Thursday, January 29, 2009

Grundy and the Last Crusade

I'm quitting poker.

Not really, but I am redirecting my efforts. For the past few years, I've been slowly drifting towards on-line exclusivity. The draw is clear. I have a busy schedule and the siren sound of a "sit-n-go" quickie is the time-suck I can afford. More than that, as supplemental income, I can't afford not...but I must. The love of the game originated in face-to-face "rounding" and it is that origin I plan to reclaim.

I'm temporarily benching myself from the digital game. The duration of my self-imposed exile depends on how soon I accomplish this little crusade I've been hinting.

On-line poker is currently (debatably) illegal for US players due to a bit of pork barrel legislation passed under the Bush Admistration. I resolve to do everything in my power to help many notable professionals in over turning said law. Whether or not you are a fan of Obama, having democrats in office makes this particular right's return much more likely. The Poker Player's Alliance sited Obama as the second most likely candidate to help overturn the bill. Second only to Ron Paul.

So what does this mean to you? will continue with its regular posts on general poker topics, but will also introduce a new post category to follow my mission. I'm going to miss playing cards with my long-distance readers, but hopefully my hiatus will be a short one. I wish I could make an exception for the likes of the Twitter Poker Tour, but I plan on putting myself out there for the cause and it is important to be on the up-and-up. Besides, the return to on-line play will be a driving factor in getting things done. Please feel free to help by posting related articles and ideas in the comments. Talk to you soon.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Battle of the Sexists Follow-up

Everyone can relax, I won.

A few follow-ups to my recently hyped up heads-up match.

The war is over.

And so is the trash talk! Not only that, I will appease my feminist readership (both of you) by revising my stance of woman poker players. I'm a fan. It's nice to have a break in testosterone at the table and your presence does usually increase my profit margin. Please note that I said usually. I recognize that the majority of under experienced women players who are following their man's lead into the gambling world give serious women players a bad name. The stereotype lies with them. Mrs. Goodson is in that second group, a serious (and good) poker player.

I still hold true that the average man is better prepared to excel at games of risk and math than the average woman. It is how we are wired. I'll be happy to debate this in the comments, but otherwise I will say no more of this. I'll leave that to @DickManly.

Limit Poker

There was one problem with the match. It was limit poker. Both myself and Mrs.. Goodson were expecting no limit. Personally, I have never played limit hold'em, but that doesn't mean I am unfamiliar with the game. Goodson admitted to more experience with limit, but I was fully prepared to accept a defeat sans shannanogans. I consider myself a quick study.

The experience did confirm my suspicions about limit. I liken it to bracket drag racing. Bracket drag racing allows two cars with differing top speeds to compete by setting a speed cap. A car exceeding the top speed is disqualified. It puts limiting rules on the cars for a specific reason--to equalize the racers. Limit hold'em puts limiting rules on the players for every grade schoolers' favorite reason--just because. Mrs. Goodson and I didn't need equalizing. I'm all for poker variants, but I can only see limit as a device for casinos to maximize rake. To each their own, but it's just not for me.

A Lesson in Poker for the Haters

Mrs. Goodson has a following that managed to draw enough support to make some forsake their own gender. I could never do that. Now that the war is over I include myself in the @panndyra fan base. Notice, her blog has moved from the Enemies of HellsColdDay to the Friends list. However, all is not quiet on the haters front. The Goodson support group has made their comments on the nature of my win. I openly admit that I was not ahead until the river, and the last of our chips were committed on the turn. I hear the word on the street for such an abomination is a "suck-out."

Until recently I had a challenge issued on my site stating that I (a) must accept any challenge, and (b) promote whatever the winner wanted if I lost. I have never promoted anything I didn't choose myself. Sooo...for no lack of challengers, I've never lost. I've played heads-up no limit hold'em about a dozen times live as well. I have lost twice, but both were part of "best two out of three" contests, so I could argue that I never lost live either. And guess what, a good percentage of my wins were suck outs.

I'm not that lucky. Whenever you have a significant chip advantage over your opponent, it is a good idea to put them all-in when possible. My heads-up strategy? Make attempts to win the game. It sounds unorthodox, I know. I suspect that I'm behind when to the short stack calls or raises, but as long as I have a significant chance at a draw I stay the course. If I lose, I'm confident in my ability to regain my lead, and if I win, game over. Neither of my recent heads-up games (against @panndyra and against @rawrstar) ever had all my chips at risk, all I'm saying is that there is a reason for that.
In poker and in life, winning doesn't make you popular, it makes you richer.

Programming note:

About that challenge, there is a very good reason why it has been taken off the table. No, it's not because I'm afraid of blemishing my perfect record. It will all be explained in my next post where I will make an announcement that will somewhat change the focus of my play and this site. There's a bit of a crusade in my future...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Battle of the Sexists

Where's Don King when I need him? Ah well, here is goes...

In one corner, we have Panndyra, the Goddess of Chaos herself. Formerly known as DCGoodson, she is currently contributor a TourneyBlog as well as the defamatorium that drew first sexist blood. Coming in at an unknown weight (I didn't ask, but as a woman she would have lied anyway) she represents female kind everywhere in her attempt to prove that indeed, the ladies can play cards.

And in the other corner, yours truly, the Grund Man! I am driven by the forefathers of my forefathers to defend the simple, universal fact that men have superior cognitive abilities, powers of deduction, mathematical prowess, and all around skillz needed to play the game we know as poker. I would go on to name all the other facets of society in which men exceed, but I simply don't have to time to accept the flood of challenges that would, no doubt, materialize from every Sarah, Lisa, and Jane out there.

The Battle of the Sexists is here. This Thursday the 22nd of January at 8:30, immediately prior to the Twitter Poker Tour. Results will be posted here the following day.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

HellsColdDay Presents: The 6 Trials of Poker Trial 1: Playing Blind.

In Greek Mythology, the demigod Hercules endured 12 labors as penance for killing his wife, kids and otherwise not succeeding as a "family man." These tests of strength and endurance made him a more fit "hero" in future stories. Likewise, I present to you the first in a series of exercises that will help build yourself into a hero of poker. I'll assume that you haven't killed any family members (yet), so I'll knock the labors down to six.

Remember the scene in Rounders when Matt Damon's character happens upon his professor's card game and deduces each player's hand? He states that in a game like this, "I wouldn't even need to look at my cards." This is your first trial—to play blind.

How to set up your test for success (or at least not a bankroll-shaking failure):

Play a home game among opponents you have experience. Make sure that your skill level is on par with theirs or above. After all, you are giving them quite a handicap. Begin play as usual to get into your "poker zone" and let the other players think this is a normal game. After a couple deals around the table, stop looking at your hole cards.

When playing blind the most important thing to remember is to maintain the illusion that you know your cards' value. If your opponents notice that you aren't looking,'ll have to start looking. I usually turn up the corner of my hole cards slightly with my hand covering the value and glance down. Your opponents will never know the difference.

You will quickly find that there are some advantages to playing the unknown. Suddenly, there is no reason to worry whether or not you are being read. The stress of maintaining a perfect poker face falls down the priority list. In fact, if you come across a player who verbally works out what he thinks you hold, it can be quite humorous.

The power of this exercise is that it takes out certain aspects of play so that you can focus on reading—reading the cards, reading the players, reading everything. Think of the blind man who develops a more acute sense of hearing. Working out your odds of improving is irrelevant, so you can more easily delve into the mind of your enemy.

I'll leave you with a couple tips to help you on your way.

  1. Confidence is everything. If you don't have it at first, you will after the first pot you take blind.

  2. You are bluffing, but you aren't bluffing the strength of your hand, you are bluffing the weakness of your opponents'.

  3. Just because the only way you can win is by getting others to fold doesn't mean you should never fold yourself. If your opponent acts as you know he does with the strongest hand, fold. In the purest sense of the game, you should fold blind, but if you want to check your cards for the unlikely nuts, go ahead.

  4. When blind, the best early position pre-flop strategy is folding. So if you don't want to waste these hands there is an option of playing quasi-blind. Pre-flop, check your cards when you are either first or second to act and play the top five starting hands when applicable. Stay blind for all other scenarios.

  5. Use the force, Luke.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The State of Pokernomics

"In these troubled times" is a phrase being tossed around a lot these days. Many companies are tightening their belts. They are dow--I mean "right-sizing" their head-count and cutting back on benefits. I remember waiting for Google stocks to split into shares I could afford. They never did split, but the price sure went down. And that's Google, a profitable company. Many major companies that are unprofitable have bankruptcy on their mind.

How's your stock doing? I'm not talking about your portfolio, I'm asking about your profitability at the poker table. Playing cards isn't unlike playing the stock market. You make decisions to the best of your ability that either pay off or not based on your choices after going through the Chance Machine. Like stocks, poker is gambling. Similarly, you are not unlike a business. If you keep good books, you should know whether or not you should stay in the game. Does today's environment affect you as a poker player?

I imagine the pond is running a little short on fish. I haven't experienced this directly, but I haven't looked for live games in a while. On-line...well lets just say it is a very big pond.

I'm trying to gleam some perspective here. I know I have readers from Vegas, are less tourists making the pilgrimage to the strip? I'd hate to see the rounders cannibalize each other. What about my visitors from the UK? Are you guys looking better economically than us Yanks? I need your help in the comments. What is the state of pokernomics?