharp whether we meet with great success or great adversity (and anyone who plays well for a long amount of time will surely experience both). So when you're reviewing your play, ignore the results. The fact that you won X or lost Y in a given week or month is irrelevent.

2. Arrogance is Anathema to Learning


"These people are such donkeys. I don't even need to think to beat them."

I hear things like this almost every time I sit at a poker table. There are a lot of relatively bad players out there, and a lot of decent players use their opponents' ineptitude as an excuse to turn off their brains. In doing so, they deprive themselves of valuable learning opportunities and inhibit their own development. The point of the game, after all, isn't just to be better than a given opponent or set of opponents; the point is to make the best decisions available to us given the information we have. And you simply can't do that when you've written off your opponents as idiots and the experience as a fundamentally unproductive one.

Earlier I indicated that "optimal play" would be an area fertile for discussion should people choose to explore it. One hint I'd start by offering is that, in most situations, the best play revolves around knowing your opponents' exploitable tendencies and adopting exploitable tendencies of your own which are best suited to punish them. Making the best play isn't about doing what looks best in a vacuum; it's about knowing what your opponents are going to do and figuring out how to punish them. And you can't know how to do that without paying attention and thinking.

All learning and human thought rely heavily upon pattern recognition. When we play any set of opponents, we can learn patterns which are going to apply in different situations down the road. The more different sets of people you play with and talk with, the more patterns you're going to have in your brain. If I were to sit down and play with a table full of you guys, I'd have some things to learn, much in the same way I have some things to learn when I sit at a table of world-class players.

If I approach all my tables as a student of the game looking for answers, I'm going to play better and learn more than if I approach them as being beneath my interest. This is a common problem I notice in high-stakes players. They reach the top of the game by being engaged learners, and fall quickly off by thinking they know all the answers. Learning is a constant, lifelong process.

3.Discipline is More Important Than Ability

I went through a month or two last year where I went from having a bankroll of about $500,000 to being flat broke. I was playing some of the best poker of my life during this period of time. So what gives?

I'd been playing so well and running so well for the past few months that I developed a feeling of invulnerability. I'd broken through from the 100/200 level to the 500/1000 level in a few short months. I'd beaten virtually every big name in online LHE over the past few weeks. So I decided to take a shot at some of the strongest heads-up players in the world at 1000/2000, the only game offered online which exceeded my bankroll. The fall was sudden and, in hindsight, utterly predictable.

In my early days of playing, I'd adhered to very strict "bankroll rules". I didn't let myself play any game for which I didn't have 300 big bets. So in order to play a 5/10 game, I'd need a $3000 bankroll. As I started playing higher and my edge over my opponents decreased and the variance (swings) in the game increased, my bankroll requiremements should have become more stringent. 500 bets. A minimum of 1000 bets for a game like 1000/2000, and probably more.

But instead my arrogance and lack of discipline made me loosen my requirements, and I wound up going broke as a result. I'm certainly not alone in having this experience. Virtually every top player, and the vast majority of those who don't make it that far, have lost all their money despite playing much better than ther opponents. Discipline is much more important than technical ability. A decent player with solid discipline can make a good living playing poker. A genius who can't control himself is going to be broke.

[ February 21, 2008, 11:58 PM: Message edited by: Paladine ]

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OceanRunner
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As a novice player, I'd like some criticism on the techniques I've adopted so far and advice on how to improve on them. So far we have just been playing no-limit Texas Hold'Em. We're playing for money, albeit very small sums of money.

First of all... when I look at my first two cards, I generally fold if I don't have at least an Ace-King or a high pair (tens and up), although I also stay in if the cards look fortuitious to me (for instance, I got a 3 and 4 of diamonds the other day, though that might develop into something). In general though, I still with my A-K, high pair rule, unless I'm small or big blind, in which case if everyone checks I stay in to see if anything develops.

I was thinking, since I play with the same folks every week so they know I'm a pretty conservative player like that, that if I'm going to be like, the last better, and everyone around me checks before the flop, that if I came out with big bet then, like 5x the blind, then I could probably push everyone out and just collect that small pot at the begining more often than not? Does that make sense as a strategy?

Another question - I've been trying to avoid the particular novice mistakes my fellow rookies make (like one guy rides every pair into the ground, he'll have two 3's and he will take that all the way even with enormous pot odds), but I think I'm making my own whole et. [Razz] I tend to bet small, play it slow, and I feel like I get pushed off or intimdated off a pot pretty easily when people bet big. So, how do you know when to actually cut and run?

Any other ideas on techniques and strategies to enhance my play as a beginner?

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Paladine
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quote:


First of all... when I look at my first two cards, I generally fold if I don't have at least an Ace-King or a high pair (tens and up), although I also stay in if the cards look fortuitious to me (for instance, I got a 3 and 4 of diamonds the other day, though that might develop into something). In general though, I still with my A-K, high pair rule, unless I'm small or big blind, in which case if everyone checks I stay in to see if anything develops.

Well, I don't want to give you a chart of hands to play, but I would like to look a little bit at the thought process behind whether to play a hand and how to proceed with it. You mentioned AK and pairs (particularly big pairs) as playable hands. What qualities do they have that make you play them, and how can those qualities suggest to us how their profitability might vary situationally?

You mentioned that the 34d (3-4 of diamonds) looked fortuitous (the word that knocked me out of the spelling bee in 8th grade, when I accidentally added an extra "it" to the spelling). Think a little bit about that hand and what kind of situations arise when you play it. After the flop, a hand like that is going to play very differently from a hand like AK or JJ. That means that we need to treat it differently preflop.

After you think a bit about the hands themselves, I'd like you to think a little bit about other factors that go into deciding how to play a hand. One of the most important and least understood (by beginners) concepts is "position", or when you have to act relative to your opponents. During your examination of different types of hands, you'll realize that certain hands are only playable under certain circumstances. That 34d is a lot more picky than a pair of kings. Once you think a bit about the power of position, you'll start to see a relationship between the type of hand you're holding, the position you occupy relative to your opponents, and the course of action you should adopt.

quote:

I was thinking, since I play with the same folks every week so they know I'm a pretty conservative player like that, that if I'm going to be like, the last better, and everyone around me checks before the flop, that if I came out with big bet then, like 5x the blind, then I could probably push everyone out and just collect that small pot at the begining more often than not? Does that make sense as a strategy?

And now you've hit upon another important aspect of a poker hand: how you're perceived by your opponents. Poker players refer to this as "image", and as you've suggested, it is something to be taken advantage of. You should be conscious at all times of whether the people around you think you're "tight" (unlikely to play or show strength without a strong holding) or "loose" (liable to bluff and play speculative or marginal hands aggressively). Your most profitable plays will usually be those which run opposite your image. "Loose" players get strong hands just as often as "tight" players, but their strong hands get paid off a ton more because their opponents give them less credit.

"Tight" players, on the other hand, are going to get paid less on their strong holdings. In return, they're not going to be faced with as many difficult situations and "variance", or "risk". They're also going to have the opportunity to run bluffs which tight players couldn't dream of. If the rest of the table is sure you're not going to make a big move without a monstrous hand, you have a situation where you're going to periodically be able to take down a big pot without a hand at all.

quote:
Another question - I've been trying to avoid the particular novice mistakes my fellow rookies make (like one guy rides every pair into the ground, he'll have two 3's and he will take that all the way even with enormous pot odds), but I think I'm making my own whole et. [Razz] I tend to bet small, play it slow, and I feel like I get pushed off or intimdated off a pot pretty easily when people bet big. So, how do you know when to actually cut and run?
Well, you need to look at the odds, and most often you need to do what they tell you. If you have a flush draw on the turn with a 20% chance of hitting, the pot is $20 and your opponent bets $3, a quick bit of math should tell you that you have an easy call to make, even as a 4-to-1 underdog. If you figure your opponent has a 70% chance to have you beat on the river and he bets $20 into a $20 pot, you need to give it up. Figuring out how likely to be beat you are and what your opponent is likely to be holding is hard, and takes a lot of time and practice.

It might help to think of a poker hand as a story your opponent is trying to tell you. Get inside his head, look at his actions, and see what they reveal. The first step in doing this is to understand your opponent, to know how he thinks. Once you do this, it becomes much easier to make sense of the story his actions are telling you, and to decide whether that story be fact or fiction.

If you want some examples of how I do this, I'd be happy to provide them.

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OceanRunner
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quote:
Well, I don't want to give you a chart of hands to play, but I would like to look a little bit at the thought process behind whether to play a hand and how to proceed with it. You mentioned AK and pairs (particularly big pairs) as playable hands. What qualities do they have that make you play them, and how can those qualities suggest to us how their profitability might vary situationally?
How do you measure the odds against the cost to see the flop or the next card? My first few games, I figured that with almost any hand that wasn't absolute crap, it was worth buying in to see the flop and see if I ended up with a playable hand. Now I just throw a lot of hands away and try to only stay in with a hand that looks strong, and get out if the flop doesn't come out well (unlike my first night that I was trying to play only strong hands, and stuck around with an AK hand even after the flop came out 3,4,8. brilliant... good thing we play for small stakes [Razz] ).

quote:
Think a little bit about that hand and what kind of situations arise when you play it. After the flop, a hand like that is going to play very differently from a hand like AK or JJ. That means that we need to treat it differently preflop.
I realize there are probably no hard and fast rules, but... I would think pre-flop, we wouldn't want to put any money onto something like my 3/4d, we'd wait for it to develop (which it did, by the way, the flop came out 2-5-6). With say, JJ, though, would you perhaps want to push right from the begining, given that it's a strong hand at the start of the round but may not remain so if you don't pick up another Jack or another pair?
quote:
Figuring out how likely to be beat you are and what your opponent is likely to be holding is hard, and takes a lot of time and practice.
This might be a silly question, but did you try to memorize odds when you first started playing poker or did you just do the math in your head until it became second nature?

The guy who win most of the hands in our nightly games (like, routinely walks away with everyone's buy-ins) told me that he can generally tell roughly what everyone's hand is. That's what I find interesting about poker - the combination of math and probability with reading people.
quote:
It might help to think of a poker hand as a story your opponent is trying to tell you. Get inside his head, look at his actions, and see what they reveal. The first step in doing this is to understand your opponent, to know how he thinks. Once you do this, it becomes much easier to make sense of the story his actions are telling you, and to decide whether that story be fact or fiction.

If you want some examples of how I do this, I'd be happy to provide them.

Yes, I'd definitely love to know. One of the good things about playing with the same folks every week is that I'm starting to pick up on how they play, but if I ever play with another group, I'd like to be able to figure them out faster. And of course I think there are a lot of subtleties I'm missing - I just get big things, like one of the guys will try to bluff one other player but will fold if there are two other players in the running and he isn't sure he has a strong hand. But I'm a long way from being able to estimate what hand another player is holding.
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Paladine
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Haven't forgotten about you, OR. I'm playing a bit this weekend, and I'll try to save/remember some hands to post up for you. [Smile]
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Paladine
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Ergh, *right* after saying I didn't forget OR, I proceeded to do exactly that. And now it's 4 AM and I've been going on virtually no sleep for a couple days, so I doubt I can post much in the way of good content. I'll try and get back to this in the afternoon though.
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RickyB
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I like to see cards, and people know it. Now, of course if I just threw away two blinds in a row cause I had no choice, maybe the next hand, if it sucks, I'll just throw it away, and I don't insist on playing every 2-4 Fortuna insists on afflicting me with. However, if they're suited... [Big Grin]

On one hand, this attitude increases your chance of going broke faster. On the other, it helps lure people into big pots when you have good cards.

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RickyB
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Problem with your great class, professor Pal, is that I never remember to open it while I'm watching WPT.

BTW, I on't think I've ever sai it here, but I used to totally scoff at the whole "poker on TV" idea...till a friend got me playing very ocassionally - enough to make it interesting. Anda lot of the guys are actually a lot cooler an not as seedy as my early impressions. My faves are daniel legraneau, david, phil ivey i dig. Of course I love it when a lady makes it to the final table. [Smile]

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Paladine
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And finally have a little bit of time. Alright, I'm going to run through a few scenarios which will provide you with opportunities to make decisions. Let me know what you'd do and why, and this'll give me (and you) some insight into your decision-making processes. Afterwards I'll give my answers along with some commentary. Anyone can feel free to post answers to these, not just OR.

You're playing $2/$5 No-Limit Hold 'Em at a major casino in Atlantic City. Your original buyin was $500, and you've managed to work your way up to $1200. Observant opponents have noticed that you're generally a tight, solid player.

1) Four people fold, and an old gentleman in middle position raises to $15. He seems to be a competent player, rarely entering pots and playing aggressively when he does so. He has about $1000 in chips. The remainder of the players (except the blinds) fold to you on the dealer button. Looking down, you see a pair of black tens. You re-raise to $45. The blinds fold. The older gentleman thinks for a moment, and then calls $30 more.

The flop comes Ah 3c 3h. Your opponent checks. How do you proceed on the flop, and what's your plan for the turn? Explain why you're doing what you're doing.

2) A few hours later your stack is roughly the same size. In early position, you look down at the K-Q of diamonds. You raise to $20. The next player to act looks to be in his early 20s. He's been playing aggressively but very competently, and you've gleaned from conversation that he pays his tuition by playing online. With a stack of about $1500, he raises to $80. Everyone else folds back around to you. How do you proceed, and why?

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Paladine
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quote:
Problem with your great class, professor Pal, is that I never remember to open it while I'm watching WPT.
Tournaments are very interesting, Ricky. If you're so inclined, feel free to try and remember situations that arise when you watch WPT and repost them, and I'll give a stab at offering some analysis and annotation. I'm actually probably going to be playing a tournament myself this weekend at the Borgata, so wish me luck. [Smile]

quote:
My faves are daniel legraneau, david, phil ivey i dig.
I've actually played a decent amount with Ivey, and a few times with Daniel. They're very tricky, active players, so they're a ton of fun to watch.
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RickyB
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That's pretty damn cool. Got any funny stories?

May Fortuna shine her light on thee. [Smile]

Oh, I forgot to mention - I love Chris "Jesus" Ferguson. Verrrrry cool cat. Texas Doily is like you'd want your gramps to be [Big Grin]

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RickyB
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quote:
1) Four people fold, and an old gentleman in middle position raises to $15. He seems to be a competent player, rarely entering pots and playing aggressively when he does so. He has about $1000 in chips. The remainder of the players (except the blinds) fold to you on the dealer button. Looking down, you see a pair of black tens. You re-raise to $45. The blinds fold. The older gentleman thinks for a moment, and then calls $30 more.

The flop comes Ah 3c 3h. Your opponent checks. How do you proceed on the flop, and what's your plan for the turn? Explain why you're doing what you're doing.

Well, since he seems to be a conservative player, his check may indicate that he's not thrilled with the flop. For me it's sweet as it gives me a very decent two-pair, 10 high. Still, it's not so awesome a hand, and there's already a kinda nice pot on the table, so I'm content to check and see the turn.

quote:
2) A few hours later your stack is roughly the same size. In early position, you look down at the K-Q of diamonds. You raise to $20. The next player to act looks to be in his early 20s. He's been playing aggressively but very competently, and you've gleaned from conversation that he pays his tuition by playing online. With a stack of about $1500, he raises to $80. Everyone else folds back around to you. How do you proceed, and why?
I hate laying down suited consecutive cards, let alone KQ. The guy is a bluffer. I'd see his 80 to see the flop.

[ August 06, 2008, 12:41 PM: Message edited by: RickyB ]

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RickyB
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Unbelievable hand.

This guy, Tony Licastro, went all in with 460K holding a K-10, unsuited. Now, the only guy who stuck around, Bill Gazes, had AA (and had also gone all in to chase out a third guy, holding 8-3c). So everybody's shocked at Tony's recklessness, yes?

Flop: Q-J-9 !!!

Now reckless Tony has a straight, Bill needs both other aces OR k-10 to win.

Turn: 5s

River (this is Fortuna being whimsical, yes?) a third A...

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Paladine
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Going to leave a little longer for OR and/or others to respond before I give answers or discuss further. If you want to play along and come upon this thread later, I'd encourage you to stop reading here until you come up with definite moves and explanations in your head.
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OceanRunner
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quote:
The flop comes Ah 3c 3h. Your opponent checks. How do you proceed on the flop, and what's your plan for the turn? Explain why you're doing what you're doing.
If he's checking here, I would think that he was either unhappy with what came out on the flop, or is trying to pull me along and get me to bet bigger. it's definitely taking a position of weakness. I wouldn't expect a serious player to just check if he had a strong hand, though - I would expect that if he were trying to string me along, he would throw out a small bet here.

Sooo... while I think two pair 3's and 10's is a great hand, it is not an awesome hand (is it? I don't think it is). I would put down an appropriately pot-sized bet, expecting that he might well fold.
quote:
A few hours later your stack is roughly the same size. In early position, you look down at the K-Q of diamonds. You raise to $20. The next player to act looks to be in his early 20s. He's been playing aggressively but very competently, and you've gleaned from conversation that he pays his tuition by playing online. With a stack of about $1500, he raises to $80. Everyone else folds back around to you. How do you proceed, and why?
I would meet his bet but wouldn't raise. I think K-Q diamonds is a great hand to have pre-flop, and I would want to see it rather than fold. What can he have that's better than what's in my hand prior to the flop - just an AA or KK, really, so I'd feel pretty confident here to at least see the flop. I would expect that maybe he is just playing aggressively to try and take the blinds off the table. He's got tuition to pay, after all.

I am going to leave my answers with "waiting for the next card" because, well, I'm not a long-term strategizer for the most part and I play one card at a time.

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RickyB
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Hey, we answered about the same (you were more aggressive on the 1st) [Smile]
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RickyB
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If God, as Al Pacino once put it, is an absentee landlord, isn't Pal something of an absentee professor? [Razz]
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RickyB
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Dude! Tell us how we did on the assignment. And how you did at Borgata? Are you hiding in shame or lolling on some exotic beach? [Big Grin]
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Paladine
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Not an absentee professor, just giving anyone else who might care to hop in a little longer. I guess you two are it for now though, so here goes. [Wink]

quote:
You're playing $2/$5 No-Limit Hold 'Em at a major casino in Atlantic City. Your original buyin was $500, and you've managed to work your way up to $1200. Observant opponents have noticed that you're generally a tight, solid player.

1) Four people fold, and an old gentleman in middle position raises to $15. He seems to be a competent player, rarely entering pots and playing aggressively when he does so. He has about $1000 in chips. The remainder of the players (except the blinds) fold to you on the dealer button. Looking down, you see a pair of black tens. You re-raise to $45. The blinds fold. The older gentleman thinks for a moment, and then calls $30 more.

The flop comes Ah 3c 3h. Your opponent checks. How do you proceed on the flop, and what's your plan for the turn? Explain why you're doing what you're doing.

We actually have a few pieces of information to consider before we do our thing here. First off, the fact that that our opponent is old (when I use this in poker I mean over 50 or so) means that he's most likely a conservative, unimaginative player. It's not an iron law, but most older folks tend to consider that raising is only something that shouldn't be done without a significant holding. The fact that he's been playing conservatively reinforces this view.

Another thing worth noting is his position. The earlier your position is, the less information you have, and the more things there are that can happen behind you. I need a stronger hand to play in earlier position, because I don't know what the people behind me are holding and I'm going to be at a disadvantage for the rest of the hand, since they can see what I do before they act. An older guy playing at these stakes isn't likely to be more than dimly aware of this, but he is likely to understand that his chances of picking up the blinds with a raise from that early are very slim. If he were on the button raising against the blinds, I could widen the range of hands he's likely to be on considerably.

As it is, we're probably looking at something like
AK, AQ, AJ, KQ, QQ, JJ, (TT), 99, or less likely something like a suited QJ KJ. Little pairs and suited connectors are less likely with this opponent than most for reasons described above. AA and KK are less likely than usual too, as he probably would have re-raised us with these holdings.

Since we have a pretty strong hand and position on our opponent, we re-raised. That helped to define his hand a bit, and eliminated people who may have called behind if we had only called. Eliminating people from the hand greatly increases our chances to win. Then we saw the flop and he checked.

This doesn't really give us too much more information, since the proper play when raised before the flop is generally to check to the raiser. If you have a weak holding you can get out of the way without putting more money in the pot. If you're strong, you check with the knowledge that he's probably going to continue to bet, in which case you can either raise or call profitably.

Less creative players tend to bet out when they make a hand even when the raiser has position on them, figuring "Well, I've got top pair, may as well bet it." The fact that our opponent is very likely the sort to do this and didn't should lean his range slightly away from the aces and towards the other stuff. It's still possible that we're being check-raised or that he's checked planning to call since he's afraid of a bigger hand. Passivity and pessimism are hallmarks of weak players.

If we bet and our opponent has an ace, he is almost certainly going to either call or raise us. If he raises, we throw our hand away without giving it a second thought. We're almost certainly beat, and there are still 2 more rounds of betting for our opponent to continue to put pressure on us. Calling down is an expensive, unprofitable proposition.

If he calls on the flop, we're left with him probably has either an ace or a flush draw. This should be skewed fairly heavily towards him having an ace. Look at the list of hands we gave him in the beginning and think about how many combinations of those cards make a pair of aces as opposed to a flush draw. Moreover, even if he does have a flush draw, it probably involves 2 "overcards" to our hand, cards that can come and make a bigger pair. So even if he's drawing, he's drawing with 14 outs twice, which makes him a little better than even money to win the hand. All things considered, we're in bad shape if he raises or calls.

The good news is that he can't raise or call with a large part of his range, and has to give us this pot on the flop most of the time. If he's holding a hand like KQ or even a pair of queens, he's in a very bad spot. An ace figures prominently into the range of things we're likely to have. He's not going to improve his hand the vast majority of the time on the turn, and he certainly can't afford to call down if we keep betting.

So if we bet the flop and he calls, we're going to fold the turn if he bets and check behind if he checks. Unless we catch another ten, we don't want to be putting any more money in this pot. But we can count on taking it down a good amount of the time right here.

On the other hand, if we check behind things get a lot murkier. If a king, queen, jack, or heart come on the turn, hands which weren't beating us before are beating us now, and even hands which don't have us beat have better chances of improving. He could still have an ace, in which case he'll bet out. But we'll have a hard time just folding if the turn blanks and he leads out because he very well may do that with nothing since we've essentially shown him that we don't have an ace.

Betting is more profitable and serves to make the situation much more clear. So how much to bet?

In order to determine that, we need to also think about what we've done in the past and what we're going to do in the future. Most of the time when we're the preflop aggressor against one opponent, we should continue to show strength on the flop. In general, we want to bet enough that he can't profitably call a turn without something of a hand, but not so much that he makes a killing off of us when he flops a bigger hand. We want to keep our bet of similar size whether we make a hand on the flop or not so as to prevent him from being able to easily tell where we're at. Given all of that, we probably want to bet somewhere between 1/2 and 2/3 the pot. I tend to bet a bit towards the higher end of this range. So a bet somewhere in the neighborhood of $50-60.

Now, number 2 isn't quite as complicated as number 1, but give it another try, with a little deeper analysis and explanation of thought process. One thing you should notice in my explanation is that I'm inside my opponent's head, thinking about his cards and how he perceives my actions, and using those perceptions to form my actions. As your opponents become more sophisticated, the problems become increasingly complex. Try and take a little of that to your problem solving, and to your game when you start playing.

As to me, I'm hiding in shame. Circumstances intervened and didn't allow me to play the tournament. [Frown] I have had a decent week in cash games though, so I suppose I can't complain *too* much.

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RickyB
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I dunno that I have enough accumulated poker IQ to answer further, sorry.
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Paladine
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Alright. Well, start off by thinking about how he sees you. You've been playing pretty solidly and conservatively. By all appearances he's a decently accomplished player, so he's noticed this.

So now put yourself in his shoes. A solid player raises from early position in front of you. You know he's likely to have something like the range I provided in the first answer:

quote:
AK, AQ, AJ, KQ, QQ, JJ, (TT), 99, or less likely something like a suited QJ KJ
What kind of hands are you going to reraise if you put your opponent on that range?

The answer to that question should tell you something about the hands he's likely to be holding. That's the first step in determining your course of action.

Next you need to consider your position relative to him and what's going to happen on different kinds of flops. Are you still going to be in trouble against a lot of his range even if you improve on the flop? Are you in a position to extract money from him when you do make a hand?

This kind of stuff is going to require a significant amount of thought. If you put it in, I can promise not only that you'll improve, but that the game'll become a ton more fun. If I'm going too fast or too hard, please let me know though. Any questions about the first answer?

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RickyB
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I see what you're saying. I guess I didn't internalize the part about "me" being a conservative player. Like I said, I like to see cards. [Smile] I rarely see less than 50% of flops. Got me a PokerStars account. Playing in between work a little. For free.

Back to the example - only the pairs in the range you've stated for him make him better off. The others are the making of a straight. I have the making of a flush, mebbe a royal one. So if that's his range, I ain't afraid to call his 80 with a pot 15 times that. If I don't advance to the flush or turn my KQ into at least one royal pair on the flop, I will fold if he raises, play if he checks.

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RickyB
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sorry, with a bankroll 15 times that.
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threads
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quote:
Originally posted by Paladine:
2) A few hours later your stack is roughly the same size. In early position, you look down at the K-Q of diamonds. You raise to $20. The next player to act looks to be in his early 20s. He's been playing aggressively but very competently, and you've gleaned from conversation that he pays his tuition by playing online. With a stack of about $1500, he raises to $80. Everyone else folds back around to you. How do you proceed, and why?

I would fold. You're in early position so a raise signifies a very strong hand. For this guy to come over the top of an early position raise from a tight player indicates that he has a monster hand. In fact I would say that AA or KK are likely since any other top hand would likely be around even money to your raising range. Even if he had QQ he would only be a very slight favorite to something like AK suited (which you could easily have given your position and your tight play).

Furthermore, any ace is a favorite to KQ pre-flop and the value of suited cards is much lower heads-up. If you hit the flush it's going to be difficult to get value out of this guy (suited cards are best in multi-way pots). If you don't hit the flop then you're done because you're out of position.

Do we know the number of people at the table? I probably wouldn't even raise from early position with KQs in a 9 or 10 player game though I might in a 6 player game.

Since I'm new to this thread:
I think I have the basic theory of poker down well but my problem is that I find myself straying away from it in practice. I started on FullTilt poker with $50 and I'm down to $35. Mainly I think it's been from making bad calls. I've been playing 0.05/0.10 blinds no-limit and lost $5 (my buy-in) on one hand today because I had AK and hit a king but lost to a set. In theory I should have asked myself wtf I was doing putting 50 BB into the pot with only top pair (I didn't put it all in at once of course) but do I think about that when I'm doing it? No... I think I'll take Paladine's suggestion of playing limit. The pots will be smaller so I won't lose as much if I get trapped.

[ August 20, 2008, 01:59 AM: Message edited by: threads ]

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threads
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I forgot that Paladine's quiz was for limit hold-em as opposed to no-limit hold-em. I've re-read the section on limit hold-em in Super System 2 a few times and I think a few parts of my analysis should be revised.

[ August 20, 2008, 07:06 PM: Message edited by: threads ]

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Paladine
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Welcome aboard, Threads. [Smile]

I'll get back to this inside a day or two, conditions permitting. In the meantime, you have AIM? Feel free to drop me an IM if so; the name's in my profile.

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threads
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I do have AIM but I won't be on for a few days since I have college orientation starting tomorrow (!).

quote:
I forgot that Paladine's quiz was for limit hold-em as opposed to no-limit hold-em. I've re-read the section on limit hold-em in Super System 2 a few times and I think a few parts of my analysis should be revised.
Leave it to me to be incorrect about correcting myself. You stated it was no-limit in the first place. Too bad I can't edit the post now.

[ August 21, 2008, 10:53 PM: Message edited by: threads ]

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Paladine
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quote:
I would fold. You're in early position so a raise signifies a very strong hand. For this guy to come over the top of an early position raise from a tight player indicates that he has a monster hand. In fact I would say that AA or KK are likely since any other top hand would likely be around even money to your raising range. Even if he had QQ he would only be a very slight favorite to something like AK suited (which you could easily have given your position and your tight play).

Furthermore, any ace is a favorite to KQ pre-flop and the value of suited cards is much lower heads-up. If you hit the flush it's going to be difficult to get value out of this guy (suited cards are best in multi-way pots). If you don't hit the flop then you're done because you're out of position.

Not too bad! You're correct in saying that a raise in your position indicates strength, and that re-raising from his position very well could indicate a monster. Your analysis is a little off in how it's determining equity (our chances to win the pot).

Suppose he has a pair of tens here. You'd say that we're about even money, since if we go all the way to the river each hand will win roughly half the time. The problem is that a lot of things are going to happen between now and then. Unless I hit an ace or a king *on the flop*, I'm going to check it to him and then fold when he makes a reasonable bet (maybe 2/3 the pot) the vast majority of the time. So I'm really only going to be able to see a turn about 33% of the time.

His hands gain a lot of strength relative to mine because of his position and the fact that he holds the initiative in the hand. So giving him only a hand like AA or KK is unduly pessimistic. That said, AA KK QQ AK AQ JJ TT do form most of his range, and we're in very bad shape against these. Even if we make a pair of kings or queens on the flop, we're not in a good position to extract a lot of value from it. Those are "scare cards" for his low pairs, and they very well could trap us if we make a K against AK AA or KK or a Q against AA KK QQ or AQ.

The only really good situations for us are when we make 2 pair, a flush, or a straight, and our chances are very dim here. More often we'll flop a draw or nothing and be in horrible position on the flop. This is a good spot to give it up.

College orientation? Congratulations. Where at?

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Paladine
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I just realized that the last part of my post probably needs a bit more explanation. I'll be on it soon. Let me know if I'm going too fast.
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OceanRunner
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Sorry I'm missing in action, Pal. I am about to leave on R&R, so I won't be around for a bit, and I'm a bit too giddy/anxious to settle down and think through anything. But I will be back soon, and I definitely appreciate our little poker school.

BTW, I almost doubled my money in our game Friday night (from my $5 buy-in to $9.80 at the end of the night, I know, big stakes [Wink] ). Between that and watching my first investments in stocks go up despite the questionable economy, I'm starting to feel like quite the little moneymaker. [Razz]

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RickyB
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Be careful, OR. I made just shy of 100% in a year on my first stock (Southern Copper, bless their Peruvian hearts 56-->110)) and thought I had the touch. Since then, 20% of my portfolio's value has been wiped out. Back up a little now, but the market's a beeeeyatch. It's like a pusher.. first yummy taste free [Razz]
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threads
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quote:
Originally posted by Paladine:
College orientation? Congratulations. Where at?

Cornell [Smile]
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Finvarra
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I could have sworn I posted a reply to the question before I left for vacation a couple weeks ago but apparently not.
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RickyB
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Paladine, is there significance to the percentage of the time a player sees flop?
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