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.