Thursday, August 30, 2007

More on Bayes Rule, and Friday Musings

On Thursday I played some solid poker in just two or three tournaments on the night, leading me to believe that it might actually be possible for me to regain my form from before my vacation after just a few days to shake off the rust. I don't have any huge scores to show for it, due mainly to a gross suckout for almost my entire large stack in the 5050 about two-thirds of the way through the field, but at least I did this again:

I mean I ran through Thursday night's token frenzy like a lawn cutter, mowing down everyone in my path and slowly increasing my stack until I overtook the chip lead with about 25 players remaining (82 runners, 15 would get $75 tier II tokens). From there I only increased my lead, knocking out 14 of the 82 players in the event overall on my way to sittong on double even the 2nd-place-guy's stack by the time the tokens were won. It felt great to make my first big run in a tournament of the week, and hopefully that is something I can build on heading into the weekend and then continuing into the future. I was on an awesome jag there -- for a good 3 or 4 weeks, I was ending up positive almost every single night, just by doing my thing, playing some tournaments and some cash games when the desire piqued. My roll on full tilt probably quintupled during that time, and now it is down just a bit after a week of a few small scores but nothing real big. I think I ran to 50-somethingth in the 50-50 earlier this week, and I cashed in the 28k a few days back as well, but nothing worth being that happy about. But returning to my winning ways in the frenzy seems a bit like a return to my prior form, so hopefully there is more tournament success to come for me in the near term.

I also had some fun on Thursday evening playing low-limit razz with Al, Heather, Drizz and Aposec72, culminating in me bubbling out of a HORSE sng with that crew in Stud Hi when my (TQ)QQ6Tx (Queens Full on 6th street) lost to aposec's (AA)J2JA (2-outered Aces full on 6th street) for a huge stack when we were basically all tied 4-handed for first at around 3k each. For whatever reason that felt like just about the worst Stud Hi beat in the world, but maybe that's just because I don't tend to play so much stud these days, which is true. Anyways as always playing low-stakes with bloggers was a great time and I enjoyed blowing off some steam with some friends. And congrats to Aposec for putting my chips to good use in winning the $5 sng, and to Maigrey for cashing in second place.

Another thing that made all night on Thursday fun was the world of sports. Not only did college football start up, but my Eagles were on tv in New York playing the Jets, and the hated Giants were also on the tube for my viewing pleasure. Eli Manning actually looked pretty good, pretty poised against those scrubs and tryout guys on defense for the one long drive in which he participated. But the best part about Thursday in sports had to be the Phillies**, who completed a 4-game sweep of the Mets in Philadelphia with a dramatic, come-from-behind 9th inning 11-10 win, typical of most of the Phillies' wins this season given their NL-worst team ERA and overall pitching staff (both the rotation and the bullpen). Just four days earlier, on Sunday morning of this week, the Phils stood a seemingly insurmountable 7 games behind the Mets in the NL East. Now as of Thursday late afternoon, the deficit is just 2 games, and suddenly September is gonna be a crazy one for all the closeted Mets fans in this town. And believe you me, there are tons of 'em. Nobody likes to talk about these days anymore, but make no mistake, in the mid 1980's you couldn't give away a ticket to see the loser Yankees, but this city was all Mets, all the time. My how things change. 10 straight years of playoffs, World Series appearances and multiple championships will do that I guess. But for me, getting to watch the Mets collapse at the hands of my beloved Phillies day after day on television in New York was just about the coolest thing I've seen in baseball in a few years.

**Don't think I don't know that now that I've blogged about them, the Phils are about to embark on another losing streak just like they've done every other time they had just about won over the fans that they could really make a playoff run this year. I just had to write about it anyways, because sweeping the division-leading Mets from 2nd place like this does not happen often for us Phillie fans.

God you guys should hear my daughter talk about Barry Bonds. Now whenever she sees me take a pill in the morning (vitamin, aspirin, etc.), she always asks me if those are like the pills that Barry Bonds took to cheat with (rather than explain "the clear" and "the cream" to a 3 year old, I told her that he took some pills that made him cheat). Then she will go off on a 5-minute tirade about how cheating is wrong, Barry Bonds is a cheater, and the real home run champion is Hank Aaron. And then of course how she should always be like Hank Aaron and never like Barry Bonds because cheaters never win, and winners never cheat. That right there is some sickly cute and entertaining stuff coming from the mouth of a 3-year-old, let me tell you. I should post a video sometime. If only I had the first effing clue about how to do that....

Anyways, one other thing about sports this bad did the Yankees thump the Red Sox this week, huh? Now don't get me wrong, I despise the Yankees as an institution because of the ridiculous buy-everyone strategy that they have followed for the past 10 years or so. But I've been to a bunch of games, the stadium is only a few subway stops from where I live (as opposed to Shea, which is like a 50-minute ride away over subway and then a switch to a commuter train), and I know an old-fashioned beating when I see one. After winning the first game of the series on Tuesday, I was at the game on Wednesday night (I heard you guys treated Hammer Wife nicely at the table in the first hour or two), and let me tell you that Roger Clemens laid the beat-down on the Red Sox lineup for 6 straight innings. Sure, Big Papi hit a ball about 10,000 feet deep into the right field seats in the 6th, but Clemens pitched a no-hitter into the 6th before giving up just the one run on the way to a one-run Yankees victory again on Wednesday. Then on Thursday, Yankees ace pitcher Wang took a no-hitter of his own into the 7th inning before the Sox finally got a base hit on their way to a 5-0 shutout loss and a sweep at the hands of the Yankees.

Now to be sure the Yankees are still 5 games behind the Sox with around a month left in the season, so that is a lot of ground to make up, but the Yankees completely took it to the Red Sox in pretty severe fashion over three games. In fact, I was at the game on Wednesday and I have to say, the Red Sox lineup is pretty much not formidable at all like it used to be. You've got Big Papi who is obviously a dominator, even though he too is having a bit of a down year for him, but otherwise you've got Manny Ramirez who is a great hitter but injured, and then...well...that's it. I mean, 5 of the 9 players in Boston's lineup on Wednesday had averages below .270. That is highly unusual for a team with the best record in all of baseball. With Manny back that gets a little better, but considering there is also a pussy DH on that team, it's a pretty poor stat. Meanwhile the Yankees, who admittedly have pitching problems themselves at the back of their rotation, thre 7 of 9 batters in their lineup with averages of .287 or higher. It's not hard to see what happened this week in the Bronx -- with some decent pitching, this Red Sox team is beyond beatable. The Yankees lineup hit two homers off Schilling by the 5th inning on Thursday, crushed Josh Beckett early on Wednesday, and scored two runs in the 1st inning against Dice-K on Tuesday on their way to a sweep. This does not bode well for the Sox over the next month in my view. I bet these two teams find a way to make it interesting at some point during this month.

OK before I sign off today I did want to take a few minutes to address some of the commenters from yesterday who still insist I am totally wrong with my answer to the Monty Hall problem from the other day. I assure you, switching is the correct answer and it does double your chances of picking the right box. As I mentioned yesterday, there are always people (usually most people) who dispute this result vehemently, because it seems so counter to human logic. But it is in fact correct.

In my attempts to further show the correctness of this answer, I posed a similar problem in the comments to yesterday's post that I want to reproduce here, especially because from past experience I know there are probably a great many of you out there who do not agree or at least understand how this conclusion to switch was arrived at:

Instead of having just 3 boxes to choose from as in my original problem, imagine instead that Monty Hall shows you 100 million boxes, and asks you to choose one at random, with one of them containing a million dollars and each of the rest containing just a dead rat. So you're making what is a 1 in 100 million guess to win the million bucks. Then imagine that Monty Hall proceeds to open up every single other box but one -- say box # 98,765,432 -- and shows you a dead rat in each one. You see, he could do this every time to you, because Monty knows where the million actually is, so he can always open up the other 99,999, 998 boxes that you did not choose, leaving unopened only the one box with the million bucks, and your own box. Surely, I posed in the comments yesterday, you would not stick with the one box that you happened to choose with a 1/100,000,000 chance of being right in that situation, rather than switching to the one other box that Monty left over by opening up every other remaining box but that one. It should be more intuitive when you apply this to large numbers that clearly your box has almost zero chance of being the one with the million dollars, given that in every single instance Monty could always use his knowledge of the actual location of the million dollars to open every other box but one, leaving just the box with the million dollars inside. In actuality, just like in the 3-box example I posed the other day, the odds of your box being the money box are still 1 in 100,000,000, while the odds that the money is in the one other box that Monty has left unopened are 99,999,999 / 100,000,000. It is more or less certain in that scenario that you should switch, and in fact you increase your chances of being right by 99,999,999% if you do in fact switch.

The principles and the math in the above example I think show very well why the solution to the simpler, 3-box problem is to switch every time. Yesterday in the comments it was suggested that the law of large numbers somehow changes the math between the 3 boxes example and the 100 million boxes example, but that is flat-out incorrect as I will show here. In the 100 million boxes example, your chances of having picked the right box are 1 in 100 million, while the chances of the last box Monty left unopened being the money box are 99.999999%. Clearly far, far, far more likely to win the money if you switch. In the 3-box example, using the exact same logic and the exact same math, the odds of your box being the money box remain at 33%, while the odds of the other box being the money box are then 66%. Again, clearly it is still far more likely that you get the money if you switch.

And one other point that I will try to rephrase from yesterday's post with the solutions to the problems in it: you people who believe the answer is 50% either way, you would be correct in either one of the following two scenarios:

1. Once he shows the dead rat in box #3, Monty Hall then puts the other two boxes behind a curtain, and randomly jumbles them such that the money could equally be in box #1 or box #2; or

2. Once he opens up box #3 and shows a dead rat, a new contestant is brought in with no knowledge of the prior scenario and simply asked to choose between two boxes, one of which contains money and the other, a dead rat. Although the odds would still be 66% in actuality at this point that the money is in box #2, that new contestant has no way of knowing how the boxes were picked or even that a third box was ever removed from the pool of choices, and thus for that person, the decision is simply a 50-50 guess given what he or she knows about the decision.

So, your answer of 50-50 would be correct if the boxes were somehow re-randomized before the final decision of whether to stay with box #1 or switch to box #2. But that's not what is being done here. In this case, you have the additional very important information that your box was originally picked from a 1-in-3 chance, leaving a 2-in-3 chance that the money was in either box #2 or box #3, and that probabilty factor still holds true after box #3 has been opened and shown to contain a rat. When you come out with an answer that it is 50-50 in either box in this scenario, you are answering the question as if you are simply being asked out-of-the-blue to choose randomly between two boxes, which I think we all can acknowledge is in fact a 50-50 guess situation. But here, you are being asked to choose not between two random 50-50 chances, but rather a 33% box or a 66% box.

As I said yesterday, I myself took several months to accept the veracity of this solution, and it is a truly difficult concept for anyone with a human brain to get his or head around because it is simply so totally counter-intuitive to everything our brains tell us about the situation. I encourage all of you out there if you are interested to explore the various explanations and assessments of this problem available online and elsewhere. There happens to be a pretty decent treatment of several aspects of the problem on Wiki, and more than that, if you're still not convinced, how about some actual testing of your own? This option should be especially attractive to the sciencey types out there, so take a look at the following links and test this theory yourself, as many times as you see fit before you are willing to start accepting the truth of the value of switching boxes: Monty Hall Problem Simulator -- I just ran it and stopped when switching had worked 10 times and staying had worked only 4 times. simulator -- I also just stopped after switching won me 10 out of 14 trials.

University of South Carolina simulator -- here I stopped when switching had won 9 out of 14 trials. This one might be the most satisfying to the nonbelievers out there because it pauses and allows you to choose whether to switch or not, as opposed to the first two which basically just tell you what would have happened had you switched and had you stayed with your original pick.

I urge anyone still interested in the problem but not totally down with the accuracy of the solution I have presented to go to one of the simulator sites above and perform as many trials as you need to feel comfortable that in fact it clearly wins roughly 2/3 of the time if you switch boxes than if you stay with your original pick. The odds are not 50-50 at that point in the problem as posed, but rather it is literally twice as likely (66% vs 33%) that you pick the winning box if you switch when the option is offered in the problem as presented.

I think that's enough heavy stuff for today. I'll be back on Monday when I plan to spend some time discussing Bayes' rule as it applies to poker. Have a great weekend, and you can look for me at some point in that 9:45pm ET token frenzy that I've been killing recently to the tune of 5 shiny new $75 tokens sitting in my full tilt account. As usual because Friday nights can be tough I'm not sure if I can make Kat's DonkeyMint tonight at 9pm ET on full tilt, but as always that tournament is a $1 rebuy and is consistently a fun time, one that turns into an actual fun tournament after an hour of monkeypushing and donkeychasing everything with at least an out or two. Password as always is "donkarama" so please come out and enjoy yourself in this event that is open to anyone and everyone, as long as you've got at least $1 in your full tilt account (Bayne). Ha ha. Good weekend everyone.

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Bayes Theorem -- Problem Solutions

OK we got a great set of responses to the two problems I posed yesterday to help discuss Bayes Theorem, and eventually its application to the game we all know and love. First, let's review the two problems in case you did not read yesterday and/or are too lazy to just scroll down a bit and read yesterday's post (and the corresponding comments) first:

Question #1: You are on the popular 70s game show Let's Make a Deal. Monty Hall is up there and he shows you 3 boxes on the stage, and asks you to pick one at random, explaining that under one box is a million dollars cash, but under the other two is a dead rodent of some kind. You choose Box #1. He then opens up Box #3 and shows you that there is in fact a dead rodent under that box. Now he offers you to either keep Box #1 or switch to Box #2, your choice. What do you do? Do you switch, do you keep your first box, or does it make any difference?

OK the answer to Question #1, as maybe half of the commenters intuited, is that you have to switch boxes here. Normally I would give my standard explanation that I have repeated many times to friends and family of mine, but I really like the way that Goat introduced it in his first comment to yesterday's post. So for starters I am just going to repeat what he said here:

"Always switch. I'm betting the comments I haven't read have already explained why, but the basic deal is when you pick box #1, there is an approx. 33% shot at a million bucks.

So you're holding 33%. The 'field' is holding 66%. When Monty lifts box #3 to show the dead rat, the 'field' is narrowed to box #2. Which still holds 66% equity. The 'field's' equity has not shrunk with your new information. You just happen to know which of the two boxes now holds all of the 66%.

In a nutshell, this is the reason why you should always switch boxes in this scenario, and why as a few of the commenters correctly pointed out, you literally double your chances of winning the million if you switch. Because at the time you chose box #1, you had a 33% chance of being right. We all can agree on that. Random pick of 1 out of 3 items. And that means that the odds that the money is in (either box #2 or box #3) = 66%. Now when box #3 is taken out of the equation, hopefully you can see that, since we know that the probability of the money being in (either box #2 or box #3) = 66%, now we know that the probability of the money being in (box #3) = 66%. Which makes sense, since we all know that we picked a random 1 out of 3 chance to get the money correct when the game began.

Let me just address quickly here those of you who make the very, very common argument that this is incorrect because obviously we have a 50-50 chance of having the money box since we have chosen one box out of two boxes total, or 1/2 = 50%. This would be the right answer if, instead of opening what he knew to be a dead rat box, Monty Hall had instead opened up a dead rat box, and then randomly spun box #1 and box #2 such that it was now an independent 50% chance that the money was behind either box #1 or box #2. But that is not the case here. In the example posed, we already had the existing probability of 33% chance of our box #1 being the box with the money, and that fact never changes. Again, if Monty eliminated box #3, and then followed up by hiding the other remaining two boxes and randomly reassigning the money to one of those two boxes, then of course you would be right, we are 50-50 to have the correct box with box #1. But here, we hold a 33% chance of being right, leaving 66% to the other two boxes, and when Monty eliminates one of those other two boxes (the "field", as Goat helpfully defines it in his comment above) without re-randomizing the remaining two boxes, then our box #1 retains its 33% chance, and box #2 doubles to the remaining 66% chance of being the one with the million inside.

This solution has proven over time to be a very, very difficult thing to explain, so I probably did not do a good enough job here for most of you, and I'm sorry about that. Despite having had this conversation with maybe 100 people in my day, I've never yet been able to devise the explanation that convinces everyone or even mostly everyone in any case. But rest assured, this explanation is the correct one. The reason I used this problem is that it is one of the best possible examples to show how the human brain tends to misapply what is essentially the concept underlying Bayes Theorem in applying new changes to probability when there is already an existing underlying probability assumption in place. And that fact in my opinion tends to spill right over onto the poker table as well with many people I run into on a nightly basis on the virtual felt.

Now on to Question #2 from yesterday:

Question #2 (this one comes directly from The Mathematics of Poker): Suppose doctors have a screening process for, say, Lupus, and that if a person is screened who actually has Lupus, the screening process will return a positive result for Lupus 80% of the time. Assume also that if a person who does not have Lupus is screened, the test will return a (false) positive result for Lupus 10% of the time. Lastly, assume that we know that 5% of the total population on average actually has Lupus.

A person is selected at random from the population at large and screened, and the test returns a positive result for Lupus. What is the likelihood that this person, who just tested positive for Lupus, actually has Lupus?

I was impressed with how many of the commenters seemed to get this one right on, which is great. I have read about this in some other studies, and I was really hoping that some of our doctor bloggers would have weighed in with their own thoughts, because in reality something like more than 75% of doctors gave answers or estimations to this very problem that were at a good 40-50 percentage points away from the right answer. The right answer, as a number of the commenters figured, is that even having received a positive test result, the chances that this randomly-selected patient does in fact have Lupus are 29.5%. This can be intuited very easily actually if you just pick an actual sample size for the total population, and work it out (something many of the commenters did):

So, assume the world has 1000 people in it. 50 of them will actually have Lupus (since 5% of the population on average has it). Of the 50 Lupus people, 40 of them will test positive given the 80% true positive rate that the test reports. Of the other 950 people who do not in fact have Lupus, 95 of them will test positive given the 10% false positive rate that the test reports. So, this means that a total of 135 people out of our 1000 population will test positive for Lupus under this screening process -- 40 of whom actually have Lupus, and 95 of whom actually do not. So, given the fact that someone is among the 135 people who test positive for Lupus, the odds are actually 40/135 that they actually have Lupus, and 95/135 that they do not. This equates to a 29.4% chance that the guy who tests positive actually is positive for Lupus.

So think about that again -- we have a test with an 80% effectiveness and only a low 10% false positive rate. That's actually pretty good. But in stark contrast to the analysis in some of the comments (Goat goat goat), the most relevant figure in this problem from a mathematical perspective is the fact that only 5% of the underlying population actually has Lupus, the relative rareness of which drags down the 80% effectiveness rate of the screening process to mean that even one positive test result still makes it only 29.6% likely that the subject actually has Lupus. Funny enough as I mentioned earlier, hundreds of doctors were asked this question, and I think more than 75% estimated the chances of the subject actually having Lupus to be somewhere between 70 and 80%. I myself originally estimated a higher number before reading about the simplicity of the solution that produces the 29.6% outcome, as did most of the people I have asked this question to myself over the past couple of days.

As I alluded to above, the results of both of the above two problems go to show how much the human mind is hard-wired to underweight the relative importance of existing, known probabilities and instead to put more importance than it should on later changes to that probability. Thus, even though there was already a 1/3 chance that your box was the money box in problem #1, the human mind by its intuitive nature tends to be more willing than it should be to believe that that probability is much higher than it actually is once there are now only two boxes left in the equation. Similarly, in problem #2, the inclination of most people is to significantly overweight the 80% effectiveness of the test, and to significantly underweight the already-given probability of 5% of the total population having the condition to begin with. Bayes Theorem and the concepts underlying it help us to understand and identify these situations where people commonly make faulty assumptions and faulty estimates -- sometimes arriving at the completely wrong result, such as the doctor who assumes that his positive-testing patient is 75% likely to have Lupus when in reality he is actually less than 30% to have the condition. These errors are commonly made at the poker table as well, and tomorrow I plan to discuss some of those situations where Bayes' rule can be used to help properly make such calculations.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

More Blogger News, and Bayes Theorem

Well I am pleased as punch today to have some more news of a biggest-ever tournament cash by one of our very own. The amazing thing is it is someone who I've already posted about a biggest-ever cash recently right here on the blog. But on Tuesday afternoon / evening, it happened again. This blogger stayed home from work after a redeye flight back from a Vegas trip of all things, played in the $165 buyin 32k guaranteed nlh tournament at 3pm ET on full tilt, and ended up losing a race to bust in third place. For over $5300. Cold. Hard. Cash. Who is this blogger dominator, you ask? Why, it is LJ. Again. And she's already got a post up about her latest run. That is two huge tournament scores for LJ within days, and three big ones in the past few weeks. How far will her tournament prowess extend one day? We'll all have to watch and see. Now go congratulate LJ, and if you can figure out what her new-found secret is, somebody please tell me.

So today I wanted to chat briefly about Bayes Theorem. There are actually complex mathematical formulas involved in this thing, which I accept as true without taking the effort to go through the detailed mathematics used in various conditional probability equations. But I do understand the effect of Bayes Theorem, including its tremendous applicability to the poker world, and to me it remains one of the most interesting, and truly difficult-to-grasp, theorems out there. And yes I know that "theorems" is probably not a word. See, I know it's not right, but I still ain't changing it. Deal with it.

So to introduce my discussion on Bayes Theorem this week, I'm going to start today with a couple of problems, and I would like as many of you as feel comfortable to provide your estimates or answers to the two questions I pose below in the comments to this post. Then tomorrow I will do my best to explain conceptually how I like to use the concept involved in Bayes Theorem to consider the two solutions.

Question #1: You are on the popular 70s game show Let's Make a Deal. Monty Hall is up there and he shows you 3 boxes on the stage, and asks you to pick one at random, explaining that under one box is a million dollars cash, but under the other two is a dead rodent of some kind. You choose Box #1. He then opens up Box #3 and shows you that there is in fact a dead rodent under that box. Now he offers you to either keep Box #1 or switch to Box #2, your choice. What do you do? Do you switch, do you keep your first box, or does it make any difference?

Question #2 (this one comes directly from The Mathematics of Poker): Suppose doctors have a screening process for, say, Lupus, and that if a person is screened who actually has Lupus, the screening process will return a positive result for Lupus 80% of the time. Assume also that if a person who does not have Lupus is screened, the test will return a (false) positive result for Lupus 10% of the time. Lastly, assume that we know that 5% of the total population on average actually has Lupus.

A person is selected at random from the population at large and screened, and the test returns a positive result for Lupus. What is the likelihood that this person, who just tested positive for Lupus, actually has Lupus?

Let me know your answers (either of these questions may be just estimates), and I look forward to discussing these two problems in more detail on Thursday. Then I will write some as well about how Bayes Theorem applies to poker and the decisions that you are faced with at the table.

I will try to register for the Mookie tonight at 10pm ET (password is "vegas1" as always) to chase my third consecutive cash in this event, but I will be at the coveted Yankees - Red Sox game this evening so I will probably be late to my one elusive blonkament that I can never win. Free blinds for everyone!

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

MATH Recap, and How to End a Winning Streak

27 runners showed up for another well-attended Mondays at the Hoy tournament on Monday night on full tilt, and for the second straight night I played like uberdonkey. It was sad, the way I played. More on that later. But for now suffice it to say that I called Surf down for almost my entire stack with just the JackAce unimproved, because I had a read that he was full of the shizznots. I was right, but I still lost. Surf held AK unimproved and had raised and called large bets twice with that holding in a blind vs. blind showdown where neither one of us actually believed the other had anything. Anyways, this was one of those frustrating situations where I laid a read on someone, I was right, but they just didn't lay down and I turned out to have an even worse hand than their bluff. Nice move. Still, I managed to double up and then some, growing my stack from 450 after the hand with Surf back up to around 1100, when I raised from early position with QQ, knowing I had raised aggressively several times already at this table and shown down some low-level crap starting hands. Leftylu decided to move in on me, and of course I insta-called with my pocket Queens. Leftylu sheepishly (I didn't see him of course but that had to be how he was feeling at the time) flipped up 75o. Aiight. Flop K86, turn 4 and I lose to the straight. To 75o with my Queens. This once again left me with just a few hundred chips, which I once again managed to more than double before getting allin with A9 against surf's 55, and an Ace flopped, but just like in the Mookie two weeks ago, Surf turns his 2-outer with a third 5 and IGH in 26th place of 27 runners. Yuck. Again, more on that later.

With 27 players, the top three spots would pay out of the $643 prize pool. Although honorable mention goes to RaisingCayne who made I believe his fourth final table in five lifetime attempts at the MATH, bubbling last night when his AK lost to Gary Cox's 99. Anyways, finishing in 3rd place this week and winning $124.60 was katiemother, who cashed in her second straight Hoy tournament this week to climb further a week after entering the 2007 MATH moneyboard for the first time. Ending up in second place after a short heads-up battle was Gary Cox, who won $194.40 after losing heads-up when he bet large with AQo unimproved on a raggy flop, got called and then moved in for last 19k on turn. And on the opposite side of that play, the man calling down and winning it all with pocket Kings in this week's MATH, including a whopping $324 for his performance was OMGitsPokerFool. The big news here is that pokerfool claimed in the chat after his big win that this is actually his first ever mtt victory! So a huge congratulations to pokerfool for a job well done and I'm just glad to have gotten to see and be a part of another blogger making the first mtt win of his poker career. Could we have another KOD in the making? Only time will tell.

And here is the updated 2007 MATH moneyboard showing all players who have cashed in the Mondays at the Hoy tournament at least once during this calendar year:

1. Bayne_s $1175
2. Columbo $1168
3. Hoyazo $1162
4. VinNay $775
5. cmitch $774
6. Iggy $745
7. NewinNov $677
8. Pirate Wes $672
9. Lucko21 $665
10. Waffles $650
11. Astin $616
12. Tripjax $561
13. IslandBum1 $527
14. RaisingCayne $522
15. Julius Goat $507
16. bartonf $492
16. mtnrider81 $492
18. PokerBrian322 $490
19. Chad $485
20. scots_chris $474
21. Fuel55 $458
22. Mike_Maloney $456
23. RecessRampage $434
24. Otis $429
25. Miami Don $402
26. jeciimd $382
26. Jordan $382
28. Blinders $379
29. lightning36 $371
30. ChapelncHill $353
31. Zeem $330
32. OMGitsPokerFool $324
33. oossuuu754 $312
34. leftylu $295
35. Emptyman $288
35. Wigginx $288
37. ScottMc $282
38. Fishy McDonk $277
39. Irongirl $252
39. Manik79 $252
41. Wippy1313 $248
42. swimmom95 $245
43. Byron $234
44. wwonka69 $216
45. Omega_man_99 $210
46. katiemother $209
47. Pushmonkey72 $208
48. Buddydank $197
49. Gary Cox 194
50. 23Skidoo $176
51. Surflexus $174
52. Santa Clauss $170
53. Iakaris $162
53. Smokkee $162
55. cemfredmd $156
55. NumbBono $156
57. lester000 $147
58. LJ $146
59. Heffmike $145
60. brdweb $143
61. DDionysus $137
62. Patchmaster $135
63. InstantTragedy $129
64. Ganton516 $114
65. Fluxer $110
66. hoops15mt $95
67. Gracie $94
67. Scurvydog $94
69. Shag0103 $84
70. crazdgamer $82
71. PhinCity $80
72. maf212 $78
73. Alceste $71
73. dbirider $71
75. Easycure $67
76. Rake Feeder $53

So no changes up at the top of the 2007 MATH moneyboard after Monday night's action, leaving myself, Bayne and Columbo still in a virtual $13-between-us tie atop the moneyboard heading into the 9th month of the year. Otherwise, pokerfool and Gary enter the moneyboard for the first time this week, bringing the running total of players who have cashed in the MATH this year to a total of 76. Tune in next week to see if the three-headed monster atop the current moneyboard finally gives way, or if another player strikes out with a big move to threaten the triumvirate of leaders.

So, back to my play last night. This whole week so far in fact since returning from the Hammer Family vacation to the Pennsylvania - South Jersey area to see family and friends. In a word, I have sucked. Ass. And it is highly frustrating to me, because as you know if you read here, I was on a major heater for almost the last two months straight before this weekend. I had won or cashed in probably a good 6 or 7 blonkaments since the end of the BBT, I had probably won a good 2 or 3k in cash games, and I had scored in a whole slew of mtt's to varying degrees in perhaps the longest run of great play of my online poker career. Poker was one of the most fun things I did all day, and I looked forward to sitting down that night through most of the day, right up to and through last week.

Then I went on vacation. And I didn't even think about poker for three days. I took a break right in the middle of one of the greatest poker streaks of my career, and now that I'm back, I've completely lost it. I sat down on Sunday night to two or three mtts, and boy did I donk it up in them. Technically, I got sucked out on in one of them, but then I monkeypushed after that when I surely had enough chips to start accumulating again instead. Then I tilted out of another tournament when my first one went south, and I ended the night by donking early out of another mtt, all the while feeling like something was just a little bit "off" with my game.

Monday night saw more of the same, as even though I got recockusucked out of the MATH early on when I should have doubled back to around 2500 with QQ against 75o allin preflop, I put myself in that position by donkeycalling off almost my entire stack with just the unimproved JackAce. Now how is that Hoyazo-style poker, can someone tell me? I similarly bounced fairly early from all of my other mtt's last night, and thanks to some nice cash gains at the 1-2 PLO tables and donktastic "full tilt pro" Lynette Chan I only managed to book a small loss for the day, but overall it was not a good day now for the second day in a row since returning from my vacation.

People often talk about taking a break to clear one's head, and that they always seem to come back refreshed and playing well after some time away from the game. I have consistently disputed that here on the blog and in other blogs' comments as it relates to my own personal game, and this weekend is a perfect example of why. I don't know about you out there in blog reader land, but for me, I most definitely play my best when I am playing every day, or close to it. What I need for optimal play is very consistent exposure to the games that I am looking to play my best in, and if I can play even just a little every night, that is the pattern that has led to my best performance streaks over time. For me, when I take time off, my game only gets worse. In this case, I totally muffed up a long, consistent streak of me playing my A game by disappearing from the game for three days. At other times when I've been running bad, I have taken time off and returned to an even rustier, even more downtrodden outlook on the game and on the variance that has often come for me to pay my dues to the poker gods. I know other people have many times touted the wonders and restorative powers of some time away from the game, and I fully believe that for them this solution has worked in the past, but for me my game suffers, my reads get that much worse, my judgment gets fiddled with, etc. when I am away from the game, and I tend to respond much better when I consistently face myself with the kinds of decisions one routinely runs into during the course of regular poker play.

One last thing for today -- this August has been incredibly mild in New York for the most part. I find myself wondering where all the global warming donkeys have gone this year, the same thing I find myself asking myself in at least half of the past 10 or 15 years since people started talking about global warming like one of the great evils of our times. I know at least a few bloggers who are all into the global warming thing, but until the people on that side of the fence realize that they've created a silly construct for themselves where they now claim that either a cold streak or a warm streak is evidence of global warming, I fear that they will continue to lose, not gain, customers for their cause over time in this country. The American people have shown time and time again that they are willing to buy into many a cause, but the logic behind that cause has to be there. You can't tell Americans when it gets warm one year that this is global warming, and then when it is cold every other year that that is global warming too, and expect to have a consistent following that motivates to get things changed. The bottom line is that the weather in this part of the world has not been consistently warmer over the past, say, ten years than in the ten years preceding that. It's basically the same -- some years are warmer than average, and plenty of years of late are cooler than average too. But the global warming donkeys can't have it both ways and expect to figure prominently in the minds of the people, the voters or the lawmakers in this country.

Not sure where that came from but I have been thinking it as the latter part of August has for the most part been mild and bearable here in the Big Apple. In any event, I do have a fantasy football draft on Tuesday night for the third of four leagues I am playing in this year, so that means I should be on the pc around my usual time. I bet that probably means another attempt at a fifth tier 2 token in my account in the 9:45pm ET token frenzy on full tilt, and maybe even a shot at the KOD's domain itself -- the 28k. I am really hoping to get myself back on track to where I was just a week ago in my poker game, so tonight I'm going to really focus on getting into the right mindset -- a winning mindset -- before I sit down to play, which I do think has been absent for the past couple of nights since returning from my vacay. Wish me luck, or else I'm back to being the deadest money at the table every time I sit down to play.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Monday Recap, Math Pimp, and New Poker Books

Another Monday, and another Mondays at the Hoy tonight on full tilt:

Come one and come all tonight at 10pm ET on full tilt (password is "hammer" as always) to the par-tay known as Mondays at the Hoy, where we suddenly have a 3-way virtual tie for first place between Bayne, Columbo and myself for domination atop the 2007 Hoy moneyboard, with the three of us separated by just $13 total won during all of 2007 from my weekly Monday night tournament. At this point, the first one of the three of us to cash at all in the MATH will take the new moneyboard lead, and a tournament win at this point will be deadly to the competition as we head out of summer and into fall in much of the country for this year. So come out tonight and beat down on Bayne and Columbo, my closest competitors in the MATH this year. Good times.

So what else? Well I did fail to mention this on Thursday, but the Hammer family was away on a mini-vacation this weekend, first to Sesame Place on Friday, and then to my parents' place for the weekend for our annual trip to celebrate their anniversary (and really to swim in the pool in the backyard as the last days of summer are upon us). In our case that included a beautiful, 96-degree day on Saturday that ended with anniversary dinner and then I even got to show my two girls the stars for the first time in their short life. Living in Manhattan there is not much to see in the way of celestial objects other than the sun and moon, and even what few stars you can see are pretty much out of reach of my kids, who generally go to sleep long before it is dark in the summertime. That said, on Saturday we got back from a late dinner, well past the Hammer Girls' normal bedtime, and when we got back to my parents' home it was brilliantly clear out and I laid down in the grass is the side yard and just had the girls look up at the night sky for a bit. And let me tell you, there is nothing to compare to hearing the wonder and awe in my older daughter M's voice when I informed her that that bright "star" up over my parents' neighbors' tree was actually not a star at all, but was actually Jupiter. "You mean the real life planet Jupiter, Daddy?" "That's right, M. The real Jupiter." "Wooooooooooowwww". It was pretty awesome, and if M ends up having a lifelong interest in astronomy like her old man, I will probably never forget that night as when it all started for her. We've done tons of puzzles and read tons of stories about the planets, the stars, etc., but Saturday night out on my parents' lawn was the first time that it really clicked for M, the whole thing that those planets in the puzzles are real life things that you could actually see or even fly to if given enough time, and it was a thrill to be there just to see that epiphany in a bright young girl's mind for the first time.

In the poker world, I did wake up on Monday morning to a text message from Don that he, Chad (note new blog link there) and LJ played the $340 mtt at the Venetian this weekend, and that our favorite female blogger busted out with a 3rd place finish for $3200 and change. Wow is all I can say. Following up on her recent 3rd place finish in the 32k on full tilt a couple of weeks back, this is another huge score for LJ, so go stop by and congratulate her at her blog when you get the chance.

Otherwise, I realize I have been truly remiss in talking about some of the latest poker literature that has grabbed my fancy over the past couple of months. I recently completed the Full Tilt Poker Tournament Strategy Guide, which overall I would say was very good poker reading, even if I was familiar already with the majority of the concepts discussed in the book. Some articles, such as the no-limit section by Howard Lederer, annoyed the crap out of me as they clearly indicate Howard's unwillingness to actually give away any of his secrets regarding poker's most complex game. Other sections seemed just too esoteric to me to be truly helpful, and in this area I would include Andy Bloch's numbers-oriented focus on preflop nlh play as well as Richard "I cheated Bally's video poker machines but won't admit it" Brody's over-generalized freeflow conversation about online poker tournaments. But many of the sections, however, were really informative and detailed and complete, with some of the better ones including Chris Ferguson's preflop and postflop nlh chapters (top notch stuff from a top notch player IMO), Howard Lederer's limit holdem topic which was basically just a rehash of his previously-released lhe DVDs, and a surprisingly good chapter on O8 tournaments by Mike "The Mouth" Matusow, whom I never figured to have much good to say but who consistently surprised me with good, specific and smart strategy offerings in O8, the donkiest of the major poker variants.

I also recently completed a book I mentioned here a week or two ago, Winning in Tough Hold'em Games by Geoff Herzog and Nick Grudzien. This is a book that I recommend reading for all serious holdem players -- even though the text is geared specifically towards limit holdem, the concepts, and the general aggressive strategy advocated throughout the book are extremely valuable for anyone who takes their poker play seriously, especially if you play a lot in shorthanded or high-limit games, or if you make a lot of final tables and constantly find yourself in situations where everyone has to be aggressive if you expect to hang on to the end. This book was technical in places, but it never gets too technical and I never glazed over entire mathy sections as I have in some other texts on occasion. Just the last 50 pages or so of this book alone, where author Grudizen takes you through a number of actual lhe hands he has played, and describes his thought process and analysis in each, is worth the price of the book, as just reading and absorbing the author's thought process on these hands is IMO invaluable again to anyone who thinks seriously of poker and poker concepts. I heartily recommend this book if you are such a person or such a poker player, and I find it highly unlikely that anyone would not see the value in such book once you have read through it all, and I commend the two authors for a very strong first effort in the world of poker texts.

Lastly, I have just started a brand new poker book that, despite some initial trepidation, I am already quite positive I will enjoy after reading just the first 20 or 30 pages. That book is The Mathematics of Poker by Bill Chen and Jerrod Ankenman. Although the book looks as you glance through it like a way-too-mathy text, just reading the foreword and the introduction has me excited to delve more into this text, and specifically for the discussion of game theory included in the book.

In the Introduction to The Mathematics of Poker, the authors suggest that their book is different from other poker texts because, rather than breaking down the game into sections like "preflop play", "flop play" and "turn and river play", it will instead take a more wholistic view to each individual hand, and to a generalized strategy that represents the intimate connection between preflop, flop, turn and river strategy in each specific hand. I am a big, big fan of this approach, and the general thought got me thinking about something, which I would love to get some people's thoughts on. When I play, say, one of the regular blonkaments, most of the hands I go in to, I do not have an entire plan formulated for how I'm going to play the hand right from the getgo. This does happen on occasion, but most of the time, I may make a really loose call from the button preflop just based on my position, and I don't know yet whether I'm going to fold to action on the flop, call to float and try to steal the pot on the turn, or whether I intend to bet/raise the flop and lead the turn to try to take the pot down by brute force. I tend to make a lot of moves, in particular earlier in the hands when the betting is generally cheaper, as just initial steps, to which I plan to react based on my opponents' reactions, their bets or checks, and of course the cards that hit the board, and without some larger generalized plan for how I can win the hand right from before the flop is even out. Is that how the rest of you play most of the time, just running blindly into a lot of cheap flops without a plan for how to win or maximize my profit or minimize my loss with the hand? Sometimes I wonder if others play the game the same way that I do, and I am usually surprised and my poker game is usually enriched by the answers I receive.

That's it for today, other than to say that the Phillies are the worst team to be a fan of of all time. Now come by tonight to Mondays at the Hoy, and knock out Columbo and Bayne to help give me a chance to take back what is rightfully mine -- the top spot on the Hoy moneyboard for the year. See you then!

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Mookie Curse?

As I've written much about here, I am on a raging hot streak of late, including especially in the blonkaments. In the latest Mookie tournament on Wednesday night, I continued this streak by reaching another blonkament final table in a row:

As you can see I am slightly in second place and well ahead of the other 7 players at the table. I played dumbo aggro early, losing half my stack on two silly bluffs that got called or where I was raised out of the hand, but then I decided to start playing Hoy poker and was able to slowly grind back a stack. I won a big hand late in the first hour where I called an allin reraise from a player I was not familiar with when I held just the JackAce. Yes, you read that right. I called an allin reraise from someone with the JackAce. I can't say what it was but I felt like I was racing and my opponent had the unfortunate timing to run into me when I was at my lowest in the tournament and thus cared the least about the prospect of racing to get back all of my lost chips. I hit a Jack on the turn and bested my opponent's pocket presto. Such is poker. I'll say this -- since you all know that when I'm the guy with the pair and the Jackace calls me , I lose in that spot with a frequency of probably 90-95%. So if you think I think it is sad, sorry, funny or even anything out of the ordinary that my JackAce won a 49% shot for me for once last night, then you don't know me very well. What would've been funny would be if I had finally decided to donk it up like the rest of 'em and called an allin myself with the Jackace, was up against a lower pocket pair and then I still managed to lose, this time as the Jackace instead of the pair which I usually am. That would have been funny and unbelievable to me. This? Standard.

Anyways, other than that I bluffed like mad and played a whole lot of shitty cards as is my usual practice in the Mookie, but I did these things in good spots. Although my reads are wrong sometimes, especially since I make decisions by those reads in most of the hands that I am playing, in general playing aggressive poker but never getting called in big spots with weak hands, I was able to consistently chip up through the second hour, busting a number of fellow players along the way.

As an aside and on this same topic, I really appreciate all of the comments I received yesterday on my bustout hand in the 15k rebuy mtt from the night before on full tilt. Yes my read was obviously dead wrong on that hand, but the commentary I received was worth more than any written explanation from me could possibly do, because it illustrates better than anything I could ever have said myself a crucially important poker point. Basically, I had pushed allin on the flop with big overbets on TPTK or better hands, all of which I was sure were best, probably five or six other times in the preceding hour or so at that table by the time this hand came up. The fact that a few of the commenters all fell for the bait that this overbet on my bustout hand somehow means I am weak is illustrative of why it is so important to mix up your bets. Because in reality these guys who automatically think that an overbet screams weakness, and therefore would have called me with any top pair, or even second pair, on an all-suited board, would have been busted by me about an hour earlier. And then again. And again. And again. See, poker is all about getting into people's heads. And because I know that many people will view the flop overbet as a desperate attempt at a push bet, I make use of it again and again as a pull bet where I know I'm ahead and I want to be called, including in that tournament where probably the last 40,000 of my 59,000-chip stack was won on flop overbets where I got called by worse hands. Poker is a beatiful thing. You just always need to be thinking one level ahead of your opponent(s) and you should be in good shape.

So anyways, back to the Mookie. That's all how I played my way to a nearly leading stack as the final table began this week. I played great at the final table, taking it typically slow at first and then making some big plays and huge resteals with air to push into the money bubble at 5th place, and then eventually to bust #5 to take a nice chip lead with just four players remaining.

Then the most amazing thing happened. I was dealt pocket Kings. At a final table.

This never happens for me. I had already been screaming in the girly chat for an hour to just give me one more premium hand in this entire tournament, and I will find a way to get an opponent allin with it. This has always been one of my strengths, and even though it has led to some recockulopolous beats as I've allowed other players to develop a hand late in an mtt, the overall payoffs to me with final table premium hands have been hugely positive. So here I am with pocket Kings. When the action folded to me in the small blind, I put in a pot-raise, representing a steal and hoping to get some action from leftylu in the big blind who I know knows how aggressively I play, especially in this spot. I get just what I want -- leftylu moves allin quickly, and here I am with pocket Kings calling allin as the chip leader with four left in the elusive Mookie tournament, and the allin I am calling is coming from the second-place stack at the time. When I win this hand I'm going to be about 2-1 over second place and 10-1 over third place left in this thing. And I'm going to win. Finally. My first Mookie. This is it:

and here is the glorious final board:

Nice flop, huh? So that's how I went from dominating to done in the Mookie, getting someone allin preflop with me against my pocket Kings. Two hands later I was out, my third cash in a month at the Mookie which is always nice, but I've been thinking about it. I've decided that my $44 cash in the Mookie this week can lick my ballz. And congrats to leftylu for surviving the short-lived clash with my pocket Kings and then going on to win the tournament, yet another player with a Mookie victory while I have none.

I'll never win a Mookie. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I'm cursed with the Mookie. I've won everything else in the world I would like to win. And I've been close now with the Mookie on three separate occasions, all three of which saw me a significant favorite to either win or take a significant lead with just a few players remaining. One time it was my JJ losing to some other clown's 88 allin with 3 players left and me in second place. Last week it was Surf hitting that 6-outer on the river after I had spiked a Jack on the turn when he was allin in heads-up play. This week it's my pocket Kings losing allin to the second place player's A8 when I had a chip lead already with four players left. This shit is painful. So I ask you: Am I really cursed in the Mookie?

In support of this argument, I offer up these non scientifical calculations:

In Mondays at the Hoy, I would estimate that I have cashed for around $1700 during the lifetime of this event over about 14 months. At an average buyin of around $23 (given the midway switch from pokerstars $20 to full tilt $26), let's say I've played in roughly 52 MATH tournaments. That is $1196 spent, and $1700 won for a total net profit of around $500 from the MATH tournament over its lifetime and my lifetime playing in it almost every week. This equates to a profit of around 25 tournament buyins won from this event over time.

In Riverchasers, which runs every other week on Thursdays (I never play the Sunday afternoon events), I have posted two wins and I think four cash finishes for a total cash of around $500 over probably 13 tournaments. At $10 a pop, that is $130 spent and $500 won, for a total net profit of around $370 from the Riverchasers tournament as a whole. This equates to a profit of around 37 tournament buyins won from this event over time.

In the Big Game, which only runs once a month and sports that delicious $75 buyin, I estimate I have played 7 times for a total expenditure of $525. I finished in second place in the second Big Game held on full tilt earlier this year, and I came in second again on July 1 on the final event of the BBT calendar. Then I took down August's Big Game entirely for my third cash in 7 tries in this tournament, giving me total winnings here of around $1650, or a total profit of around $1100 from this tournament. This equates to a profit of around 15 tournament buyins won from this event over time.

So let's review real quick here. In the Hoy, the Riverchasers and the Big Game I am up a net of $500, $370 and $1100 respectively, for a total profit of over $1800 during the lifetime of these three respective events. When you take the WAC (weighted average cost of capital) for these three events, weighting them for the frequency of the buyins -- i.e. taking into account that the MATH is weekly, the RC is bi-weekly and the Big Game is monthly -- you get an adjusted average buyin of nearly $29 per tournament, meaning that I have won, on average, 62 buyins per tournament throughout the entire lifetime of these three events. Who says the blonkaments can't be profitable, right?

Now look at the Mookie. This one has been going on longer than the other three events by a few months, so I've played in the most of them. Since I was there from the beginning and I try to play almost every week (except during Lost season, of course) I would estimate that I have bought in to probably around 70 Mookie tournaments, for a total expenditure of $770. With my few top-three finishes and probably only 5 or 6 other cashes total in this event (most of them not this year, btw), I would estimate total cashouts from the Mookie for me at around $350. This means that I have a net loss of $420 in the Mookie over the lifetime of that tournament, or a loss of 42 freakin Mookie buyins over time in just 70 events. Wow.

Now, it's not at all that I'm trying to say that I am simply too great at poker to have gone through losing 42 tournament buyins in this one event over the past couple of years. Rather, just look at the differential between my performance in the Mook and that in all of the other big blonkaments out there. I win an aggregate of 62 buyins per tournament in the Hoy, the RC and the Big Game -- which all together I have probably played almost the same number of times as I have played the Mookie alone, but in the Mookie for some reason I lose more than 40 buyins over time, while I win more than 60 buyins over time in the other half of the events put together.

What does this all mean? Am I really cursed in the Mookie? Trust me when I say that there are no external stimuli on Wednesday nights or something that make me not devote my full attention or anything like that. I never really have any distractions when I play any poker online in the evenings, and that goes just the same for Wednesdays as any other day. Yes Lost was on during part of the Mookie run this past Spring, but to be honest I barely played in the Mookie during that run to avoid any distraction issues. If anything, Sundays are clearly the night where I have the most distractions because it's the one night of the week when The Sopranos and Entourage have usually been running in my bedroom while I am trying to focus on the games. And there I have won the most money in the Big Game, not the least. So that's not it.

Is it that the competition is just better in the Mookie for some reason than in the other blonkaments? Ha ha.

It's not even that I don't play well in the Mookie. Just look at the past few weeks, where each time I've been in position to win but somehow have taken the brunt of lady luck and been beaten by a fairly significant longshot in a spot where I am likely otherwise going to win the tournament. What makes me play these hands the way that I do? What makes this keep happening to me week in and week out in the Mookie tournament?

So I ask again, am I cursed in the Mookie or what?

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Push Bets and Pull Bets

On Tuesday night I continued my streak of solid poker playing, although at the end of the evening the overall balance in my account at full tilt was pretty much unchanged after a solid session at the nlh cash tables, and two nice but no-cash runs in large mtts. The big story on the night for me was that 10:30pm ET 15k guaranteed $10 rebuy mtt that I’ve written about recently, in which I got to be that lucky guy last night with the uberass donkey mofo at my table for the entire first hour who kept double-rebuying for 3000 chips and then insta-pushing on the first hand without regard to his holding. Thanks to a quick identification of this player’s tendencies – a good 10 crucial minutes before anyone else at the table picked up on his true donkishness – and a run of decently playable cards showdown-wise, I managed to call his allins or get him to move allin probably 7 times in the span of 15 minutes and I won every time. The result? I was the chipleader in this event from about 20 minutes in all through the rest of the rebuy hour and through most of the second hour as well. I went into the third break in the top 10 in chips, and I was in the mid teens at 59k in chips with 77 players left when I raised preflop with something like KTo from the button and was called by just the big blind.

The flop in this hand came out QJ4 all spades, and with about 16k in the flop due to the huge blinds, antes and the preflop raise and call, I opted to push allin for my entire 52k stack remaining. My reasoning was simple – this bet will have to be folded to by anyone who does not hold precisely two spades in their hand. All this guy did was call my preflop raise from late position, so to put him on two spades exactly, when he had just checked the all-spade flop to me as it is, would obviously be regoddamdickulous. And with 16k in there and the ability to know he would have to fold this no-Ace and no-King flop after calling a preflop raise with anything but the actual flopped flush, I thought this was a fine move. Of course, when the anus instacalled and showed me AT of spades and I was drawing dead on the flop for the rest of my stack, I was reconsidering things just a li’l bit. So no money for me despite utterly ripping up that 15k tournament for over 3 hours and basically never at any time after the first 20 minutes dropping out of the top 20 in chips. But that play got me thinking, in particular about a notion that I think about all the time when I play, even though almost no poker books that I’ve read seem to address this concept with more than a fleeting reference: the notion of “push bets” and “pull bets”.

The premise is actually fairly simple: there are two kinds of bets in the world of poker. “Push bets”, which are designed to push people out of the pot, and “pull bets” which are designed to keep people in the pot with you. That play that got me eliminated from the rebuy last night was the ultimate in push bets – a massive overbet allin on the flop. There is little doubt that this bet was designed to do one thing – get my opponent to fold since it requires him to risk all his chips on an all-suited flop with a Queen and a Jack, where I basically know he cannot call for 52,000 chips here into a 16,000-chip pot unless he himself has flopped a flush, or possibly with AQ for TPTK including the A♠. That’s it. That’s a push bet right there. I want to push my heads-up opponent out of the pot here on the flop, probably because there are possible draws out there like the spade flush or the straight, and maybe because I have a middling hand like second pair good kicker or something and do not want to risk losing a large pot to a guy holding some kind of top pair low kicker.

There is another time when I love to make push bets, and that is in multiway pots –- usually 3-handed -– on the turn after the action is checked around on the flop and nothing scary has hit on the turn. No one has indicated any strength on the flop, and so unless my read is that someone is slow-playing or waiting to check-raise or that somehow the seemingly harmless turn card did help them, I will often lay a push bet out there on the turn to try to help "convince" the other two players to allow me to pick up the orphan pot. Typically with nothing but air in my hand. But these are push bets, make no mistake about it. I want to make a bet that will be perceived by my opponent(s) as not worth the risk associated with calling it. Get them out of the pot, and give the pot at its current size to me now.

The opposite kind of bet, the "pull bet", is when I have either a big big hand, or sometimes a big drawing hand in the right situation. So for example, if I limp from the big blind with A8o and see a 5-way flop of Q88 rainbow, I am liking my hand. Quite a bit. But here, does it make sense for me to push allin on a massive flop overbet, since I'm sure I am in front here? Of course not. That likely would have the effect of pushing other players out of the pot, a pot which for all intents and purposes I already have won here on the flop with trips and top kicker. Unless someone happens to hold pocket Queens or manages to spike a set with a pocket pair between 99 and AA on the turn or river, I'm not going to get beat here. And in a multiway limped pot, that is highly unlikely, although there is some likelihood that at least one other player holds a decent Queen, a decent pocket pair, or even an 8 with a lower kicker, all of which are at least somewhat likely to pay me off to some degree in this hand on later streets, if I can just make them believe they might be ahead right now. So here I want to make a pull bet, one that is not too scary and that one, or hopefully more than one, of the remaining players in the pot will call.

Similarly, sometimes I make a pull bet when I'm holding a big draw as well. For example, I call a raise from the big blind with JT to see a 4-way flop. The flop comes Q94♣, giving me the bigass open ended straight flush draw. Here I am tempted to make a pull bet, not trying to scare people out of this flop that highly likely has hit somebody to some degree at least, but rather trying to elicit calls (or even raises) from players whose hands have themselves connected with this board in some meaningful way. Again, as the current favorite in the pot due to my likely 17 outs twice, this is not a spot where I am necessarily wanting to chase any players out of the pot. My implied odds are clearly going to be greater from hitting my draw with the more players there are left in the pot when I hit it. Thus a pull bet is called for per my generalized poker strategy moreso than a push bet which is more likely to leave me heads-up and thus with a lower expected payoff if I do hit my big draw in this pot.

So, with the way I play the game, what's the practical difference between a push bet and a pull bet? Often as you might imagine, the size of the bet is the contributing factor as far as what differentiates the two types of bet. In most cases, I'm not going to overbet the pot if I'm trying to pull bet one or more players, and I'm not going to bet just a third of the pot if I'm looking to push people out of the pot. Generally speaking, a larger bet works better with people's human instincts as a push-out kind of bet than a smaller bet does, which appears easier to call to most people as a general statement.

Similarly, sometimes the situation itself dictates that a certain type of bet is likely to work better as a pull bet or a push bet. For example, if I call a half-pot bet on the flop with a flush draw on an all-raggy flop, and then the flush draw fills on the turn, most bets I make in that spot are likely to appear to be pull bets given that the only likely draw on the board just filled. Similarly, in the converse situation where someone bets the flop, a drawing hand calls and then the turn card clearly does not complete the draw that one or more players are likely trying to fill, any bet by the bettor who led out at the flop to begin with is typically going to be (and going to be perceived to be) a push bet in that he will typically try to price his opponents out of drawing at roughly 20% hands on the river card.

My last general advice about push bets and pull bets is to be careful. Any truly good player will be very attuned to this concept -- at least subconsciously or conceptually even if they have never actually thought of things like push bets and pull bets -- and you can't just use sizing alone to dictate how your bets will be viewed by your opponents, or rely on sizing alone to determine the nature of your opponents' bets in no-limit holdem. So, you can't just call an opponent every time he massively overbets the pot on a flop with a lot of draws. One of those times, if he is a good player, he will be purposefully mixing up his play and be pushing in there sometimes with very strong hands, flopped sets, and times when he's the one who actually flopped the flush. You need to do that in order to counterbalance things, but if done just enough to keep my opponents on their toes, I generally feel like I can make smaller bets most of the time with pull bets, and larger bets most of the time with push bets. This is just one of the tactics I tend to use on a pot-by-pot basis in my nlh tournament and cash game play that has helped me to make significant profits over my poker career.

Don't forget, tonight is the Mookie, where I will look to avenge last week's heads-up loss to Surflexus in my never-ending quest for just one week of Mookie domination. Full tilt poker, 10pm ET, password as always is "vegas1". I plan to be there and hopefully I'll be doing a lot of pull betting in your direction if I can get some effing good cards for a change in this thing. See you then!

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

More SnG Hotness, and Another MATH Victory

I wasn't even sure I was going to play any poker on Monday night. I was feeling kinda tired and think I might be battling some weak form of bug or something, but in the end I got it up for some Mondays at the Hoy action at 10pm ET on full tilt. It is my tournament, after all, right? In the end, Monday proved to be one of the most profitable evenings I have had in what has proven to be an awesome streak of positive variance that has lasted a good 5 or 6 weeks at this point, and arguably through most of this year. As I logged on around 9:15 and still had a little while to go before the Hoy kicked off, I ended up playing another of those $110 turbo sngs. This would be my third sng, after I won the first one last Friday, and I busted fresh in 10th place on a dumbo setup hand QQ vs KK very early on in my second over the weekend. These sngs are a good time for someone who plays like me because, if you can believe this, in the turbos at this level the blinds increase every 3 minutes. Basically this thing is set up such that it usually lasts under an hour and never possibly much more, and it really tends to reward aggressive play, in particular the people who are good at reading when their opponents are weak and will have to fold to a large reraise.

Anyways, the results of turbo $110 sng #3:

Saaaawwweeeeeeeeeeeet. At $495 a pop, I could play these things all day. If I can just sustain this pace of outright winning two out of every three sng's I play, this'll be like a cash cow.... Seriously though, a couple of these a week is all I will ever be able to handle. I get bored with sng's, I've already been there done that and I can even see the beginnings of it creeping in with me now after just 3 or 4 sngs over the past few days. It's just so easy to donk and run, so easy to just register for the next one and forget that first one ever happened. It's all just too easy, and when you focus as much as I do on the games I'm playing, I guess sometimes it's like I just crack when I'm trying to grind out small profits one at a time at sitngos. Just the thought of it makes me cringe. I'm an mtt guy, I'm a cash guy if that's the game, I'll play any variation of poker available at the big online sites. Even if they are the most formulaically profitable form of poker as others have claimed, sng's burn my soul. I die a little bit every time I play in one. It's just too patterned or something. I can do it in small doses perfectly well, but the more I play 'em, the worse I play 'em.

Anyways, on to the MATH. We ended up with 29 runners, a strong showing which made for a $696 prize pool including a sexy $313 and change for first prize, and cash payouts to the top 4 finishers instead of our usual top 3. I had not been feeling strong over the past few days, but for some reason the onset of the latest MATH tournament had me feeling invigorated. As I have been lately during my hot streak in almost all of the blonkaments, I was ready to play aggressively from the getgo and just ratchet it up from there.

My first big hand did not come until the 30-60 blinds level, when I saw a cheap turn card and hit the top of an inside straight against IslandBum. IB called when I raised his turn bet of 180 up to 840 chips, and then on the river when he checked the action to me, I felt I had to do this since he had played this as if he was holding a real hand:

As you can see, Island called when I reverse hoyed him at the river, and I dragged the big pot with my nuts (that does not sound good when I read it to myself). In the end it was just top pair poor kicker that Island called me down with, but that is the kind of action I tend to get in these blonkaments due to my nature as an aggressive player who seemingly would bluff in that spot with the exact same bets and betting pattern as I did here with the nuts on the turn. In particular I tend to get this action following a post like I did about last week's Mookie when I lost heads-up to Surf amidst a flurry of bluffing and stealing with almost no quality cardage throughout that tournament.

A short while later I raised it up preflop with AQo, called only by Don Morris in the blinds, and found a Queen-high flop with two spades. I found the courage to check it, willing to give the hand up if another spade and significant betting ensued, but otherwise planning to checkraise on the turn, which is exactly what I did. Don folded, and I added another 2100 chips to my stack, which moved into 3rd place among all 22 remaining players at the time (29 started).

Around the middle of the second hour of the MATH, I was faced with a very interesting situation when this action came to me before the flop:

What would you do? It's a toughie. Chad hoying there can mean a lot of different things. Knowing Chad like I do, he gets bored and frustrated in these blonkaments very quickly these days. I figured that could be the Hammer, the JackAce, of course AA, KK or AK but probably also any pocket pair, maybe KQs or JTs or T9s (assuming he would get called in most of these spots and wanting to double or get out). So that bet didn't scare me with my Queens, which I figured had to be ahead of his range. But Surf's call of the big allin from Chad is what scared me. In the end, I figured Surf, who is a very good and intuitive player with a lot of poker playing experience, would also have picked up on Chad's likely weakness, and that therefore there was a significant chance that Surf could be calling here with a hand like AJ or AQ or KQ or 66-JJ that he figures is likely ahead but is actually not all that strong against a ton of action. Thus, I decided that Surf still had enough chips to fold, I figured it was more likely than not that I was ahead, and I definitely wanted to get my Queens heads-up against Chad's probably-weaker-than-expected hand instead of against the likely Ace in Surf's hand. So I moved allin:

Surf thought for a good long while and then folded. Perfect. Chad showed this:

and I dragged another large pot, more significantly eliminating KOD in the process who is probably the most difficult guy to play with at your table of any of the bloggers, especially when he gets some chips. Tournaments or cash btw. And the best part about that hand? Surf lamented in the chat that he would have flopped a set -- presumably pocket Tens? -- but of course he made the right laydown then against my Queens and does not want to be the guy drawing to two outs there. This hand gave me my first lead of the tournament, as I was in 1st of 17 remaining at this time.

With 14 players left, I ended up losing a little less than half my stack to Iakaris when my AK < his QQ, dropping me back down to 7400 chips from over 13k I had been just a few minutes earlier. And then I made my laydown of the tournament. I had 99 in the big blind, the action folded around to the button who put in a standard steal-raise. While I pondered what to do with my 9s, Julius Goat in the small blind did a restealy-lookin thing allin for about 3 times the original button raise. I looked at that action, looked at my pocket 9s, and I could not escape the thought that with two Nines I had to figure I was racing there against at least one of these two guys, and possibly far behind to a higher pair as well. And in that case, why bother taking the chance when I still had chips. In the end the button laid it down so I never got to see what Goat had, but I told him I had 9s and he said we would have been racing. Exactly. So I'm glad I laid down there, except that after I folded, I was left in 9th place of the 10 remaining players with 5675 chips in my pile.

A few hands later I think emptyman busted in 10th, and we had made the final table, with me in 6th of 9:

Within the span of four hands early at the final table, Surf was dealt AQ over wwonka69's KQ allin preflop, and then again he found AA > Mike Maloney's 88 allin preflop, to rocket Surf, a very dangerous player, up to 23k and a slight chip lead over katiemother who held 22k at the time with 7 players remaining. I meanwhile did not see any good starting hands early at the final table, so I was forced to resort to my old favorite move -- stealing. I stole a lot of pots, mostly preflop but a few on the flop as well, and that helped me to keep afloat while some of the other players busted and we all crept slowly towards the top 4 spots who would receive cash payouts this week. At the second break, I was in 5th place of 7 remaining, with a chip stack nowhere near the leaders:

Surf's hot streak continued in the third hour of the MATH, as his JTo rivered a King to make a straight to beat NumbBono's KTs, and Surf once again jumped over 22k and a nice chip lead with now just 6 players remaining.

About 10 minutes into Hour 3, RaisingCayne reraised me allin when I held the JackAce, and I made the questionable move of calling his allin push, mostly because he was one of the very short stacks at the table and I knew he needed to make a move with something. He showed AT and was eliminated, my first knockout of the final table, and I was up to 3rd place of 5 remaining, with 19k in my stack. And a nice job to Cayne for making three final tables and two cashes in his first four MATH tournaments. That right there is an impressive run to start things off, and I'd love to see if that can continue.

We played for a good long time here at the money bubble with 5 players remaining, a good 15 minutes of fairly solid push-or-fold play. Of course I raised and reraised like crazy, including reraises with QQ and TT that I received when 5-handed, and I took a slight chip lead at 22k during this time near the end of the bubble for my first chip lead since about 16 players remaining.

Eventually, Goat busted in 5th place when his AQ failed to hold up against Surf's 99, even when Goat flopped an Ace to take about a 9-to-1 lead. Runner-runner clubs on the turn and river gave Surf the four-flush to eliminate Goat on the bubble. So we were in the cash and i looked forward to the action loosening up a bit and maybe some actual play after a flop or two. The chip counts were roughly 32k for Surf, 22k for me, 19k for katiemother and 13k for swimmom95.

Then i took over.

Katiemother called me allin with her AK racing against my pocket pair here:

which I miraculously held on to win. In fact, in this hand I raised katiemother first and I raised her last before the flop. She raised in the middle and committed herself, and my 51% hand held up. I was now up 43k to 24k for Surf to 19k for swimmom95.

A similar thing happened about 9 hands later, when swimmom95 called my massive preflop overraise here:

and lost:

Although this one was also a race, calling with the AQ there was not strictly necessary in my view, while in the last hand katiemother's call with AK was much more standard for a 4-handed situation. In any event, there you have the secret -- I won two 50-50 races when I needed to once we were down to 4-handed. Both times I was ahead slightly heading into the flop, and more importantly in my mind, both times I was the one putting in the last preflop raise, putting the pressure on my opponent, taking advantage of fold equity and giving myself the best chance to win without needing to go to that race. I'm glad I was rewarded for this play late in the final table of the MATH this week.

In any event, I headed into heads-up play against Surf with a 70k to 17k chip lead, but more than, with an extreme feeling of deja vu. Surf and I just played heads-up for the Mookie last Wednesday, and now here we were again, again with me starting heads-up play with a nice chip lead, but hopefully this one would end differently from the Mook where I lost my chip lead on one big drawing hand and gave up my chance to win my first Mookie title. I was more determined than ever to not let this one slip away.

I think I basically sealed this one up on this hand, when I reraised Surf on the flop here with just a draw although I figured quite possibly the best hand with King-high:

and he folded:

So obviously Surf did have nothing here, as I'm sure at those pot odds he calls even with Ace-high, but the good news was that this hand left him down with just under 7k in chips to my 80k+, and I knew it would take a miracle for me to eff this up. Two hands later came the final hand, my KTo calling allin against Surf's hopeful Hammer, but the King on the flop sealed the hand, and I had won my fifth MATH tournament of the year.

In the end, congratulations to all of our cashers this week: Katiemother in 4th place for $83.52, swimmom95 in 3rd for $125.28, and Surf in second place for $174 after another nice run for the guy who was just saying in his blog that he feels his tournament game is really "dialed in" right now. I have to say I feel just the same way, as I took down the MATH and the $313.20 first prize on the night in my own right, and had a blast doing it along the way.

So here are your updated 2007 MATH moneyboard standings including this week's tournament:

1. Bayne_s $1175
2. Columbo $1168
3. Hoyazo $1162
4. VinNay $775
5. cmitch $774
6. Iggy $745
7. NewinNov $677
8. Pirate Wes $672
9. Lucko21 $665
10. Waffles $650
11. Astin $616
12. Tripjax $561
13. IslandBum1 $527
14. RaisingCayne $522
15. Julius Goat $507
16. bartonf $492
16. mtnrider81 $492
18. PokerBrian322 $490
19. Chad $485
20. scots_chris $474
21. Fuel55 $458
22. Mike_Maloney $456
23. RecessRampage $434
24. Otis $429
25. Miami Don $402
26. jeciimd $382
26. Jordan $382
28. Blinders $379
29. lightning36 $371
30. ChapelncHill $353
31. Zeem $330
32 oossuuu754 $312
33. leftylu $295
34. Emptyman $288
34. Wigginx $288
36. ScottMc $282
37. Fishy McDonk $277
38. Irongirl $252
38. Manik79 $252
40. Wippy1313 $248
41. swimmom95 $245
42. Byron $234
43. wwonka69 $216
44. Omega_man_99 $210
45. Pushmonkey72 $208
46. Buddydank $197
47. 23Skidoo $176
48. Surflexus $174
49. Santa Clauss $170
50. Iakaris $162
50. Smokkee $162
52. cemfredmd $156
52. NumbBono $156
54. lester000 $147
55. LJ $146
56. Heffmike $145
57. brdweb $143
58. DDionysus $137
59. Patchmaster $135
60. InstantTragedy $129
61. Ganton516 $114
62. Fluxer $110
63. hoops15mt $95
64. Gracie $94
64. Scurvydog $94
66. katiemother $84
66. Shag0103 $84
68. crazdgamer $82
69. PhinCity $80
70. maf212 $78
71. Alceste $71
71. dbirider $71
73. Easycure $67
74. Rake Feeder $53

So congratulations to katiemother and to Surf for clawing their ways on to the 2007 moneyboard for the first time, as well as to swimmom who jumps up 41st place overall with her second cash in the recent past. And with my win this week, check out that logjam up at the top of the moneyboard right now in those first three spots: we've got recent Hoy-killers Bayne, Columbo and myself all separated by a total of only $13. Wow. Looks like it's gonna be a close race as we head out of the summer months to see who can end 2007 atop the moneyboard, and right now it is still anyone's game. Thank you to everyone who came out to play in the MATH this week, and I look forward to another fun (and profitable) time next Monday night at 10pm ET on full tilt!

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