Monday, October 31, 2011

Keeping Score

The hardest part about using the best practices of poker is finding consistency in their application. I know that early tournament play is about survival. I know when I need to start playing aggressive to build my chip stack. And I know how my starting hand odds become better short-handed. My problem is after a few hands of committing to the correct style of play, I start to shift back into the style which I’m most comfortable. Overcoming this requires willpower, a long attention span, and, in my case, headphones.

I’ve already written about some of my favorite poker tunes, but I’ve learned that music can be more than diversion at the card table. In film, musical cues help the audience to feel how the director wants them to feel. You might think you are shedding a tear for the visual performance of the starlet’s death scene, but the accompanying violins have a very clear and intended affect. This same affect can be applied to poker.

I have a series of playlists. The first inspires aggression and a sense of urgency, made up of scores from chase scenes and mounting suspense. Think of tracks from the new Tron soundtrack or anything from the Bourne Trilogy, Batman Begins & Mission: Impossible.

The next playlist backs off the energy. I use this when I want to go back to the status quo, which for me is fairly tight play. Any “character building” movie music should work here. Anything you like, my playlist is mostly light John Williams.

Another playlist consists of entirely slow and happy music. I have a few Pixar scores here. I use this to take the edge off when I’m coming off a bad beat dangerously close to going on tilt.

Music can both sooth and waken the savage beast within, the trick is just finding what is right for you. If movie music isn’t your thing, so be it. Personally, I just find the connection to theatrical moments make the desired affect more prominent, not to mention the fact that lyrics distract me.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Thought on Tells

When playing poker face to face you should use different skills than you would to win on-line. Physical tells can give you insight into your opponent's hand. Here are some things to look for:

  • Shaking hands or a flush face usually come from the adrenaline caused by a player's excitement about a strong hand. Don't assume shaking means nervousness, often the player is quite confident they will win.

  • Your opponent will likely cover his cards  with his hand or look back at them more than once. This is a subconscious action in line with the desire to protect what one considers valuable. Keep in mind that you are looking for anything out of the ordinary. If he always covers his card in the same way, it means nothing.

  • Disinterest and drawing attention away from the game is often an act to disguise a big hand.

  • A player with a weak hand, hoping to bluff, may throw his chips into the pot aggressively and make a point for direct eye contact with the player thinking about the call. Often acting strong equals weak and acting weak equals strong.

It is also important to note that if you are up against an inexperienced (or drunk) player, the tells will be less reliable. This is because tells don't really give you information about your opponent's hand, only about how you opponent perceives the strength of his hand. If the hand is misread, you will be mistold.

Mistold is a new word copyright HellsColdDay 2008.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Happy 4th of July!

You don't have to live in the States to celebrate Independence Day with an "all-in," but it helps.

Speaking of summer, is this taking the whole fish/shark poker analogy too far? Who cares? I am so getting this.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Making Poker More Interesting

The following is a sponsored post about how to make poker more interesting.

Although there are many games that come and go over the years, not all of them are successful when it comes to stability. Not every game will find its way into the homes of a number of generations, with the power to remain familiar to anybody that hears about them. Some games for children manage to achieve this status, and there are also a few adult games that have staying power, as well. One of them is poker. Although popular, it is frequently seen as boring. There are steps that can be taken to keep it interesting.

1. In order to keep players in the game or anybody that might be watching interested, it is never a bad idea to try to find a unique place to play. For instance, the kitchen table is a common setting for poker, but there is not much in the way of variety and stimulation. If somebody is up for it, the poker game can take place in the middle of a pool, or in a car, if possible. Taking the game out of its typical element makes it feel fresh and new, leaving people more alert.

2. If the idea above is not an option, the person that is putting together the gaming session can suggest that everybody is given a nickname. This will depend on the demographic involved and what everybody is comfortable with. They can come up with their own names or ask other players to create something suitable. A player could get inspiration from their favorite television show and ask to be named after a character, or they could simply come up with a nickname that is original. When the game is being played, all present should be encouraged to only use nicknames as often as they can.

3. Themes are widely used for other games and events, and poker should not be excluded from this possibility. The poker game can, for example, revolve around tropical islands; players would don fun shirts and sip special drinks. The poker game could revolve around certain eras in history, allowing players to dress as pilgrims, royalty, or whatever else they might like. When people are not wearing what they typically can be seen in, it is easier for them to get into a mood that allows them to have a good time and play their best. This is a possibility for poker that should be kept in mind.

It can be difficult to make certain games interesting. Some games, such as UK online bingo, are new phenomena. Even if they are popular and have remained in the public eye for generations, some individuals will not understand why, and may perhaps find them boring. Golf suffers from this problem, along with croquet and other games. However, with a bit of creativity and setting time aside for planning, everything can be made new again. With poker, it all comes done to doing something different and unexpected. Players should be encouraged to make it their own in some way; this can make poker players of any age get more out of it, besides an evening with friends.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Checking down.

There are some key differences to how you should play in a tournament setting as opposed to a ring game. As an example I'll provide the following scenario.

A relatively short-stacked player moves all-in, a second player calls and so do you. If this was a ring game, you and the remaining player in the pot with chips would do well to continue playing your respective games. However, if this was a tournament with a predetermined number of places "in the money," the incentive to knock the short-stack out of the game is higher than the possibility of increasing your stack from the other player.

If the short stack has pocket jacks and you have pocket eights and the flop is 2 3 7, you might be inclined to raise thinking your hand is solid. The raise may make the other player fold with his AQ. The turn is a three and the river is an ace. You lose and double up the short stack. Now if you could take back the raise after the flop, the AQ would have stayed in the hand and picked up the higher pair on the river. You still wouldn't win the hand, but the short-stack would be out of the tournament bringing you one step closer to placing in the money.

Of course, not everyone follows this advice, and from Mr. Short-stack's point-of-view it probably isn't fair, but it is good tournament strategy.

The exception to the rule? If you find yourself holding the nuts on the river, bet however you'd like.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Follow the King and Queen through Downtown Chicago

234245581.jpgSome of my best memories at the poker table were before my life was taken over by texas hold'em. I used to play a dealer's choice game with a group of creative friends. We came up with a gamut of unorthodox poker variants, some of which am going to highlight from time to time.

You may have heard of Follow the Queen, a wild card stud game. The idea is after a couple hole cards, each player is dealt a card up followed by a round of betting. If a queen is dealt to a player, then the following card to the next player is wild. If no queens show, then queens are wild. The game allows for four wild cards in the deck.

With only four wild cards the integrity of poker can stand in my opinion­—meaning skill is still a large part of the game. Our version used a total of eight wilds, we played follow the king and queen. Then we added another twist. If the two of clubs was dealt up to any player the deck was shuffled again and we started over with any players that had not previously folded. Occasionally we even allowed for the two of clubs' power to be used when dealt as a player's hole card at the discretion of the player who had it.

I doubt any self-respecting poker pro would give said game a chance, but it was a fun diversion from more serious games. We called it, Follow the King and Queen through downtown Chicago.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Poker Kinect

Poker play/mad scientist SeanLind is playing poker using the motion-sensing Microsoft Kinect. Impracitcal? Absolutely. Awesome? YES!

If you have the time to set it all up, you will surely impress. Instructions here.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Obligatory "Black Friday" Post

So that happened.

I assume all of my American readers have been affected by and/or heard about the government crack down on on-line gambling. The quick version is this: suits from major sites like Poker Stars, Full Tilt and Absolute Poker have been formally charged with fraud and all funds and transfers from US players have been frozen, which, by all accounts, sucks.

I think we were all hoping that little bill in 2006 making on-line gambling illegal would never be enforced. Now it looks like Uncle Sam just took its sweet time making a case against the big three gaming outfits. To be fair, the enforcement is justified in my opinion. Just like I feel about immigration in the US, what laws we have in place should be enforced, but I also think we should change the laws. It appears Poker Stars and the rest were laundering money, which is illegal. They may have been forced into a life of crime by the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, but “enforcement” is right their in the name, they should have saw this coming. Let’s face it, with their assurances of safety from the bill, they weren’t honest to their customers either.

As a fan of the game and the profits it allows, I’m still rooting for the gambling sites. I hope PPA lobbying and Full Tilt lawyers put this madness behind us. However, the perfect solution is now being called for not only by Bluff and Cardplayer, but also by Fortune and the Washington Post--legalize the damn game! Let the rake go to American businesses and provide American jobs. Let Harrahs and the Bellagio make sites to compete with Poker Stars and Full Tilt in a free market.

Will this happen? I thought so, but who the hell knows anymore? Color me jaded, which I think is a shade of green. At this point, I just hope their vague promise of letting us cash out our account comes to pass.
I guess I’m back to selling my body for cash. What? That’s illegal too?


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Maniac Flu

Do you yawn when you see or hear someone yawn? I do. I even yawn when I hear the word "yawn." What does this mean? It means I'm tired.

I may be tired, but studies show contagious yawning is a function of empathy. You yawn because you relate to the emotional state of being tired, bored, or whatever. You are yawning vicariously though the other guy.

In poker, empathy helps to get you into the mind of your opponent. This is a beneficial place to be as long as you don't get too attached. I theorize that bad play, like yawning, is contagious.

In my own "studies" I have seen a maniac sit down among responsible, veteran players and slowly drive them insane. Before I know it, the whole table is playing every hand, chasing to the river, consistently over betting the pot...madness! I admit nothing changes a player's outlook like a bad beat, but even before the maniac draws out on someone, the maniac flu spreads. This is true live, and even more true in US Online Poker, but is there a strategy around it?

I know the strategies at play here: "you must become a maniac to beat a maniac" and all that, but these are BAD strategies. If you can't inoculate youself from maniac flu, the best strategy is to find a new table. Put emphasis on empathizing with the pros.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Win Everytime with the "Poison Card" Trick

Brian Brushwood of the popular Scam School podcast just released a scam involving our favorite game. If you can endure a GoDaddy ad, the video below will show you how to win the day with a guaranteed (marginally) better hand dealt three different ways. No mechanic skills required, you need only keep track of a single card.