Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Snyder vs. Harrington

OK so much for having a proper poker post up on Tuesday. What can I say....I'm a lawyer, remember? That might make me a better poker player than most other people out there, but it also makes me a liar, right?

Truth be told, I am in a new job here as you know, and my number 1 priority these days has to be kicking that new job in a tuchas. Which is exactly what I'm doing. But some days at the new place I am gonna be extremely busy, and that, combined with the longer commute in the mornings and evenings, makes it difficult sometimes to find the time to finish these posts up. Nonetheless, I'm back now and ready to talk some pokah.

But first I just have to say, this country is becoming more and more like China or Russia every day isn't it? As of right now our government suddenly owns the two largest mortgage owners in the world in Fannie and Freddie, the largest insurance company in the world in AIG, and pretty soon the largest savings bank in the country as well in WaMu when they get their bailout that is almost surely on its way. And you wonder why I laugh so hard when I read bloggers and others referring to Barack Obama as a "socialist". We're living amidst socialism right here and right now guys! And that is not a debatable point anymore. To think of the government's involvement and control over formerly private/publicly owned companies in major positions in major industries like this even just a year or two ago would have caused ripples all through the people and the current administration in this country. Now it's already happened. Crazy times.

OK back to poker like I promised way back when. So when we last were talking about poker, I was focusing on Arnold Snyder's concept of chip utility in tournaments. I wrote a lot about the concept a week ago, and the general idea I had been writing the latest post about before it got delayed by a little blip called the entire financial system in this country almost collapsing and still teetering on the edge, was that Snyder, an accomplished tournament player in his own right, believes the "utility odds" are the more relevant calculus to use in poker tournament call-or-fold decisions than the traditional pot odds and implied odds approaches favored by most poker authorities out there. In general, his argument is that, if your chip utility is significantly below full utility -- defined again as 100 big blinds or more -- then it often makes sense for a skilled tournament player to take a chance at less than the correct mathematical odds in exchange for the increased chances of making a big score that amassing an early stack (replete with plenty of chip utility) can bring to that skilled player. So as I had written about a week ago, Snyder favors a super-skilled guy like Men the Master or David Pham calling an allin at even-money odds early in a large-field WSOP event with just a flush draw and maybe three overcard outs, if his utility before the hand started is already down somewhere in the 50-60 big blinds range. Yes the pure math does not quite add up on making that call for even money, but what compensates for that shortcoming in the pot odds is the increased chance that a guy like Nguyen or Pham can turn his full-utility stack (if he wins that pot) into a monster stack and eventually into a nice score in the tournament if he can just get himself up to full utility and therefore open up his game to be able to use all the weapons and all the different types of poker moves that a really skilled player has in his arsenal.

Today I wanted to write about another point Snyder makes in his book, which again is closely related to his theory of chip utiltiy. Snyder writes quite a bit about the "Harringbots", which are the masses of players who have read and studied Dan Harrington's truly seminal books on poker tournament play. Harrington introduced the idea of "M" to the masses in his texts, along with his theory which says that you should play pretty much super-tight poker early in tournaments, and only loosen up as you are forced to because your "M" drops below certain defined thresholds.

First, a quick primer on "M" for those of you who don't know it (and you are insane if you read here but you don't know from "M"). Harrington defines a player's M as the number of rounds of big blinds plus small blinds plus antes that a player has remaining in his stack at any given time. So, if the blinds are 1000-2000 and there is a 200-chip ante 2/3 of the way through a large event, and you have 8 players at your table, if your stack size is 98,000 chips, then your M is 18,000 chips divided by (1000+2000+1600) which is 98000/4600 or an M of just over 21. This would qualify as the Green Zone according to Harrington, who would therefore have you just be continuing to play basically only premium hands in the right spots, not worrying at all about the blinds and antes at this point in the event. After all, using Harrington's M formula, you could survive just over 21 more rounds at this table at the current level of blinds and antes, if you never bet into another pot and just folded your cards for the next couple of hours.

In a nutshell, Arnold Snyder loves the Harringbots. And I have to agree with him on that one. All the good tournament players who are accustomed to running deep in mtt's will know exactly what I'm talking about too. Somewhere around halfway or maybe 60% of the way through the field in every large-field mtt out there, the Harringbots are the fuel for basically every deep run I've ever made in a big mtt. Here's what happens. The Harringbots -- and believe me, there are millions of them out there -- are all playing super-tight so far in the event, because that's the way that Harrington teaches them to play. As a result of this overly tight early tournament play, the few of them -- let's say 5% or less -- who have been hit with the deck have decent stacks. Almost never huge stacks, mind you, because the Harringbots don't know from bullying other players at their table. Even when they luck into large stacks early, they just sit around, continuing to play their cards and their cards alone, and as a result they never seem to amass the ridiculous stacks that can carry them to a final table run by the middle of the tournament. We all know bloggers who play basically just like this -- they manage to hang around with some frequency until the halfway point or even 60-70% of the way through decent-field mtts, but just about never with big stacks. They're always sitting on a half-of-average stack by the time the blinds get too big for them, and then they bust close to the cash by pushing a medium pair or AK into AK or a higher pair who had raised from early position. With some of the bloggers, it is like clockwork watching them in action, same story with every dam tournament. But there are millions of them out there, and they're all basically Harringbots as Snyder likes to call them.

But that is only maybe 5% of the lucky Harringbots in any tournament. The other 95% who have not been smacked in the face with the deck are short by the time 60% of the field is gone. They've been playing tight Harrington-style poker for far too long, relying on their M calculations according to Harrington's books, and suddenly the blinds are up again and they realize they are being absolutely smushed by the big stacks at their table, who aren't playing Harrington-style poker at all. Every time the Harringbots raise, they are reraised allin and don't like their hand enough to call. Every time it's folded to them with a middling Ace in middle position, they fold because there could easily face a big reraise behind them. Take my M example above -- that guy believes his M is more than 20, so he has 21 rounds he could just sit and fold at that table, so he has plenty of time to wait for big cards still.

Well, eventually, those 95% of the Harringbots out there get short, and that's when they start pushing. Once they move into Harrington's yellow (M of 10-20), orange (M of 6-10) and eventually red (M of 1-5) zones, they are instructed to start pushing their chips allin on raises and reraises --usually before the flop -- often with less than premium cards. They have allowed themselves to get farrrr too short compared to the escalating blinds and antes, and suddenly they are forced to, for example, push allin with A8s against a preflop raiser from middle position with a bigger stack. That guy in middle position with the bigger stack is usually me, and I usually am going to call you with my AQ or JJ or some hand better than A8s. And I'm often going to knock you out and add your chips to my stack just like that. Similarly, the Harringbots who are now in the yellow zone or below will raise from early position with a medium pair, I will reraise them allin with my AK from late position, and they will look at their dwindling stack, consider for about 3 seconds and then call allin with pocket 8s or pocket 9s. Half the time, I add their chips to my stack with very little trouble and very little thought involved.

The truly good tournament players prey upon the Harringbots in the middle stages of big mtts. Harringbots simply play too-tight poker for tournaments for too long, and then they follow their instructor's advice and push allin with desperate type of hands because they have allowed themselves in fact to get desperate with their chip stack. Harringbots have essentially no concept of chip utility, and what little conception of it they do have, is based on, at least according to Arnold Snyder, a truly faulty mathematical calculation of M. Harrington's formula for computing "the number of rounds you can survive at a table without playing any cards" in tournaments fails to include in the calculation one absolutely essential piece of information, and one which can lead to some truly effed up conclusions about just how desperate one really is at a given time in a given tournament.

More on that in tomorrow's post. For today, I'm looking forward to playing in the Mookie this evening at 10pm ET on full tilt (password as always is "vegas1"). It's the grandpappy of all blogger tournaments these days, and plus there is always the fun of watching Waffles in his race to overtake LJ in 2008 Mookie profits, where I believe he has either one or two Mookie's left to make his mark.

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Blogger Fuel55 said...

It's interesting how the deregulated/controlled free market economy thru its lack of oversight becomes the centrist government controlled system in 5 years or less.

I won't even mention how taxcuts were just government loans to individuals who will ultimately get to pay them back in triplicate now.

2:15 AM  
Blogger 1Queens Up1 said...

Hey Hoy,

Im sure you probably saw this as you said you walk by that building (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26756674/)

Im curious if you wrote anything on it.

Go Phillies!

2:59 AM  
Blogger Jestocost said...

Although doesn't this just mean it's time to start thinking about the best strategy for exploiting the inevitable Snyderbots? Have to stay a step ahead.

3:01 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

1queensup1 -- don't worry, I wrote on it all right. "You screwed us all, Prick Fuld!"

I am so classy.

3:08 AM  
Blogger Luckbox said...

Great way to oversimplify some of the best tournament books ever written.

If people think Harrington preaches playing tight until you have to push with a small M, than they haven't read his books or they don't understand them.

3:56 AM  
Blogger joxum (Denmark) said...

There's a little more to Harringtons strategy than what you present here.

Also, your definition of socialism is uhm...well, let's just call it "very average" for some demographics. ;-)



6:09 AM  
Blogger Blinders said...

cardplayer all-time live MTT winings

Sorry, but I don't take WSOP MTT advise from someone who has never FT an MTT of any significance. I also agree that you need to go back and read Harrington again if you think his strategy is fold to late and then start pushing. Chip utility can be a concideration, but this guy has NEVER had any success using the strategy that he claims works. At least Harrington has results that back up his strategy.

11:45 PM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Silly, silly Harringbot, no I mean Blinders. Doest you do no research at all before you spew?

3:42 AM  
Blogger Blinders said...

I admit I am a Haringtonbot, but those are the numbers from cardplayer. He is not in their DB. That means no Major FTs ever!

4:13 AM  

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