Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Best Posts of 2008 Round-up

Happy New Years, poker people! Hope you all have had a very fun and/or profitable year, I know I have. Hell's Cold Day is still going strong a year and a quarter later and I still have more wisdom and wise cracks for 2009. For now, I leave you with this years best posts according to PostRank!

Many happy returns and don't forget your old acquaintance,


Monday, December 29, 2008

Grundy on Women (if you know what I mean)


I don't usually take the time to respond to wayward posts from misinformed bloggers, but a certain Mrs. Goodson of TourneyBlog fame posted such an extremely sexist article on her personal blog "Mama Loves Poker" that I have to rebut. And, man, do I hate rebutting.

She goes on to say how women are better poker players, citing qualities such as intuition and the ability to multitask. Intuition is just guessing with a feminine spin on it. Men use skills such as deduction and reason and deductive reasoning to come to our conclusions in both life and poker. Guessing is a tactic of the clueless. And the idea that women are better multitaskers is both a sweeping generalization and a complete falsehood. If the underlying point being made here is that women are too scatter brained to focus on the game, than I tend to agree. Not to mention their inability to process emotions. It's a wonder they aren't constantly on tilt.

I have been accused of stereotyping women. "Women are lousy poker players." "Woman can't drive." Yes, those are stereotypes. Stereotypes were created because they are USUALLY true. Not always, but usually. Black people USUALLY like fried chicken. I would argue that anyone who is not a vegetarian likes chicken and that frying any food makes it better tasting. So everyone USUALLY likes fried chicken.

But I digress.

Mrs. Goodson also mentioned that good looks give women an advantage at the poker table. This may be true with the stakes she usually plays, but the high rollers USUALLY put a higher value on cash than eye candy. Besides, MOST ladies who are into cards aren't perfect 10s anywho.

So clearly Mrs. Goodson is a blatant sexist who should really know better. I mean, her name is Goodson! Not Gooddaughter!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Knowing When to Quit: A Public Service Announcement.

When I'm sitting at the table not playing at my standard or better, I quit. If I'm losing in races or I fall victim to bad beats, or even if I make one or two mistakes, I usually stay the course. It is when I'm bleeding chips, tired, on tilt, distracted, or just not "feeling it" that I quit. And quit I should.

I'm talking about quitting for the day or even the week. I'm talking about quitting on the micro-scale. But what about the macro?

I'm assuming that you have been playing poker for a while. The year's end is upon us and we should take t his time to reflect on our performance. Are you up? If you are in the green that is an excellent indicator of performance, and you can only truly know if you are up if you have taken my previous advice and made note of your sessions. Green = you are, at the very least, a better than average poker player. Profitability paired with your enjoyment of playing relative to the time you invest in some equation only you can create sums up whether or not you should continue playing poker.

That said, you can be unprofitable and enjoy the game enough to justify your play. Although I would ask from where your enjoyment comes. For example: I love the game in the same way some people love chess or Halo or Football. It is a test of my abilities against other people's abilities. I don't play against the house. I don't play for the gamble. Luck is a part of the game, but not my part.

I bring this up because my blog is meant to make you a better player and offer entertaining diversions to those interested in cards. It is not meant to encourage compulsive gamblers. If luck is your part of the game, if the thrill of risk is what you are paying for with your chips, all I ask is that you make sure you can afford it. Know when to quit.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Where to get your card guard

Like a good nickname, a card guard can add a little character to your Poker Personality. A fine example of this is Greg Raymer's fossil, which covered both bases as his name became "Fossilman."

To be fair, the main purpose of card guards is to, um, guard your cards. Decorative chips are a familiar option. I have a couple of those that I have either bought or won over the years. I have also been known to employ a bouncy ball at the tables. I like them for three reasons. Firstly, they are cheap so if I feel so inclined I can throw it in the pot without real fear of losing it. Secondly, they are cheap so I can chuck it across the room after a bad beat without real fear of losing it. And thirdly, they are colorful.

But this isn't about me, it's about you. If you already use a unique card card, let me know in the comments; but if you don't, I have a good place to get one--your local pet store.

Whaaa? Yes, Pets Mart...or is it Pet Smart...has a fine selection of card guards in their aquarium section. I'm talking about those under sea lawn ornaments that the fish poop on. Think about it. The gruff pirate, the glaring octopus, the "card" shark all fit perfectly with poker's aquatic metaphors. Ever hear about the fish who caught the full boat on the river? Plus some of those miniatures are downright intimidating!

You're welcome.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Full Canoes and Cat-burglaries

Sorry for the post slow-down from my worse half, Grundy, but I'm back to pick up the slack! Back from where you ask? Well, I served some time for cat-burglary, which apparently is illegal in some states. (Looking at you, Virginia.) I've been playing the best poker of my life from the inside and think it is time to spread the wealth with my priceless (free in this case) tips.

Poker is a game of anatomy. The best hand will keep you from defeat! There are many possibilities for strong hands: a full house, four of a kind, the coveted straight flush. However, just because a hand is rare, doesn't make it a winner. Let me tell you about a little hand I like to call a full canoe!

Three-pair, ladies and degenerates, I have deemed the full canoe. I have prepared a mathematical proof for the explain its power.

A pair such as 88, can be trumped by two pair such as 4477, that much we know. It stands to reason that three pair beats both. Lets take this proof a step farther. A full house beats two pair because a full house uses five cards while the two pair uses only four. See where I'm going with this? Three pair uses six! Extending my theorem the full canoe beats everything but a seven card straight, flush or straight flush.

Readers, we do NOT live in a fair and just world. I have used this master hand in practise and have been met with much poker bigotry. "It's the best FIVE card hand" they say. "Where did you learn to play poker?" they ask. "Come back here!" they demand as I'm running to the door with the kitty. Don't worry, the next day I usually give them back said cat in exchange for cash.

Anywho, nevermind the critics! Play your full canoes! Get either a good lawyer or better getaway driver! And shuffle up and deal!

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Twitter Poker Tour

As you may have gathered from previous posts, Twitter is my new favorite social networking/micro-blogging site. If you haven't checked it out, check it out. Give it a little time as you will need to follow and be followed by some peeps to get anything out of it. By all means follow me @Grundy and I'll followback.

I've met some poker buddies on Twitter and thought it would be fun get a weekly game started. Well, two said buddies (@pokerplasm and @cprpoker) took the proverbial ball and bounced with it. Enter: the Twitter Poker Tour!

The TPT is a weekly on-line game open to any Twitter users. It alternates between the poker sites Fulltilt and Poker may have heard of them. The buy-in is $5 and a bounty is usually in place. We play Thursday nights.

For more information check out the official site. The game this coming Thursday is at Fulltilt!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Twas' a year ago...

Twas' a year ago that I began my textual journey into the underbelly of the game we call poker. Thank you all for reading and joining in on the conversation. I have met a lot of funny, talented and insightful poker people along the way. You know who you are.

As part of my anniversary celebration, I have made a couple changes (improvements?) to the blog.

  • Firstly, we are now iPhone compatible. We took a stab at mobile blogging in the past and previous methods should still work, but now it is easier than ever. Just send your mobile browser to our normal address and you will be redirected to a slick HCD Mobile site. All content and comments will be intact.

  • Secondly, the HCD store is now up and running. If you like my site, please support us by buying one of our new t-shirts or sticker sets. More HCD apparel will be featured soon.

Thanks again everyone! Here's to another year!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Free Poker's Barrier to Exit

I've been on a three-day free poker tour of sorts to welcome back a few old friends to the game. As long time readers have no-doubt deduced, I'm not a huge fan of free poker for anything but a social distraction. Free poker sucks as a learning tool and, by nature, sucks in terms of profit. The obvious benefit of free is the very low barrier of entry, but what of the barrier to exit?

On Saturday I drove an hour out of my way to revisit a free poker game that I frequented before I dived into the world of FullTilt. My last appearance was two years ago and the clientèle remained relatively unchanged, even though both the poker league and the hosting bar had changed hands. This particular league is laid back in its rules to allow patrons to choose their own seats. I sat with my wife and friend along side seven other players. We shuffled up and dealt.

Ten hands in, my buddy's poorly played pocket queens were busted and he hit the bar. A table consolidation later, my lady joined him. I was sitting there playing cards while the two people I wanted to spend time with were watching football. In this case, we were still waiting on the fourth member of our party so I rode out the storm. He eventually showed five table consolidations later to watch the end game. I won, since you asked, a fifteen dollar bar tab for first I said before, sucks for profit.

I made the most it, but the following night I wasn't about to take the same "honor" of placing solo. We played elsewhere and my company busted out early again. I was chip leader and wanting to leave. Here is the barrier I spoke of, what is my exit strategy?

The tournament started with six tables and two hours in...there were six tables. I personally took out 4 players and witnessed a few others hit the road, but between alternates and massive chip ups for ordering food and drink, the game duration was approaching the infinite. What is the most polite way to leave a free poker game? I can think of three options:

  1. Go all-in blind every hand. This strategy could still take a while factoring in fold rates and my uncanny ability to be unfortunately lucky. Besides, this tactic hurts the illusion of real poker and can cause ill will towards me from whomever I suck out on.

  2. Take part in a high betting hand or two and fold just before the showdown. The problem here is that I'm unfairly helping certain players be contributing to a hand I have no desire to win. Not collusion, but still could be seen as foul play.

  3. Leave your chips on the table and walk out. This is the least often used method as I have observed. We seem to have a psychological block on giving away opportunity, even if that opportunity comes in the form of valueless chips. Depending on the league, the chips of a deserter will either be taken out of play or blinded out.

How to lose chips is a first world problem on planet poker, no doubt, but if you have ever frequented a bar poker league you have probably been faced with this situation. What option do you take?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

We're Syndicated!

The Superhero Poker Showdown, originally published here at has been republished to!

Syndication? Sure! Do I also own Well, yeah. Could you say this is cross promoting to the point of shamless pluggery? Perhaps...


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Caribbean Stud Poker

Caribbean Stud Poker is a variation of five card stud which is played against the house instead of other players at the table. Casino games such as this don't require any bluffing as there is no one to bluff. So if you are bad at bluffing, I suppose you aren't losing much.

I don't have much experience with Caribbean Stud, so I looked it up. After all, I'm not the only internet poker guide on the block.
To play, every player places his ante on the layout where indicated; all ante wagers must be placed prior to the dealer announcing "No more bets". Each player and the dealer will then receive five cards, face down. The dealer will turn over one of his cards, then push the cards toward the players, after which the players may look at their cards. They may only look at their own cards, and may not discuss what they have with any other player at the table.

Players have the option to play or fold; if they choose to play, they place their bets (twice the amount of their respective ante) in the bet box. If they choose to fold, they forfeit their ante. After all the players have made their decisions, the dealer reveals his hole cards. The dealer only plays with an ace/king or higher; he then compares his cards to the players' cards (individually, right to left), and the players' hands that beat the dealer's qualifing hand wins.

Source: You guessed it, Wikipedia.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Checking in the Dark

The game is no -limit hold'em. Your rival in early position raises pre-flop, you call. It's just you and him. He then declares that he "checks in the dark." No, don't motion for that light switch, he is giving you free information. He is checking the flop before viewing the cards, thereby putting the "first" action on you and, if you also check, forgoes this betting round.

So what does this mean? Well, it could mean he has a good hand with little room to improve, so he doubts any new cards will better his hand. In this case, an assumption of a pocket pair is fair and any reraise or sudden confidence on his part probably means that you are up against trips.

It could also mean he doesn't know how to play you well and merely doesn't want to be faced with a decision.

As I see it, there are two advantages of a "check in the dark" heads-up and he is probably hoping for one or the other. Firstly, he wants to check the flop down and thinks it is more likely for you to check if he checks without knowledge of the flop. Secondly, he wants the advantage of late position and is willing to risk a betting round to get it.

This tactic is important to consider if you play anywhere off-line, as it does come up from time to time. If it happens to you, never fear. You have just been given more control of the game. If you are so inclined to "check in the dark" yourself, be cautious of who you are playing. As a general rule, giving out information for free is a no no in poker. However, against the easily rattled, the psychological gain from the move can pay off.

What say you? What do you think your opponent is pining for with a blind check?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Folding Pocket Rockets

There I am, at the final table of an eight man tournament. I'm short stack with seven left to act behind me. The game? Texas Hold'em. I glance at the dealer, then shift my gaze to the left, then the right, then to the left again. The 12 eyes fixed on me let me know that it is my turn to act. The two eyes fixed on a watch tell me I'm taking too long. I look at my cards...ever so slowly.

An ace! Followed by another ace! S#@t!

I'm faced with a decision. Usually it's so easy to bet into these posers in early position--really push my short-stack around. That was before the I have an impossible choice: check or fold.
Can I really afford to check here? Risking no more is risking everything! Someone will raise my bet of zero and force another decision on me. God, I hate decisions.

Readers, avoid this catastrophe at all costs. Pocket pairs are so hard to improve, and starting with two cards the value of one makes it only harder. I used to think checking was an option, but it only delays the inevitable. Someone will take your money whether with a better hand, with a well-placed bluff, or with a tire iron (or stale baguette in my case) in a back alley on your way to your bicycle. Do yourself a favor and fold those rockets preflop.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Who Killed Poker Chat?

A long time ago in a poker room far far away, on-line gamblers came together at a virtual round table to play some cards and exchange friendly banter. The game is still available, but where's the banter?

Every on-line poker room I encounter offers a chat module to allow patrons to converse. And converse they did. They did. Nowadays the chatty player seems to be a rare breed. Why is this? I have my theories.

  • Many players multitask in today's ADD world. While they play poker they check their email, watch TV, poker. With five tables in play who has time to chat? Nobody, that's who.

  • The poker sites ban players from chat if they get enough complaints. "Enough" isn't usually a high number. Sure, I don't want to see people abuse chat with racist comments. Nobody wants a flame war, but attempting to get someone on tilt with PG-13 language shouldn't be a censorable offense.

  • Chat can be turned off now, which I suppose is nice if you really need to focus on your cards, but I think some people just forget to turn it back on.

If you don't like chat on principle, than I guess there is nothing I can say to convince you otherwise. However, if you've been burned in the past by slanderous comments, give it one more try. I like the company.

If you are in the same boat as myself, I have another option to regain that sense of poker community. There is a growing population of poker players on Twitter that I take jabs at talk to everyday. In fact, my sister site, Pokerplasm (I say sister not because HellsColdDay is related to the site, but because the writer there is a girlyman) is getting everyone together for a weekly, private Twitter tournament or "Twourney." For more info, I have three easy steps. 1. Join Twitter. 2. Follow @grundy and @pokerplasm. 3. Shoot us a message to get the password and time. Twournies are the next big thing in poker!

I also recommend following @cprpoker @pokervixen @street3 @jimbl and @robertbasil as they are also founding members of Twouney. Oh, and just kidding about the girlyman stuff 'Plas.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Love of the Lottery!

Poker is well and good, but if you actually want to make any money gambling you really need to change up you game.

So what are we talking here? Roulette? Dice? You're on the right track, but the odds are still too slim to guarantee that big payout. I'm talking about the lottery.! They say it is a game of chance, but I feel my local Megaball has more in common with chess than anything else. It is a battle of wits–me against God, and we all know what a lousy chess player God is.

So do yourself a favor and swear off cards. Quit playing fallible humans and start taking swings at the cosmic. Swings? What am I saying? Swing! One try should be all you need, so invest your entire bankroll in the big Keno. If you don't have a bankroll, consider taking out a second mortgage for the big payoff, in these hard economic times, you can't afford not to.

Now that we're all in agreement, only one thing remains...the prodigal numbers. Birthdays and anniversaries are old hat. I like number series, my personal favorite is 1 2 3 4 5 with a powerball of 6. However, if actually choosing the digits still puts too much control in your hands, which I completely understand, behold the best thing since the abacus–QickPick! A computer randomly generates numbers for you so that you can win against a computer that randomly generates numbers. Talk about fighting fire with fire, how can you lose? I almost feel like a fool for not keeping this my little secret, just remember who to thank when the cash starts rolling in. Happy guessing!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Don't already know enough about me, you say?

My Twitter friend and fellow poker writer, Trevor at took notice of Hell's Cold Day and wrote an interview on yours truly. I answer burning questions like why I started blogging and what Poker Pro I would most like to take the life of (to become, to not kill.) If you want to know more about me and/or broaden your poker reading list, give PokerPlasm a look.

My Interview

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Who needs dogs? It's election time!

It's refreshing to see an artist feature poker in his work without personifying canines. I first came across these masterpieces by Andy Thomas in a mall last year around Christmas time and today found them on-line. Thought I'd pass it along to get you in the voting spirit.

The Democrats:

The Republicans:

Can you name them all?

Open Source Poker

There have been a rash of accusations against various on-line poker rooms, which begs the question: are they all cheats? I don't know. Some have evidence of foul play, others not. All I know is that the trust factor isn't what it used to be...and honestly, it was never that high.

So Mr. FullTilt and the rest, I submit to you the only option you have to renew trust in your business model. Be transparent, open-source your code. Let everyone see the interworkings of your site in real time. No one will be able to falsely accuse again, because everyone will know for a fact when you are in the wrong. Don't get me wrong, I'm not putting all online poker sites on the hotseat. There are still quite few credible free poker sites out there, but scams are putting all of them in a bad light.

I realize that openness would make your site more accessible to hackers, but if they could hack you, they already would have. I trust you are plenty vigilant of that with your bottom line in mind. And if you were hacked, that too would be made public.

Your customers doubt that you have their best interests in mind. We don't mind losing money, but only if it's lost fair and square. The Internet is a free and open place; I'm only asking you to fill half that requirement.

Anyone can play free blackjack or even online casino. However, the win win situation in national lottery is still unmatched.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Better Poker through Rochambeau

Many people are introduced to poker through playing other games. According to the bios of the World Series players, such gateway games include backgammon, chess, and other card games like bridge. It is a nature progression in that all of those games include an element of luck and an element of skill. I offer one more game that is good practice for honing your poker skills--rochambeau, aka Rock Paper Scissors.

Why RPS? It is perfect in its simplicity. I hate the fact that people use Rock Paper Scissors to decide who rides shotgun or who will be the DD for the night. It reduces it to the equivalent of drawing straws. It's not. If you know your opponent, it has no element of luck at all. For my money, Rock Paper Scissors is the best exercise there is in reading you opponent.

To know when the player across from you is sitting on aces or has completed his flush, first know when he will throw scissor. Is he the type of man who would open with rock? Is he capable of following up two papers in a row with another paper? It sounds crazy, but the more you can read people in other games and in life in general, the more successful you will be in poker...and, actually, life in general.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Welcome to the new!

Hell's Cold Day is quickly approaching our first year anniversary and I figured we were all overdue for a face lift. Please leave your feedback in the comments, I want to be able to customize this site to best serve you the happy shiny poker person.

We will now return to our regular posting schedule!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Poker Camaraderie

In one of my first posts I referred to you all as "happy, shiny poker people." I'd like to put some emphasis on that. Don't be "grumpy, narcissistic poker curmudgeons." Firstly, people won't want to play with you; secondly, the phrase doesn't roll of the tongue.

I've played against my share of rude and obscene opponents, and there is no call for it. In the digital arena,  they hide behind their avatar, saying things they would never utter in person. After all, no one gets their butts kicked in an on-line flame war, but I think this is a symptom of a larger problem.

Poker isn't perceived as a fair game, even when there is no cheating. The poker gods giveth and taketh away on the river far too often. If you can't come to terms with that, you shouldn't play. "He who curses out the chaser doesn't put the chaser on tilt, he puts himself on tilt. And so goes the remainder of his chip stack." --Confusious.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ode to the Buffet

I thought the casino food a cliche
Until I saw the meals on display
Chicken, lobster, and steak
Makes me forgive the rake
Never lose the money for the buffet!

A short Ode to the Buffet courtesy of me. If you frequent casinos, you know the usual set up. High priced restaurants nearby or on the premises may be tempting, but I always opt for the cheaper buffet for the sheer variety of high quality food. I'm not talking Ryan's here, this stuff is chef prepared. I don't frequent five star restaurants, but I'd give at least four stars to most high-class casino's all-you-can-eat option. Just make sure you're wearing elastic.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Poker Nicknames

Whether you're the Master, the Brat, or the Mouth of the table; earning a nickname is part of the hazing ritual of the poker fraternity. We all probably know a "Mr. Conservative," but some nicknames are a little more outside the box. I like "Slot Machine" (a name we gave to a player who seemingly plays hands at random.)

With Internet play it is a given that you need to give youself a new name, but the titles to be proud of are those given to you by others. I've been named "Grundy" after the brute who battles Superman, Solomon Grundy. Another name that stuck for me is "Castro," possibly inspired by the untamed beard I sported when I first attended a new game.

What nicknames do you have at the tables? What nicknames have you given others?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Texas Hold'em Bonus

Anyone who wants to learn to play Texas holdem is just a few clicks away. Just open an online-poker account, study poker articles on the web and practice for free. When you feel ready to play for real money, look for the best Texas holdem bonus to maximize the value of a first deposit.

Friday, August 8, 2008


Twitter (n.) is a growing social networking site that works more like a microblog. You write posts (tweets) 140 characters or less which are viewed by the internet at large, and more specifically, your "followers." Followers are people who subscribe to your posts. Everyone has a view on their twitter page that aggregates the posts of those they follow in a easy to digest fashion. If one is so inclined, they may reply to your post which will appear back in your view.

What's all this have to do with poker? So far, not much, but an opportunity is there. People post about whatever is important to them, and for a lot of people, it's poker. Many of the Twitterers I follow post about poker--wins, losses, quotes, short anecdotes and quick tips. It's fun and insightful to take part in. Try to search Twitter for the word "poker" to get an overview of the on-line poker scene and find new folk to follow.

There is also a use for Twitter in covering live events. Many tech conventions have already taken advantage of it and I see no reason why poker events would be any different. Since you can post from your mobile phone, players can let the world know when they busted out or where Dolye Brunson is signing autographs from the WSOP. is starting to organize that endevor. As phones start to use GPS location to tag "tweets" with coordinates, this will become even more useful.

If you join Twitter be sure to follow me and let my know that you read Hell's Cold Day by sending me a message by starting your post @grundy.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Secret Life of Pocket Pairs

Low pocket pairs can be difficult hands to play. On one hand, you want to bet them heavy to buy the blinds or to limit your opponents (hopefully to one) in order to get the best odds to win. However, if you do get that caller he probably has two over-cards leaving you with a coin-flip situation and somewhat pot-committed with your initial bet. So do you want to bet small or just call pre-flop? Well, not really. Then you would have more callers and each player who stays in the hand drops your odds to win with a quickness.

In good conscious, I will begin with a disclaimer that I don’t play pocket twos and pocket threes unless I am dealt them as big blind. These pocket pairs still work with the two below strategies, but for me they hold a high enough risk factor to not be worth my effort. And, yes, I’ve had some previous bad experiences. Inversely, pocket Jacks or better are hands that are premium enough that I play more aggressively then the two below strategies and will discuss them at a later time.

I have two winning plays with pockets pairs 10s and under. The first is only recommended in late position with no previous callers. I start by betting three times the big blind. It is likely this will buy the blinds with tight players, but if not I will probably only get one caller who I can assume doesn't have a super premium hand. So that rules out an over-pair and leaves either two over cards, or better yet, one over card. Keep in mind if the opponent raises my bet pre-flop I have to assume a super premium hand and will probably fold.

I watch closely after the flop because a good read on my opponent makes this strategy a lot easier. Do I think he hit the flop? If it is three low cards, especially if there is a pair on board, I feel more confident. I fire out a strong bet if I think he missed. The opponent will likely fold here. If you have a good read that he hit strong, you might as well check it because he will likely bet or raise regardless of your action. If you don't have a read, fire a bet if you can afford it. He may fold or at least give you information and a chance to see another card.

Strategy number two can be played from any position and starts with a call pre-flop. A weak play that I don’t usually recommend, I know. I use the concept of implied odds here. It is likely that you won't hit the flop, but if you do, you have trips. Trips is a very strong hand at after the flop and before the turn, allowing you to raise most bets without fear, or slow-play depending on the situation. You called pre-flop which means there are probably a few players in the hand, one of them probably caught top pair or even two pair. I can make a lot of money with this, but have to stay aware that I can be outdrawn on the turn or river. It is because of this I only consider slow-playing against one or two players; any more is far too risky.

In conclusion, trips=good, pocket twos=bad, mid-pocket pairs=depends how you play them. I should probably change my blog name to Grundy, Master of the Obvious. But seriously folks, pocket pairs are not for the passive players. You need to come in strong and read your opponent to profit, or cheaply wait for the relatively low chance to trip up. As with all of poker, it greatly depends on the situation.

Monday, July 14, 2008

iPhone App Review: Motion X Poker, Texas Hold'em

This past week Apple rolled out the iPhone 2.0 software allowing support for third-party applications. If you already knew this, keep reading. If not, you probably don't care about today's post.

From here on out, I'm assuming you either have or want an iPhone or iPod Touch. I've found a few gems in Apple's App Store already. Two on which are poker related: Motion X Poker and the new Texas Hold'em game. Both are time wasters and both are the best poker games available on any mobile platform.

First off, Motion X Poker. At first it resembles video draw poker, but as soon as you start playing you'll see how wrong you were. It's a dice game where the six sides of each die are ace, king, queen, jack, ten and nine. The goal is to beat the dealers "hand" after three rolls of the dice. Standard poker hand values apply except that straights trump full-houses. I learned that the hard way. (Note to self, read directions.)

The game uses the iPhone accelerometer—meaning you roll by shaking your hand as if you were actually casting real dice. It will either be a fun gimmick or an annoyance at first, but in time it feels very natural. You chose which dice to keep between rolls via the touchscreen. The game also has some added replay value by rewarding winning streaks and other "accomplishments" with new die, table designs and reward gems. The game is $4.99 and worth it.

I was skeptical of Apple's Texas Hold'em game at first. I have never been one to enjoy playing hold'em against a computer. However, the game has won me over in spades.

Keep in mind, if you buy a poker game branded for any console you'll be paying somewhere between $20 and $50. Most mobile phone games from the cell network go for $4.99 and are close to unplayable. After about a hour of game play, I can say that the iPhone's Texas Hold'em is the most fun hold'em game available for any system, mobile or otherwise.

First off, the graphics way surpass what I thought the platform was capable of. The player models are limited in their actions, but better looking than the poker games on the Xbox. I can even forgive the dealer's resemblance to an ex-NSync singer. No, not him, the other guy.

The game play is easy and intuitive. Tap the screen to check, drag your cards to the center of the table to fold. Turn the screen sideways to change your first-person perspective into an overview of the table (similar to on-line poker sites.) The table views allows for a more speedy game. No need to wait to fold and get on to the next hand. That speed is something missing from nearly all other poker games I've played.
The only thing this game is missing is the ability to play for money. The functionality for wireless multiplayer is there, but the legality isn't. You can still keep track of your imaginary bankroll and use it to play in higher stakes venues with, I'm guessing, smarter AI. There are good in-game statistics so you can track your progress. All-in-all, this is a superior training exercise than playing free poker on-line, but that isn't saying much.

I give Motion X Poker an A and Texas Hold'em an A+, and I promise Apple's not giving me any money to say this...althought they are welcome to. I will be reviewing other poker games that come my way, but the bar is set pretty high. If you have the cash to buy them, do so. If not, win some.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Confidence vs. Arrogance

All poker players sit at the poker table with the intention to win. Good poker players sit down with the expectation to win. Bad poker players sit without considering the possibility of losing

You always want to find the table in which you have the advantage. I watch tables play for a while before I sit down, and I sit down at the table when I'm fairly sure I am among the most skilled at attendance. This is good practice. If you are not doing this you might as when play craps.

The confident player's over zealous brother is the arrogant player. He tips off his feeling with constant bad beat stories. Although he plays the game well, he misses chances to profit while telling others how to play. His wins are pure skill and his loses are entirely dumb luck. This outlook translates into never learning or improving from mistakes, because he "never" makes them.

It is important to not cross the line into arrogance or you will spend every lucky night without friends and every unlucky night on tilt and severely in the hole...and, come to think of it, also without friends.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Pick of July: Learn Poker From The Joes Podcast

This month I'm going with a podcast to which I have recently started listening. Restarted actually, I gave them a chance early on and lost interest, but I can give a full recommendation now to Learn Poker From The Joes.

For starters, a podcast is a show distributed over the internet. In this case it is audio, so you can think of it as a weekly radio program lasting  around an hour. Except it is better than radio in that it is commercial free.
Learn Poker From The Joes is a play on Full Tilt's podcast Learn Poker from the Pros. Full Tilt's show is also very good and also comes in a video format. However, it doesn't get "pick" status because the episodes are too short to hash out any real information.

The host "Joe," a guy called Judge, knows his stuff keeps his various guests on track, as all good hosts should. My favorite guest goes by KOOGE. There is no reason to listen to the episodes in order, so I suggest listening to a recent show featuring KOOGE first. For most, meaning iPod users, it is easiest to access the show on iTunes.

These guys are not pros, and yes, anyone can start a podcast, but the "Joes" go over more solid poker than the other popular poker podcasts (say that five times fast.) Many, like PokerRoad radio, spend the whole time complaining about bad beats at whatever tournament they are recording from.

Learn Poker From The Joes is a great podcast for beginning players and anyone who needs to re-examine their game. The "Joes" have brought up many aspects of the game I never considered or have forgot the importance. If you like this blog, give them a listen.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Lucky Number 45

To my happy shiny poker people,

I have moved and will not have a reliable internet connection until next weekend. Stop.

Regular posts will resume on the 12th of July. Stop.

Until then, link to me so I can get above the folks at the Betting for Value blog. Stop.

See the Top 100 Poker Blogs list for more information. Stop.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Spoiler

It's been a while, but I've got another poker variant for you. It's called the Spoiler. I didn't dream this one up, so you might actually like it.

The fun starts with five cards to each player and five community cards down. Each community card is turned up individually followed by a betting round. It is easy to screw-up with the three-card reveal, that's what we're used to.  After the third betting round, players must discard three cards from their hand. Players make the best hand from the five community cards and the two remaining of their own.

If you have read my previous game variant posts, you know why I both love and hate this game. It has the element of regret. Chances are you will curse yourself for choosing the wrong three cards to dump before seeing the last two community gems, but se la vi. That's poker.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Stolen from the desk of David Sasseman

Probability That None Of Your Opponents Match Their Hole Card On The Flop.
Number of Opponents VS. Flop Does Match Hole Card

1 0.65

2 0.40

3 0.25

4 0.15

5 0.10

6 0.05

Some conclusions:

(1) Against four to five foes it is certain someone has flopped something. That is why it is 'fit or acquit' / 'hit or miss' poker. (2) When playing against one to two players, it is +EV to the flop. Heads-up, two out of three times your opponent will miss the flop. Two out of three times you miss the flop. One in three time you will hit the flop. Four out of nine times you both miss the flop. Knowing this, when playing short handed hold'em (and if you know what range of hands your opponent will call you with), you can exploit almost all players.
(Flop is unpaired. Your hole cards are unpaired. You must consider your opponent will have a pocket pair sometime.)

For more info on David Sasseman click here.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Today's topic sprouts from the seed planted from my previously mentioned play at the Seneca Falls casino. My relatively weak bet post-flop was a bad play, I should have gone all-in. I know that, your feedback shows my readers know that, but I still don't think going all-in would have changed the outcome. The cash I had in play wasn't significant enough to make my opponent fold. The bad play was a function bad financing.

Coming to a cash game as a short stack is, as a rule, not a good idea. By doing this you are putting your fate a little less in your hands and more at the mercy of the poker gods. There is a law of poker that states that a player with infinite finances will always win the money off of a player with a finite bankroll given enough time. This stays true regardless of the players' skill levels, but if the cash impaired player is the more skilled, it will likely take more time. This is true because of dumb luck. The law can be scaled back on a kind of sliding scale. I started with less than half of my opponent's chip stack, which meant I required more luck to win, even if I was the better player.

As a side note, coming to the table on the cheap is also a strategy. Nearly all the on-line cash tables I frequent have a player or two who are playing short-stack with the intention of going all-in before the turn hits. When they double, triple, or quad up, they often cash out returning to their short stack status. I find these players are unsure how to play their hands past the flop, but as long as they have at least slightly above average luck  they make money. After all, you can't be bluffed off a hand once you're all-in. I imagine the profits last only for the short-run for these short-stackers, as most of it probably goes to the rake.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Back from the road

Missed me? Haven't posted the past week and change because I was out-of town visiting family. However, I did manage to fit in an overnight trip to Niagara Falls. We stayed at the Seneca Niagara Hotel & Casino and yes, I got around to playing cards and no, it didn't go well.

The casino itself was nice, but a little too slot machine heavy for my taste, as are all casinos. It is the largest casino on the New York side of the falls, but not on the Canadian side. I have visited the Canadian casino previously, but only when they didn't require a passport to cross the border. It looked like that little bit of U.S. legislation but a dent in Canada's border tourism.

Cutting to the chase, (and I use the term chase here for a reason) I sat down at a $1/$2 no-limit table. After a little folding while I got to know my table, I'm dealt pocket Queens. My table appeared tight and I was in the dealer position. Three people called the $2 blind. I raise it up to six times the blind, $12, over-betting the pot. The small blind folds, the big blind calls as does two of the three other callers. More callers than I would have liked, I half thought that bet was high enough to steal the blinds from how the table was going, still the flop brought a smile to my face.

The flop was all trash, 2 4 9 off suit. Everyone checks to me. The only thing to fear was someone slow playing trips, unlikely. I bet $20 and one person stays with me. To sum up, the turn is a 2, I go all-in with another $20 or so and he calls and win with trip 2s. His hand was K 2.

Granted, he could have also beaten me with a king, but at least if a king shown I would have spent more effort in reading my opponent and may have folded. If I played it wrong, it was my not going all-in on the flop. I accepted that the poker gods had forsaken me and the bad taste of someone calling that pre-flop raise with a K 2 off made me swear off poker for the night.

If you would have played the hand different let me know in the comments. We all can learn from our mistakes. My next post will be back to saying something of value, I promise.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Celebrity Poker Showdown: Star Wars edition

Last time, on Celebrity poker showdown, we explored which popular superhero would claim victory at the poker table. This time I am having the characters of Star Wars shuffle up and deal. As ground rules, I am taking the players from the original series as seen in the Empire Strikes Back. The dark side is excluded in that Vader would refuse to play, not check his lightsaber, and most likely cause a scene. (i.e. kill everyone in the room.) The players will stay true to their nature in their efforts to win the kitty.

The first contestant is C3-PO. Today's best computer can't best today's top professional, but in a galaxy far far away the technology is no doubt more advanced. Using the speed in which my favorite droid calculates odds, C3-PO will have the poker math down pat. However, he never did seem to understand human motivations well, which hurts his ability to read bets. At least he doesn't have to worry about the ol' jedi mind trick.

Speaking of jedi mind tricks, the next contestant is the son of Vader himself, Luke Skywalker. Luke will avoid the dark side of the game and keep everything on the up and up. Therefore, no mind tricks. Cheating leads to money, money leads to greed, greed leads to suffering! And all that. It is this geek's opinion that barring jedi tom foolery, Luke would be a lousy poker player.

Poker takes practice and I believe Han Solo has made his rounds with the type of alien crowd that would partake in "vices" such as poker and other games of risk. Han knows how to stay cool under pressure which translates into a good poker face. He also exhibits a good sixth sense which means he may know the best time to fold. If C3-PO goes all-in on a paired board, expect Han Solo to have a "bad feeling" about that.

Moving on to another jedi, we may have found a little green ringer. Yoda has all the advantages of Luke only more defined. No, Yoda won't resort to mind tricks, but I doubt he would need to. Yoda is so connected to the force that he can see glimpses into the future and may know the outcome of the hand before he contributes any time and money. He is also very old with hundreds of years worth of life experiences to draw from. And like the best jedi's he is without fear, a game if risk is a walk in the park to him.

Finally, what is any Star Wars game without Chewy. Like Han, he has probably played the game before, but unlike Han, I don't see Chewbacca as the smartest Wookie in the galaxy. But then again droids don't tend to pull people's arms out of their sockets when they lose.

And the winner is...Yoda! A jedi in a game that tests the players' will and mind is a shoewin, and Yoda is just closer to the force than Luke. C3-PO is a contender if luck is with him, but in the Star Wars universe it could be argued that luck and the force are either connected or the same thing. If that is true, then luck would always be favoring Yoda.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I Can Has Poker Game!

Ever hear of LOL cats? If not, you don't get around the internet enough. Here is one of my favorites.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


What is good productivity for life doesn't always translate over to poker. I have mixed feelings with the concept of poker multi-tasking. I don't preach it, but I do practice it, and I'll tell you why.

Poker multi-tasking applies mostly to online poker. It is the practice of playing a table while simultaneously web-surfing, reading emails or even playing additional tables. The cons are clear. You can't pay attention to your opponents betting patterns, you run the risk of missing a winning hand, and you take the game as a whole less seriously.

I find that there are advantages to splitting your attention as well, but they are all dependant on your state of mind and over all personality. For example, if you are a math based player, with disregard to the psychology of the game, multi-tasking doesn't hurt you as much. Players working the odds angle can be more profitable splitting their money over multiple, simultaneous tables than with a single buy-in. The theory at work here is that more games per hour decrease the chances of any one player outsmarting you for the bulk of your money.

Another personality that can benefit from multitasking is, you guessed it, the easily bored. Online poker is already faster than in-person games, but without the interaction of visible reads and conversation, it may not fit into some's fast-paced lifestyle. It is better for such a person to find diversions while they are not in a hand than for them to get annoyed, and thereby reckless, and try to rush the game.

That said, neither one of the fore-mentioned personalities will ever be able to become a world-class poker player. It's just not in them. However, if they accept that, they can still be a profitable poker player.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

He who hesitates

The more you play poker tournaments, the more comfortable you become playing hands. You will probably start playing hands the same way every time they are dealt. This isn't good. You aren't mixing up your play, but then you don't want to mix up your play so much so that you fold pocket kings just because it is out of character. Regardless, this post isn't about changing up your style, it is about tells.

When you are on poker cruise control, you probably don't have any clear tells. Tells haunt me most when I am in debatable situations. These situations come with the most frequency short-handed, when I'm betting with weaker starting hands than I would like. I'm not a computer, which means I need time to think about the best decision. Which means I hesitate.

The obvious solution to said problem is to simply not deliberate. However, there is a way to throw off you eagle-eyed competitors while still allowing yourself some headspace: misdirection. You need to put the breaks on your no-brainers. The next time you are faced with a clear call, don't make it clear. Pretend to consider a fold, or a raise for the matter. Burn a little time off the clock. You aren't acting for the benefit of that hand, but for future hands. The next time you truly must take a moment, your opponents will read you based on misinformation. And that is always a good thing.

He who hesitates cannot play in a real casino. Online blackjack is not comparable to the real game. This holds true for poker as well.

Friday, May 9, 2008

It takes Guts.

Today I'm going over a game from a different family of poker. It's called Guts. If you haven't heard of it, be afraid.

Like most card games, there are different variations of Guts. My favorite keeps it simple, two-card Guts. The betting beings with an ante. Everyone is dealt two cards down and the players review their hand. The hand strength ranges from a pair of aces being he strongest down to a 3 high card being the weakest. The players then declare whether they are in or out for the round. Declarations must be made by all players and at the same time. This is usually done by players holding their hands out, opening them at the same time, and revealing either a chip (meaning in) or an empty palm. The players who are in showdown their hands. The best hand takes the pot, all losers match the pot. The players who opted out only lose their ante. A new round follows with all players anteing, declaring and showing down once more.

This game is an exercise in escalation. As players stay in and rounds roll over, the pots become huge. To illustrate, an example: If the game has seven players anteing a dollar each, the pot begins at $7. Three players declare in, meaning two will lose. They each pay the pot $7 while the winner takes $7. Round two, everyone antes. The pot is now $21. If round two has 4 players in, the pot will be $70 going into round three. I've seen rounds go up to eight and I barely ever play Guts.

It's hard to appreciate the fortunes won and lost at this game unless you play, but please keep it small. If you are used to putting $50 on the line, I wouldn't start with antes over a quarter. You'll be at $50 in no time. Keep in mind the game doesn't end until only one player declares in, giving the player with the most disposable income a considerable advantage.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Grundy's Poker Cliff Notes...don't exisit.

I was recently asked if there was a definitive guide to how to play every situation in hold'em. There's not. It ain't blackjack. I know some people pride themselves in knowing the higher strategy of 21, but to me the strategy is pretty limited unless you are a card-counter. For the most part I hit until 17 then stay. (Yes, I know about splits and double downs and I do consider the dealer's cards, but I'll save that for another post.)

Poker is much more involved. Instead of playing against a dealer that probably abides by house rules, you play against many opponents of varying styles. A correct play against a tight player is incorrect against a loose player. Poker is a game of human genius and human error, both on your part and the part of your opponents. Psychology makes poker more unpredictable than any contest of pure math.

That said, there is a mathematically correct move for every situation, but each situation needs to consider the number of players in the hand, pot size, implied odds, ect. To list off directions for every occasion would take a work that would make War and Peace seem like light reading. And that's not even considering bluffing or that your opponents may not follow your math. Other major reasons why poker cliff notes are impossible are elements such as relative chip stacks, position, and timing.

If you read enough poker books you can get a grasp of the best move for every starting hand, and I recommend that. However, past the initial bet anything can happen. You need intuition, logic, and a bit of luck to win at poker...not a cheat sheet.

Making arrangements of home security while the house plans are finalized is the best approach. It cannot be compared to rugs or even swimming pools that can be adjusted in later.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Hell's Cold...Vegas?

Short on posts lately, I know. But I had to get some new material by actually playing for once. Stay tuned. (And yes, I'm up.)

For now enjoy the newest desktop diversion.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Evaluating your play

There comes a time in every poker player's life when the wanderlust sets in. You grow tired of nickel and diming your friends at the kitchen table and want to explore the world of the rounders. Know thyself, caterpillar, before you spread your wings.

The number one identifier of your skill is money. It is, after all, how we keep score. Macro-consistency is everything. Marco meaning not micro. If you have a bad day, or an unprofitable week, it doesn't necessarily meaning you are a bad player. You want to play long enough to look at the big picture. Do you average a strong profit? What's you standard deviation? These are questions that can be, and need to be answered with good record keeping and a lengthy poker history.

There isn't much to learn in the short run. Wins and loses are subject to some luck day to day, but you can still assess your play by looking at how you won or loss. When I correctly read my opponent on a straight draw and bet the pot at him on the turn, I played well, regardless if he calls and catches on the river. Inversely, if I catch trips on the river against an aggressive two-pair, I know I misplayed the hand even though the poker gods were kind to me. I'd go so far to say, as your play on the turn is concerned, luck is inversely related to skill.

Before you make the jump to big money games, also look at the caliber of your normal opponents. You may be winning not only on your own merit, but also due to the lack of skill or seriousness of the rest of the table. Although this is just what you want in poker, it can be hard when gauging your play relative to Gus Hanson. Be sure to go up against more than just the same five guys to experience more styles and see if your consistent winning pattern holds up.

That's the long way of saying, if you are making money, go to the next level and make more of it. Give yourself a "raise." You can always go back to the drawing board if  it doesn't work out. Don't rush, but don't be afraid to play to your potential either.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Monday, April 21, 2008

Favorite Quotes on Poker

I present a selection of my favorite poker quotes...
"Listen, here's the thing. If you can't spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker." - Mike McDermott, "Rounders"

[Poker] exemplifies the worst aspects of capitalism that have made our country so great. ~Walter Matthau

Hold em is to stud what chess is to checkers. ~Johnny Moss

Cards are war, in disguise of a sport. ~Charles Lamb

Nobody is always a winner, and anybody who says he is, is either a liar or doesn't play poker. ~Amarillo Slim

Poker's a day to learn and a lifetime to master. ~Robert Williamson III

God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of his own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players [i.e., everybody], to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won't tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time. ~Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, Good Omens, 1991

Feel free to add your favorite quotes in the comments.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The On-line Hazard.

There is one poker obstacle that is unique to on-line play—your computer. A variety of issues can come up that will make Doyle Brunson lose to a class of 5th graders, the most prominent being a bad Internet connection.

You don't have to be on dial-up to have connection worries. Many things can go wrong with wi-fi and routers and your Internet service provider that may be unavoidable. You need to take it as another way that bad luck can lose you money. On the upside, there are some things you can do to minimalize the damage.

Don't play online on someone else's wi-fi network, especially if they don't know you are doing it. They could shut it down or kick you off without warning. Don't play a game on a day there could be bad weather. You run the double risk of your connection to the web and your connection to the power dying. Generally, you can tell if something is wrong with your connection before you fire up the poker client. If your browser is moving slowly, don't risk putting money on the line. There are various websites you can visit to test your bandwidth. Do it.

If you do get kicked off your poker client, don't panic. Your Internet may still be up. Check with your browser as you restart the poker room. It has been my experience that the poker room fails to server issues more often than something on my end. You will reconnect as soon as they do, and the other players are in the same boat. Chances are no money will be lost.

Sure, I have lost a game due to connection failure, but, honestly, I've won a game from it too. When you are heads up with a player who has just timed out, don't hesitate to take their blinds. It isn't honorable, but it can't be helped. If you are aware of the online hazard, you can be sure that it won't take you as often as that runner runner flush.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bizarro Poker!

Blind Man's Bluff (also known as Indian Poker, although I'm unsure if the racial reference deals with American Indians or Indian Indians) is one of my favorite poker diversions. I call it a diversion because I can't imagine playing it consistently hand after hand. The game involves players exposing their single-card hands so that everyone knows the value of the card except for the person playing it. In this way it is the exact opposite of all other forms of poker, earning itself yet another name of my own creation—Bizarro Poker!

My own preference aside, Blind Man's Bluff is a fitting name. Bluffing is the name of the game, but instead of making your opponents believe you are strong, you need to make them believe that they are weak. They know your strength more than you do, but not relative to themselves.

It is a fun game to watch because most games are played out with the cards on the player's forehead, however, onlookers change the game by their reactions. I would argue this form of poker relies more heavily on tells than any other. If I have an ace of spades on my forehead, I'm unbeatable, but I could still be convinced to fold with good acting. Often in cases with an ace in play, players seem to come together in an effort to make the ace fold. As a general rule, if people start laughing at you, you either have a two or an ace.

The Bizarro Family of poker can be extended. You could play stud or hold'em with one or more cards visible to everyone but yourself. Experiment to find what you like best, but to me, anything more then Bizarro Highcard gets confusing.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Poker is my anti-drug.

The sports scandal of the day is performance enhancing drugs. Most recently, baseball players using (and denying) human growth hormones or HGH. This is a serious offence since HGH or any steroid can raise the player's athletic ability to a level beyond anyone playing by the rules. It's unfair. It's cheating. Whether or not you consider poker a sport, poker players are not athletes. HGH isn't going to get me to the final table. However, poker isn't without its performance enhancing drugs.

Some people claim alcohol improves their game. I can see their argument. If a player knows he or she needs to be aggressive to win, but is far too conservative to ever pull the trigger, a couple drinks may loosen them up. Of course, everything in moderation. Chances are the player will have one drink too many and suddenly the decision making process as a whole has been drowned out. Friends don't let friends bet drunk.

As a recent college student, I know alcohol isn't the only drug that can by used at the poker table. Some prescription drugs like Adderall aid with focus. Many fellow students took part in the grey market of Adderall for all-night cramming sessions before the big test. Many swear it is an essensial studying tool.

For a game that is much more mental than physical, could Adderall or something similar be a performance enhancing drug? Don't take this the wrong way, I'm not recommending it. Everything has side effects and I only rely on my own brain chemistry for poker or any other activity. I bring this up to begin the conversation of whether or not blood tests for major poker tournament are needed. More money is on the line at the World Series of Poker than most sporting events, and because of this casinos take serious steps to prevent cheating. Are the players individual drug habits cheating? Let me know what you think in the comments. I don't have the answer for this one.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Good cards comes to those who can't wait.

I don't know if the cosmos are messing with me, but every time I go all-in with the expectation—nay, the intension—to lose, I flop a flush, or catch a full boat, or complete the nut straight on the river. Do the poker gods find humour in misplacing my miracle hands?

Perhaps I've gotten ahead of myself. Let me start over. I've been playing a few free games around town lately with a couple friends who are easing back into poker. I used to frequent the bar game scene a lot back in college. They are fun, but not profitable. That being said, I usually do my best to stay in longer than my friends so that I don't sit around bored, waiting for them to either win or bust out. In fact, when one of us loses and have plans for the rest of the evening, the other usually loses up. "Loosening up" occasionally means going all-in with any two cards...usually more than once.

I know, you hate that guy, I hate that guy, but we've all been that guy. All-in with 3 6. All-in with 2 8. Winning everytime. It may not respect the game, but sometimes people need to be reminded that it is free poker.
The point of the story is this: when I want to leave, I can't! The poker gods give me gold time and time again. I can't help but think of what I could do with that kind of luck in a serious game, but I never get a chance to find out.

It's not just me. It has been my experience that anyone who has checked-out of the game becomes chip leader in no time. Why? The rational answer falls in line with me previous posts. Our perception focuses on the bad beats, bad luck spawns bad decisions, everyone goes on tilt, blah blah blah. Maybe. Or maybe it is my fate to win certain games. Maybe the player who wants to lose can't because he was predestined to win. The devil is in the details, and the poker gods may be in the cards.

It will probably be a cold day in hell before you find faith in poker, so until then, don't give up on skill. And I'll try not to be "that guy."

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Learning From Our Nonmistakes.

Allow me to set the scene. I'm playing on-line hold'em and make it to the last four players, the final three place in the money. Throughout the game I was dealt below average cards, picking up one legitimate pot and a couple bluffs. My chip stack is about half the tournament leader. I get aces. I raise, the chip leader moves all-in (vastly over betting the pot,) and I call all-in. He (she?) has kings. By the river lose to four-of-a-kind kings.

I have conditioned myself to be more upset with bad play on my part than good play falling victim to factors out of my control (the wrath of the poker gods.) However, this hand seemed to beat the odds, as on-line hands often seem to.

Many players who try their hand in the real and virtual world cry consipacy—that on-line poker odds are unfair or rigged. I believe there are a variety of reasons for this belief. The first is that some people think the odds need to be rigged in order for the site to make money. That is completely false. The site makes money that same as casinos do, the rake. Money on the table is passed between players that the site has no stake in. Although it is possible for a player working with the site can influence the odds in their favor, but the risk of having their already very profitable business shut down is a huge deterent against this.

Another reason for the belief in odds tom foolery is that players see more unlikely hands unfolding. Such as pockets aces going up against pocket kings and losing to four-of-a-kind. I used to believe this too, but after thinking about how many more hands I see on-line per hour, I can expect both more of the ordinary and the extrodinary. We just tend to forget in ordinary, which leads me to my final point.

We all forget the uneventful hours of play and dwell on the "crazy" moments. We forget the long-shots we catch and never let go of the bad beats. We blame bad players and bad luck when we lose, and commend our skills when we win. It's not Full Tilt's or Poker Stars' or any other site's fault that I lost, just dumb luck. I take comfort in knowing that eventually the better player profits and, if anything, computers are more random than the a bad shuffle.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Design Your Own Poker Game!

Sometimes it is fun to break out of the monotony of standard games and stretch your creative muscles by customizing poker. This exercise is limited to causal play with friends, but when possible it can be a lot of fun.

The first step to making your own game is to choose the type of poker play. The most popular choices are stud games, draw games, or community card games. From there you can decide how many cards to use and how they are distributed. All that really matters is that you keep all the players on a fair, equal playing field.

The easiest way to mix-up any game is by adding wilds. This will seemingly elevate your average hand strength, but relative to the rest of the table, winning rates should stay about the same. The most popular cards to have as wilds are aces, deuces, One-Eyed Jacks, Suicidal Kings, and of course Jokers. You can also let the game play decide what cards are wild. For example, the river card could be wild or even one card could make another card wild as in Follow the Queen games. I've played games in which entire suits were made wild. but that may have been going to far.

To keep games active, I like to have multiple betting rounds. With games that the cards are slowly made available to the players, (like hold'em with the flop, turn and river) betting rounds are nicely built-in. You may design a game where this isn't the case and the entirety of the player's hand is known at the outset. If this is the case, I add betting rounds by having players roll-out their hands. If you don't know this term, it is when you arrange your cards in the order you want to reveal them to the rest of the table and bet in between reveals. As you may have guessed, there is an extra layer of strategy involved with the roll-out.

The final step is important. Name your game. You can name it after the creator or its inspiration or anything you want. If it is a popular variation, people will want to play it again and it is no fun referring to it as "that game with the thing that Bob came up last week."

If you have come up with any fun game variants of your own, leave them in the comments! I'm always up for trying new ways to play the game of poker.

Although lottery too is a way of gambling, people prefer thinking of the national lottery is a poor man's wildest dreams come true.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Hardware Pick of March: KEM Cards

KEM CardsPoker has gotten too mainstream for anyone to get by hosting a regular poker game without a decent set of chips and cards. The first to go is the chips, those plastic disks from Wal-mart just don't fly anymore. If you are still using them, for god's sake buy some clay...but I digress. This is about the cards.

You don't want your chips plastic, but you do want your cards plastic. My recommendation goes to KEM cards, but really any plastic deck will work. They are far more durable than paper. It takes some real effort to bend or mark these, which is good considering they are much more expensive that paper decks. The economy of KEM shows in the long run in that they will last you for life. Okay, your mileage may vary, but they will last much longer than paper. You can even wash the cards when they are dirty, try doing that with paper.

Speaking of which, I have tested their aquatic ability. On one occasion my friends and I have used plastic cards to play a round of hold'em on submerged table in a pool. They were as good as new when we were finished.

They probably don't sell plastic decks in your neighborhood super-store, but never fear, you can buy anything on-line. If you want to go with KEM, you can buy yourself a deck here.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Poker Limericks!

Playing poker with Grundy can be tough
Having luck is often not enough
He thinks that it's funny
That he takes all my money
Then he turns over his cards, it's a bluff!

When they made Joe they broke the mold
Or at least that is what I was told
But he always thinks I have nothing
Calls, suspecting I'm bluffing
Sees the nuts, when it's too late to fold.

Poker has gotten me into a mess
I need more money, but now I have less
I try really hard,
But never get the card
F this game, I'm back to playing chess.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Sit-n-goes are my favorite game structure for on-line poker. Tournament wins feel more rewarding to me than cash games, and I often don't have the time to invest in large multi-table games. I often don't want to invest money in cash games either. The main advantage of any tournament the set dollar amount you can lose.

For those of you looking for the big money and excitement of multi-table tourney's, sit-n-goes are the place to hone your final table skills. However, keep in mind some key differences. The final table of a large tournament will be considerably more aggressive than a sit n go table. This is because every player is already in the money and only focused on the biggest of prizes. Sit-n-goes feature a tighter climate until the bubble pops. Players don't tend to make risky plays until the field is narrowed down to three.

What is my secret of sit-n-go fortune? When you can tell you have a lose table, play tight—as fold almost every hand. No fun, sure, but you will probably make it to the last four without playing a single hand, then you will only need to win one solid pot to place. A couple more, and you take it all. Tight table you say? Then take advantage of the bluffing opportunities and you'll be the chip lead in no time.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Question of Morality, a Question of Karma

I realize that I am too nice of a guy, and knowing is half the battle. I also know a fair share of players that shouldn't participate in games of risk because they don't fit either one of my parameters for safe gambling. They are neither winning players, nor do they have disposable income. Their personalities range from irresponsible to compulsive.

I know both these things. As a result, I am sure to only play soft, social games with these friends. After all, I don't want to take their money. But what of the unnamed masses I play on-line? The strangers across the table? There is my crisis of conscious. How do I justify winning the cash needed for someone's hospital payment or kid's tuition?

I have thought about this, but don't worry, I don't play everyone soft. If I was that nice I'd be nice and broke. I have found another way to set straight my moral compass: philanthropy. During a winning streak, I set some aside to give to charity. I recommend you pick a charity to call your own as well. I know the fish bring it upon themselves, but if you are going to steal from the rich (or not so rich,) you should at least give to the poor.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Flush Draw Tutorial

Your suited connectors have hit the flop, well kinda. You are on a draw, lets say a flush draw, and the player ahead of you bets. Assuming the bettor is the only other player in the hand, I say you raise. Here's why.

Senario one: The bettor is bluffing you off the hand. A raise from you, I'm thinking a raise about the size of the pot, will make him fold. Period. You win the hand.

Senario two: The bettor hit the flop, probably a pair or two pair. He will either fold his hand thinking your hand is stronger, or he will call. The advantage with the call is that he probably won't bet the turn knowing your aggression with this hand, whether he improves or not. If your flush card doesn't hit the turn, you may want to not invest anymore to the pot until you see the river, which you probably will for free. After seeing both the turn and river there is almost a 50% you have found the flush. If you have, take down the pot, it's yours. If not, and your opponent has checked both the turn and river, there is a good chance you can buy it anyway.

The problems that can arise are few and unlikely, but you should always be aware of the unlikely. First, you may catch the flush on the turn and not bet your opponent out of the hand. If the river is also of the same suit and you don't hold the nut flush, be careful that your flush hasn't been outdone. Second, if there is a pair on the table, be aware that your opponent could hold a full house. Barring those unfortunate events, feel confident with your flush.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Rise of the Machines

A "bot" is a program designed to do some automated task usually over the interwebs. It is a robot without the metal shell. They have varying degrees of artificial intelligence ranging from the ability to call up today's weather to carrying on a conversation under the guise of a valley girl. You may have talked to them in you favorite instant messenger, fired at them in your favorite video game, or played against them in your favorite on-line poker room.



Poker bots and the bots of first-person shooters have some similarities. Both use AI to react to the human in an attempt to overcome. They have the ability to perform perfectly within the set of rules given. For example, a bot in the game Unreal can only jump as high or run as fast as the physics of the game allow, but they can exhibit perfect aim consistently if the game is set at the highest difficulty level. Likewise, a poker bot will only win when the cards they need fall, even though they can play with mathematical precision. A poker bot calculates probability, pot odds, implied odds, relative hand strength and the like better than the most pros. That's just how it is.

Best advice: don't play against bots. Unfortunately, you probably won't know when you are, so that advice is useless. Poker bots are prohibited by the poker rooms, but I still find some hacker-types manage to get some use out them before the site shuts them down. The other theory is that the sites themselves employ poker bots from time to time.

However, all is not lost. Humans do not have to submit to the machines. The bots play mathematically, not perfectly. Unlike in chess, humans can still win out. This is because of the intuitive aspect of poker. With a big enough database, the bot can access the one best move for every situation in chess, with poker they can't. Bots have a hard time computing bluffs--both when to execute bluffs and when to call. They have no tells but also can't read yours. Use this to your advantage. A little illogical play never hurts against our digital creations.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


SnakeThis time I'm reviewing a variant I actually do enjoy—Anaconda, specifically 3-2-1 Anaconda, aka "Screw Your Neighbor."

Anaconda belongs to the same family as Five Card Regret in my book. It involves decisions you may wish you could take back. The play proceeds as follows: Each player is dealt six cards down. You bet based on your hand. Then you pick three cards to pass to the player on your left as you receive three from your right. Betting round. Then you "pass the trash" again, this time two cards to your neighbor on the left and two from your right. Betting round. Finally, one more card is passed in the same fashion. The best five card hand wins. This game allows for eight players total, nine if you add two wild cards.

Logic says to pass your least promising cards—2s, 3s, and the like—but chances are that will be what the player to the right gives you. You'll be giving up on pairs or trips this way, hence the regret. I suggest that you hold on to weak cards in this game when the player to your right is unfamiliar with the game to avoid the heartache.

The game becomes more fun when you play with the same people and you can try to predict how your opponents will treat each other. When I pass a card, lets say a four, to my left during the first pass and the player to my right passes me another four...I'm faced with a dilemma. The regret has already set in, I've missed a chance at a pair. More than that, now I have a four again, which is useless to me, but I don't want to pass it knowing that the player to my left my still have my previous pass. Do I hold on to a useless card and pass another card which is more likely to improve my hand, or do I pass the trash and likely improve my opponent's hand? That is one of the many questions of Anaconda.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

How Important Is Math?

It's guest writer time again! Introducing KC from Grand Slam Poker Source. As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently wrote an article there myself. I recommend that you check out his site along with his new forum of the same name. Now back to you regularly scheduled blog post. --Grundy

CalcI experienced something this past weekend that I never thought I’d live to see. I had to explain pot odds and hand percentages to somebody who calls himself a professional poker player. The mere fact that this happened terrifies me. How can a man who has over $100,000 in career winnings over the past eight years not know how to compute the simplest of pot odds? (NOTE: I’ll leave it up to you to determine if somebody who cashes less than 15 times in the past eight years should be considered a professional poker player.)

I started to question myself and one of my fundamental concepts of poker. Maybe math isn’t a major component of winning poker?

Then, I took a deeper look and considered what it was that I had to explain to him. The first hand involved my AKo vs. his pocket kings. We ended up getting all his money into the pot pre-flop. When I saw his pocket kings, I commented, “Oh, well, it could be worse. At least you don’t have aces. I’m still only about a 2:1 dog here.”

He laughed out loud at me and said I was nowhere near a 2:1 dog here. You only win this hand about 20% of the time. That should have been my first clue that I should not have let his lack of knowledge make me question my fundamental concepts of poker. I don’t care what type of importance a person places on math in poker situations – I believe most players would agree that you at least need to have a basic understanding of where you stand in a hand to make rational judgments.

After much discussion, I told him I was at least 30% to win the hand. As it turns out, I’m barely over 30% to win the hand, but that’s a lot closer to what I was guessing than him. My second clue that I shouldn’t worry about my belief that math is an important aspect of poker came at this point – at least not in regards to this conversation. He asked, “How does a 30% chance of winning make you a 2:1 underdog? That makes you a lot more of an underdog than that – more like 3.5:1.”

I was floored. Was this person really not able to convert percentages into ratios? As it turns out, he can’t.

After a lot of thought and analysis, I decided that this experience should not affect my opinion on the importance of math as it relates to poker. I still believe it’s a game that takes a basic understanding of math, people, and relationships. I still believe, the more you know about these things, the more you can incorporate them into your experiences. To put it simply, the more you know about these things, the more you will get out of your experiences. The more experiences you have, the more you have to draw upon when faced with decisions. These things can only make you better.

Until next time,


Friday, March 14, 2008

Legitimizing Poker

In his book, Ace on the River, Barry Greenstein says that if he won $10,000 one day and lost $5,000 the next, he considered himself making $5,000. He went on to say how his wife saw it as a $5,000 loss since they already had the $10,000. For tax purposes a judge weighed in saying that the $10,000 was taxable income while the $5,000 loss was a result of his gambling problem. These are three very different assessments of poker that resonate with me as I have come across the same myself, just with smaller stakes.

Of course, Greenstein was right. His wife was also correct in the fact that he should have stopped after the $10,000 profit, but with that attitude he wouldn't have won the ten grand to begin with, or the subsequent earnings that allowed for a very affluent lifestyle. The judge, I feel, was just looking out for the best interests of the state.

Poker involves gambling, so there will always be inconsistent results from week to week. I find that outsiders have a hard time accepting it as a game of skill. Just when my case for poker begins to make a dent in my nonplaying friends and family, a loss of any kind robs me of more than my money, but of my arguments legitimacy.

I remember how it felt to not understand how any game involving cards could have more to do with skill than luck. When I first started playing for nickels I wasn't just playing for fun, I was running an experiment. I played seriously to prove to myself that over time the more skilled player won at a higher rate. I didn't take long to prove. Once I was sure that poker was removed from the casino games of pure chance, my resolve to improve my skill was all the stronger.

Now that poker is on TV, the burden of legitimizing poker to my inner circle isn't all on me. They at least entertain the idea that some skill is involved; but more along the lines of 10% skill and 90% luck. Honestly, I've stopped trying to explain it. I proved it to myself, and they will have to do the same. I leave myself available to accelerate the process as mentor.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hell's Cold Wallpaper

1280x1024.jpgThe first round of Hell's Cold Day desktop backgrounds have arrived. They come in three sizes: 1152x864, 1280x1024, and iPhone or iPod Touch compatible. If you need the wallpaper in a different size, just let me know and I'll send it right over.

Please let me know what you think in the comments.

P.S. If you think I've been short on content this week, I do have new post written for

Updated: Additional wallpapers available on the Media page.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Go ahead and look that gift horse in the mouth.

So I'm playing a little on-line poker after a long day at work, minding my own business, when something catches my eye in the chat window. No, it's not someone baiting a bet with profanity hidden in glyphs...well, it is, but in addition to that—it is FullTilt announcing a tremendous promotion! If I am one of the first 100 people to follow the link and enter my information, I win a bonus of $1,000 to my account!

Are your skeptical alarms sounding yet? They should be. I decide trust my antivirus software and see where they are going with this. I follow the link.

Turns out the page looks authentic, not surprising. From reading about bank scams I know how easy it is to fake a page by looking at source code and taking a screenshot. It also turns out that I'm a winner, despite my very slow response time accessing the page. The information it requires is my screenname and account information. Account information like finanical account information. It was unclear if they planned on paying out the bonus directly into my bank account or it was just to verify the screenname, but both scenarios make no sense for a legitimit promotion. They wouldn't pay anything out of the site, they want to keep the money in play, free or otherwise; and the screenname is all the verification they ever need.

I imagine that if the site got what it wanted, it would load a message about needing a week or so to process the payment so I wouldn't suddenly get wise when I wasn't $1,000 in the green. I emailed FullTilt about the ordeal. The response confirmed that no such promotion was offered and assured me that FullTilt would never ask for such finanical information. I was hoping to read something about their efforts to eliminate these scams, but I guess it's not their problem.

They say you can't con an honest man. Cons say that at least. I'll say that cons work best on people who want to take the easy route, which is just about everyone. The best rule of thumb I can give you to avoid scams, poker related or otherwise­—if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.