Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Unbearably Bad Poker

So I've been watching a little bit of ESPN's WSOP Main Event coverage from time to time this year, moreso here as we wind down towards the November Nine, and I find myself struck by frankly the same thought that I've had in each and every one of the WSOP Main Events I have ever watched over the past decade or so:

These people absolutely suck shit at poker.

Yeah that's right, I said it. It's true. These people play like absolute anusshit. And that, I think, is being kind.

I mean, this is the biggest tournament of their lives by definition. Each and every one of these guys, once we're down to the final 27 players or so, is for sure playing poker for the most money they have ever played in their lives. There is not just the immediate cash payouts on the line, but the sponsorship opportunities involved with making it to the November Nine final table and with potentially winning the tournament. There is a literal lifetime of playing poker and never having to have a real job again within their grasp. All this and more is at stake here for every single player left as the ESPN coverage worked its way down this week to the final table and a half remaining in the WSOP Main Event.

And what are these players doing with this tremendous opportunity?

They're reraising an early-position raiser preflop from middle position with 42o.

They're calling large bets on the flop for a quarter of their stack with just an overcard and an inside straight draw.

They're reraising allin preflop with A7s.

They're calling allin preflop for 50% of their stack with AQs.

And, my personal favorite, a super aggro guy who's been raising all day raises again preflop, this time with pocket Aces. The guy on the other side of the table reraises with JTs. The guy with AA re-reraises again, a fairly small amount, which itself was a truly bad play because (1) it makes it very, very obvious that he has precisely pocket Aces, and (2) the small raise gives the first player now better than 5-to-1 to call the re-reraise with his JTs, well known as the literal best hand to crack what he now knows his opponent has in pocket Aces.

And then the shithead insta-folds his JTs, getting better than 5 to 1 to call the re-reraise!!!

You could not make this stuff up, and you certainly can't defend these plays from a poker perspective. I've watched the Main Event coverage on ESPN for years, albeit some years more than others. But every single year, my reaction to the quality of play I've seen throughout has been more or less exactly the same.

The Main Event is an absolute donkfest. Sure, good skill will work much better for you than no skill, and a player who has played on the big stage before and knows how to extract chips will always have a better chance of surviving than one who doesn't know shit and is quaking in his boots because of the amount of money on the line. But that increased chance of success is still utterly minuscule, given the field and what it takes to survive the kind of indefensible, thoughtless donkery you will be facing right from the first deal on Day 1A, and clearly lasting all the way up to the final table itself. Last year it was that unthinkable idiot Chino Rheem freaking six-betting allin preflop with Ace-rag with just a few players remaining and directly costing himself probably about $15 million in tournament winnings and sponsorships as a result -- if you don't know you're not only beat but crushed after your opponent re-re-re-re-reraises you preflop and you are holding Ace-rag, then you are absolutely, utterly hopeless as a poker player on the big stage -- and this year the play to make the final table is enough to make just about anyone with half a poker brain scratch their head in amazement.

Somewhere, I imagine Phil Ivey is out there watching this week's coverage with that same absolutely classic look on his face as when Jen Tilly didn't bet her boat on the river against Patrick Antonius and then proclaimed that she thought he had pocket Kings, at 2:03 of the clip below:

All I know is this: the raging clowns playing for the biggest money of their lives at this year's WSOP Main Event are doing nothing to help anyone out there who loves to argue that poker is a game of skill and not luck. Sure, there is more than a little skill involved, but for these players to have lasted this long, and to be playing for this amount of money after surviving some 6600 other entrants, while playing as unmitigatedly horrible poker as they are here even at the end, it's certainly not helping the luck vs. skill debate.

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Blogger NBShuffler71 said...

I think it was Joseph Cheong six betting with Ace rag last year but i agree. I mean how can he think that Ax is good in that spot or that Duhamel will fold.

Yet we are constantly told by the commentators that this super aggressive / suicidal approach is the best way in tournaments. Are players becomming so aggressive that a more traditional player now needs more luck to survive on his way through to the money by dodging the inevitable bad beats etc. This means you need to be super aggro and lucky to get deep, and the tourneys themselves are now even more luck dependant than before.

In theory some of the plays you describe should make it easier to chip up and survive but i wonder. When you are constantly facing raise and reraise, unless you get a few premium hands life becomes difficult.

Or maybe i am wrong and my way of thinking is out of date and in need of a change. Jason Mercier has had a phenomenal amount of tourney success recently and he is said to be super aggressive. I can't beleive that he is just super lucky.

1:11 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

There is a huge difference between being super aggressive and being a poker moron. Arguably the preflop reraise with 42o could be called "super aggressive" (albeit one of the needlessly stupidest moves I can ever recall seeing on televised poker), but calling allin for a quarter of your stack with AQs? That's not super aggressive. Pushing allin preflop with A7s? Folding JTs to a tiny re-reraise when you now know that your opponent has AA and you're getting more than 5 to 1 to call with a hand that beats AA hot-and-cold well more than 1 time in 6? These are not super aggressive moves by any means.

They are just sickeningly horrible poker. But, it is I'm sure the same way most of these donkeyshits found their way to the final table in the tournament.

Sit me down with the November Nine in a one-table sitngo and I will win 7 out of 10 times outright. These guys both suck and blow.

3:10 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Btw, I'm not sure I've heard many people say that being "super aggressive / suicidal" is the best strategy in poker tournaments, nor do I think any successful tournament player would make such a statement (and it is clearly wrong). Norman Chad might say something like that, but then he is generally more interested in making corny jokes about his ex-wife than in actually informing the public about how to play this game.

3:12 AM  
Blogger NBShuffler71 said...

I agree some of those moves you describe have nothing to do with aggression and are just rank bad play.

Last year many people rightly criticised Cheongs move but he made another good run this year and i heard a few commentators praising him and saying he must have made many similar moves to the A7 6-bet against Duhamel in order to reach the FT last year.

I feel that a super aggro strategy is generally conveyed by many players and pundits as the best way of winning tourneys (not just NC) but of course it is a more difficult strategy to execute properly and many players end up looking like morons (or lucking their way to the FT)

7:08 AM  

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