Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Poker Responses, Hold Steady, Knausgaard

Sorry for the delay: I've been working on the pilot.  But now that's done, and so we can talk about things that really matter.

1) The Hold Steady's New Album
It's grown on me with every listen.  I agree entirely about the production; it sounds like a bad Rush album (or is that a redundancy?).  Because I listen mostly in my car, however (where the sound is already bad) I'm less bothered by it than I would be otherwise.  I certainly don't think it's a masterpiece, but it's got at least three good-great songs on it--the first track, the one about the Ambassador, and the last track.  (I don't know the titles, sorry).

2) Knausgaard
I've read the first volume of My Struggle.  I recommend it--found it rich and thought-provoking; I've already ordered volume two.  I don't know that it quite lived up to all my expectations, but that's only because the praise I've read of it has been so high.  A lot of reviewers seemed to compare it to Proust. While there are obviously a lot of similarities between the two (length, autobiographical nature, obsession with time and memory) I found myself reminded most strongly of Sebald.  The tone is elegiac and flat in the way I associate with Sebald, and there are several references to shared intellectual interests.

On the other hand, I'm reading in translation.  Maybe the tonal resemblance diminishes, if it's read in the Norwegian.

3) Poker Hands

Hand One: KQ

I had a typo when writing this originally; I meant to write KQo but instead wrote KQh.

Given KQh, and assuming we have a deep stack, I would probably call.  However, this is marginal--we're possibly going to a dangerous place.  For our call to be right over the long run we need to be in a multiway pot; that means we have to hope, in calling, at least one of the people behind us calls.  In 1-3, that probably happens enough that we can justify chasing.

But my assumption here, if I call, is that one pair is not going to be a winning hand.  Even two pair can be dangerous.  If the board comes out (Ks Qc 4d) and all the money goes in, I'm probably in bad shape.

My assumptions here are based on the observation that most 1-3 players tend not to reraise pre flop with anything but monsters.  What is the worst hand that the average 1-3 player (i.e. our button) will raise here us with?  JJ?  In my experience most 1-3 players will call JJ here more than they'll raise.  That means that our enemies range is: (QQ, KK, AA and AK).  Even AK calls here much of the time.

What we're looking for if we call is a board with lots of draws.  Something like (10h 9d 2h) for example gives us straight and flush draws.  Even a board like that might be hard to play, however; a big check raise on the flop is probably going to get called by AA or KK in the button, which means we're playing from behind.  If we check and call we are chasing a hand out of position.  At 1-3 it's possible to make money doing this, but at higher levels, against medium to strong opponents, it's not.

KQo, in other words (to go back to what I originally intended to write) is a clear fold in this spot.  If we call, what are we hoping to hit?  Q 2 4?  How often are we good on that flop?  Even if we are, our position is going to make it difficult to make any money off the hand.  If our opponents has JJ, for example, or AK, we're getting at most one street of value out of him.  It's a win-a-little/lose-a-lot proposition, and one which I would avoid.

Hand Two: A6o.

Again, my original hand said AJ, I think.  But I changed it to A6o.  (Sorry about the typos: won't happen next time).

Winning at NLH means learning to exploit your opponents' weaknesses.  One of the most common weakness at low-stakes is that people will open raise way way too many hands.  Everyone wants to be aggressive; everyone's watched poker on TV and seen pros raising 46s and faking everybody out, and so they try to imitate.  The result is that people tend to play very loose pre flop.  (A complementary failure is that they mostly play too tight after the flop.  But that's a subject for another post).

Point is, our initial raiser is a loose donk.  His opening raise therefore means nothing.  The fact that everyone after him has only called (and not reraised) means that none of them have hands of any value.  People like to "splash around" and see flops, and for eight bucks, they're happy to take a flyer on a hand like 9j off.

Now, the obvious play here with A6 is just to fold.  However, the better play, given what we know about our opponents, is to reraise, representing a big hand.  (Or, in poker parlance, to make a 'squeeze play.')  We believe we're against weak hands and we have to punish them.  We have to exploit their failure to play well pre flop.

How much should we raise?  Well, we don't necessarily want to be called--we're happy to take it down now.  At the same time, we have to allow for the chance that our opening donk really does have a hand this time--in which case he's probably going to reraise and we're going to have fold.

He's made it eight and gotten three callers.  That means there's 32 in the pot.  I would reraise to 26ish.  That's enough of a bet to drive away bad hands, but it's not so large that we've committed ourselves if he reraises.

This play could theoretically work with any two cards in our hand.  However, the fact that we have A6 actually makes it more attractive.  We have one of the deck's four aces.  That makes it less likely our opponent has a big hand, and more likely he'll fold.  (Same logic holds true if we have a hand like K4).

If we had actually had held AJ here, I still like a reraise--only in this case it means our reraise is likely to be a value bet and not a bluff (i.e.: we are probably reraising with the best hand).

Odd though it may sound, if I had AJsuited here, I would lean towards a call and not a raise.  Why?

1) AJs is a hand that will play well in a multiway pot, and can win a lot of money against loose pre flop calls.  Specifically, I can make a bigger flush than someone else who's stuck around with, say, 56s.
2) Because I probably have the best hand, I have a chance to win some money if the flop comes ace-high, or jack-high (the latter more than the former).  JQ, for example, is probably going to pay off at least two streets of value on a jack-high board.  Now, this can be dangerous too--I could very easily be up against two pair and not know it.  It's a calculated risk.
3) AJs is a hand I really want to take to a flop.  Remember, there's always a chance that my opening raiser has a real hand.  If I reraise AJs, I'm going to be forced to fold when he 4-bets.  Calling gives me a chance to try and suck out on him.

A final note: what makes this play so attractive in this spot is the fact that our opening donk has been called in so many places: i.e. that there's a lot of money in the pot.  If the donk open raises and everyone folds to us, this play becomes a lot less attractive.  The more you exploit an opponent's weakness, the more likely he is to change his play.  If we reraise him TOO MUCH, in other words, he might start tightening his opening range.  We have to pick our spots.

Assume we're still playing 1-3 and that our average opponent is mediocre to bad.  Also, assume we have full stacks.  No special reads unless otherwise noted.

1) UTG opens to 14$.  One player calls in front of us.  We hold 44 and elect to call.  The flop comes A 8 2 rainbow.  UTG bets 22$.  The player in front of us folds.  It's to us.  The obvious play is to fold.   Instead, we call.  Why?

2) We hold AcAs UTG.  We raise to 10$ and get three callers.  The flop comes down Ah 4c 8c.  We bet 22$ and get one caller.  The turn is 9c.  We bet 40$ and get called.  The river is 2h.  What do we do?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"He looked a lot like Izzy Stradlin"

The problem is, even if I were to post, what would it obtain?  I've been thinking, in reference to my readers, about poker a lot.  And Roxy Music.  And The Hold Steady (to wit: their new album).

My wife has just put up a bunch of framed photos in our hallway.  So that, in exiting the bathroom, I'm inevitably confronted with an image of my wife's Grandfather, ca 1944, wearing full military regalia, and staring into the future with hope and joy.  It's not a little disconcerting.  I want to say to him...something.  Then I think how much I loathe the Tom Brokaw "Greatest Generation" thesis--even while I value and honor anyone who went over there, to shoot at other 20 year olds.  Now I think of Randall Jarrell--"it was not dying, everybody died...."  God, that's a good poem.

I haven't much enjoyed Roxy Music, is the thing.  The later stuff I like -- some.  It reminds me--a lot--of David Sylvian.  But in a diminished, unpowerful way.  I know I'm supposed to think otherwise.  But I don't.

I've been reading A LOT about Pale Fire.  And then I read some Knausgaard.  But who has not?

And for poker, I have rediscovered a love for the game, probably because I've been fortunate, recently, to play with beloved friends.  So I started to think about sending out emails with hypothetical situations, and we could talk about the details and I could propose my thoughts.  But then, I just come off as some kind of knowledgeable one.  As some kind of expert.  I mean, I don't want to lead or know things.  I don't.  I know nothing.  I can barely read.  Or function, as an adult.

But I can play poker.  The result of many wasted hours.  So here's a scenario, for all you would-bes to think on.


You hold KQh, UTG.  (We're playing 1-3.  Because we know how futile it all is).  You raise to 8.  You get three callers.  The button then re-raises, to 22.

What do you do?

You have no especial reads on any of the players.

* * * * Scenario Two * * * *

A loose, donk-ish player open raises UTG to eight.  Three players call.  You're in the button with A6o.  What do you do?