Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Return To Form Black Magic

Back from Vegas where despite playing mostly B- poker, I managed to bring home some decent dollars. A few random thoughts, mostly poker-related:

-There is no time more dangerous for a poker player than when s/he sits down at a new table. You don't know who's solid or loose; you don't know tendencies; you don't know anything. That's why I think it's not a bad idea to fold every hand except AA or KK for the first hour at a new table. Really. I could have saved myself 500$ easily had I heeded that advice this week.

-Of the people who tell you or carry themselves like professional poker players--especially the ones in their 20s--maybe only 5% is really good enough to make a living at it. The rest just like the myth of it. These are the guys who exude the most attitude. They raise lots of pots in late position with 6/8s. They have complicated headphone setups. The straddle every time they can. And they cannot make laydowns.

-If you were to resolve, when playing casino poker, never to bluff, you would save yourself money.

-If you were to resolve, when playing casino poker, always to assume your opponents have exactly the hand they're representing, you would save yourself money.

-If you were to completely forego playing suited connectors, you would save yourself money. Exception: you are ON THE BUTTON (not one off) and there are three people ahead of you in the pot. Not two: three.

-Limping in first position with AA is often a good play.

-Do not go or stay to the Hard Rock Hotel. Unless you are consumed by a need to see a signed copy of the guitar Jon Bon Jovi played at the Woodlands in 92. Or whatever.

-Anyone who thinks playing poker "professionally" is fun should try sitting in one seat for six hours, playing six hands, and losing four of them. Which is what I did today.

-The bright side: the four hands I lost cost me 60$. The two I won netted me 450$.

-If would pay 1000$ in cash to anyone who could guarantee I never see the Q3o again.

-Same with the 69o.

-MAN I saw those hands a lot.

-And not even suited!!!

-Taco Bell: not as good a guilty pleasure as you may remember. Although their "fiery" sauce, while not actually fiery, is quite tasty. I saved some for my Cheerios.

-If you bet a flop containing two suited cards and get a caller, check the turn if it completes the flush. If they check behind you, 80% chance they just made the nuts. If the river doesn't give you any new options, make a very small probe bet: 1/5 the pot, say--as though to represent a value bet of a nut flush of your own. If you get raised, fold. I know: it's possible a canny opponent has recognized the pattern, and raised you off the best hand. But, as noted earlier, assuming that you're being bluffed is death. Fold. Good players make good laydowns. That is THE skill, at 2/5 and 5/10 NL. Nothing else comes close.

-If you never played any cards because they were suited except Ax, you'd wind up ahead. Q4 or K5 of clubs are losing hands.

-"Stranger's Almanac" by Whiskeytown is a great album to listen to while driving through the desert at night. It is NOT a great album to listen to while playing cards. Unless you plan on drinking yourself to death while you sit there. Which is not a terrible plan, really.

-The money in poker comes from other people's mistakes. Yes, you can occasionally take pots through cunning and brilliance. But very rarely. (At least, at low levels). Your goal at the poker table: do not make mistakes. Let your opponents make them. Then, take their money.

-The word that most perfectly captures what Vegas is NOT: Snuggly.


Seb said...

Bryan and I concur that this is one of our favorite ANCIANT posts ever.

monsieur propre said...

I agree wholeheartedly; this column was filled with useful information, even if I'm unlikely to sit down to a casino table any time soon.

If you get a few dozen bits of gnomic wisdom like these, you can edit them into a Tractatus.

Anonymous said...

Gnomic wisdom! Wow. High praise. I guess I should write all my posts half-asleep after driving playing cards all day and driving all night.

Maybe I'll number them, next time, like Wittgentstein. And work in a couple of logical tables. Given P=Poker is a game, and Q=...etc.

Or did you mean "gnomic" in the sense of "resembling a small goblin or dwarf known for its propensity to mischief." Because they're mostly that.


Saxo philologus said...

It was a pun, you see. Your wisdom is pithy and aphoristic, while at the same time it appeals to several species of tiny humanoid earth-dwellers.

(Saxo = mp, btw).

JMW said...

I love this post, too. I like the longer poker stories, but I think this more aphoristic format is great. You're like the Schopenhauer of poker. I've often said that.

Maybe Marcus Aurelius.

I don't bluff much, I limp probably more than I should (which I think is better than never limping), and I fold and fold and fold. These facts account for whatever small (and I mean small) successes I've had as a poker player.

Your comment about professional poker being boring reminded me of that great scene in Rounders when Norton says to Turturro, "You don't think that's work, what he does? Grinding it out on his f***in' leather ass? No, thank you." Good stuff.

Also: Man, I love the feel when I go out, dancing with the women at the bar.

Anonymous said...

RE: Limping with AA. I should have written: "limping...with the intention of reraising a late position raise is often effective." I guess I assumed that was assumed. But limping AA and then getting six callers, with no reraise in late position is bad mojo and will generally compel the limper to fold his AA if the flop generates any kind of action.

However, in most of the games I play these days late position players assume early limpers are weak and try to steal their chips. Thus the effectiveness of an UTG AA limp.

I'm glad to hear aphoristic writing has such appeal. It's far more in tune with the way I think. I'm a lot like Nietzsche, in that way, I think. And Yogi Berra. Sort of a cross between the two. And Yogi Bear.


Seb said...

Maybe Marcus Aurelius.

John, esteemed fellow, it is not nice to compare anyone to Marcus Aurelius, who stands out in my mind for having made the most critical error of the Five Good Emperors period. This error also assured that Marcus Aurelius would be the last of the five. ...ast illi solvuntur frigore membra vitaque cum gemitu fugit indignata sub umbras, as Justin can tell you, and may he rot there, the flaming sonofabitch.

Tim's errors are more peccadillos and sins of omission, as I think you will agree.