Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Five Card Regret

Five card regret is a variation of five card draw allowing for self-deprecation. There are three rounds of betting. The first is after five cards are dealt to each player. The second is after the players have the opportunity to exchange up to three of their original cards for new ones. The final opportunity to wager is after a card is drawn from the deck making the three like cards wild.

The regret is when you realize your discard has become wild, which seems to happen at a rate that far exceeds its statistical probability.

Game tip: Knowing the future holds a few wilds, regardless of what they are, consider drawing to bigger hands than usual. Three of a kind may no hold up in this showdown, draw to a flush or a full house.

Five Card Regret isn't the most inventive came in the world, or the most fair. But as with all my blogger's choice hands, it breaks up the monotony of constant hold'em. It may not help your bankroll, but it may improve your humor.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Law of Averages

The law of averages is often quoted for an optimistic view of a player’s future. When applied to poker, it basically says that after a string of bad beats or weak hands, you are due a lucky break or strong hand. This positive luck supposedly makes up for the negative luck (unluck?) and maintains average luck. I’m all for optimism, but lets be a realist here.

The law of averages is useless with small samples. If your memory alone can keep track of your poker hands, it is a small sample size. If you work with the statistics of months of quantified luck (I call this profits and losses) you will eventually see an average.

For example, if your long-term stats show that you typically win $5 in an hour of play, and your most recent hour nets you $50, you can expect the next hour to be closer to $5 then to $50. This is called regression towards the mean. $5 is the mean, or average. If you think of the “law of averages” in terms of returning your hourly profits to $5/hour regardless of what ever hot or cold streak you just came off, then you’d be correct. It’s just that no one thinks of the law of averages like this.

As a rule, disregard the waves of fortune and misfortune from day to day and focus on playing good cards. Only detailed records can give you any insight on what to expect in the future.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Liar's Poker

Liar's Poker comes in a couple of different flavors. The first may be more comfortable as it is a tradition card game and the later is not. The game begins with each player starting with two quarters. Everyone is then dealt two cards down. The first player calls a poker hand. The next player has the option of either calling a hand which beats the previous hand or challenging the previous player's call. If a person challenges the hand, then everyone's cards are pooled to determine if the hand exists. If it does, the person who called the game loses one of his quarters and starts the next game, with only one card dealt to him. If it does not, the player who called the hand loses the quarter. After a player has their second quarter taken away, the player is out. Deck is reshuffled after each round. Game ends and the pooled change is awarded when only one person has a quarter left.

Liar's poker is also a popular bar game that only requires a dollar bill to play. In the place of cards, the eight-digit serial number on the dollar bill (see below is blue) represents each "hand." The object is similar to the card version--to make the highest bid of a number that does not exceed the combined total held by all the players. The numbers are usually ranked in the following order: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 0 (10) and 1 (Ace). For example, if the first player bids three 4's, he is predicting there are at least three 4's among all the players, including himself. The next player can bid a higher number at that level (three 5's), any number at a higher level (four 2's) or challenge. The end of the game is reached when a player makes a bid that is challenged all around. If the bid is successful, he wins a dollar from each of the other players, but if the bid is unsuccessful, he loses a dollar to each of the other players.

Both games are fun diversions that combine statistical reasoning with bluffing. The barrier of entry is small in that the most you can lose is a matter of dollars and cents. However, for you high rollers, currency substitutions are always an option.

If you practice any other variations on Liars Poker let me know in the comments. This is one game that can easily vary in rules.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Min. Raise

There is one point in every tournament when every player should adjust their play. It is when the money is almost within grasp and the bubble boy (or girl) is about to be crowned. Most tighten up, some bet more freely, all have a number on their mind. The number of how many players are left.

On a micro-scale, we can deal with the easy numbers. My favorite games are single-table tournaments with the top three places paying out. (These are also known by the somewhat counter-intuitive name sit-n-goes. Once you “sit” you can’t “go” until the game is over.) The bubble here is fourth place. Out of the last ten games I’ve played I’ve been first, second, third or fourth--so the end-game strategy has been fresh on my mind. Be aware, this is on-line advice and my not apply in person.

Every time I reach the top four, everyone tightens up except for players with a significant chip lead. These players steal blinds with bets four or five times the big blind. I’ve found that when the blinds are high enough to significantly impact the smaller or mid stacks, that is overkill. The minimum raise is often enough to get the player to fold pre-flop. According to traditional advice, this is a weak play. I agree, it is weak, but if it works it works. I have been using this strategy over the last ten games and have been first or second most of them. In addition, when you do get a call, you are still seen as on the offensive for the hand. Most people will respect your post-flop bet assuming your table reputation is solid.

Disclaimer: The minimum raise has worked for me consistently, but only under specific circumstances. I've been min. raising (1)  online, (2) with four or less players at the table,  and (3) not in the big blind. I use the min. bet to steal the big blind, it is less likely to get anyone who has already called the big blind to fold. Also I've only tested this tactic with buy-ins between $10 and $30. Your mileage may very.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Burn cards aren't just for ceremony

I'd wager most you readers know how to deal a hand of Texas Hold'em, but apparently not everyone knows that there is a reason behind why we deal like we do. In this case, the purpose of the burn card. Beginners may think it is just out of tradition that a card is burned (or discarded) before the reveal of community cards. Perhaps they just never thought about it. Chances are you know better, but if not, allow me to educate.

After the hole cards are dealt and the players are contemplating the strength of their hands, the deck is typically out there for all to see. In the event of a marked deck, the back of the card gives away as much information as the front. Poker players, being the suspicious lot that they are, invented the burn card to take the card in question out of play. After the flop, the same deck visibility applies, so before the turn there is a burn card and likewise for the river.

How do I know other players don't get this? The example here is a peeve of mine that has made itself apparent on too many occasions. The player on the button deals out the hands as normal then immediately burns the following card and sets the deck down. Pre-burning is completely useless and missing the point. An even better example is the amateur who burns and sets aside all the community cards in advance, usually proud of his more efficient approach to dealing.

This tidbit is another illustration of when knowing the "whys" of life are more important than knowing the "hows." It is sometimes in the best interest of a good player to keep a bad player in the dark, but please, if you see someone making these kinds of mistakes it is in the best interest of everyone to say something. Knowing is half the battle.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The sucker-sucker bet

The sucker bet. (n.) A small bet made with a strong hand to increase the pot size. Usually made knowing that other players intend to fold to a large bet, but are willing to stay in for the cheap.

Most players know this definition and may fold over cards and low pairs to avoid falling victim. This over compensation allows for the cheapest bluff in poker. I bet small every once and a while and the most common response goes something like this: "Now, that's a sucker bet! I'm not falling for that." And fold. They don't always state their thought process, but often they do. I suppose to show their "superior" read and justify their fold to a weak bet.

This tip works best against tight players, both passive and aggressive, and when you have established yourself as a tight player. I recommend it when you are heads-up and post-flop, best as a continuation bet. I tend to throw out my small bets when I have absolutely nothing.

Try it, you may be surprised at the results. It doesn't work all the time, but you are only losing a little more than you would have with a fold. The beauty of the sucker-sucker bet is that it doesn't have to have a high success rate to still be worth it.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Holy Iron Cross, Batman

I've seen the following game referred to by a few names; Holy Cross and Iron Cross to name a couple. It is a game in which players are dealt a five hole cards to play with community cards, this time in to configuration of a cross.

crossThe version I am most familiar with uses five community cards laid out in the form of a plus sign. The cards are revealed one at a time, each followed by a round of betting, with the middle card revealed last. The player makes the best hand possible using the two in their hand and either the vertical or horizontal line of three cards from the cross. The picture, for example, depicts a full house beating a straight.

This game allows for many variations such as having the middle card as a wild, each player dealt two hole cards instead of five, or having one side of the cross longer than the other.

I like this game because of the high number of betting rounds and the little differences that make people who think that it is just like Texas Hold'em lose. However, like most game variants I highlight, I don't like playing it continuously, but rather use it as a break from the standard poker games I play.

Ancient people used to place holy cross near their bedding. This was done in order to avoid home lighting from calling the evil spirits. Today we have such innovations as art in our outdoor furniture.