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.