by George “The Engineer” Epstein
The late poker guru Lou Krieger recently wrote an informative three-part column on Expected Value, “EV,” applied to drawing hands in Texas hold’em. This concept derives from probability mathematics to describe the long-term average outcome of a given scenario. To calculate Expected Value, take every possible outcome, multiply each by the probability of that outcome happening, and then add those numbers together. As an example, Lou calculated the EV where you hold four-to-the-nut flush on the turn. This involves the odds against catching the flush on the river (4-to-1 against); how much you lose if you call and miss (as will happen about 80% of the time), and how much you could win (about 20% of the time). The result determines whether the situation provides a positive or a negative Expected Value. Then call with +EV; fold with -EV.
I want you to think about poker in an all-new way. Imagine a world where poker isn’t about calling and betting. Instead, it’s about buying and selling. If you image that world, then you’ll understand poker as it really is. And you’ll probably make a lot more money at the tables. I’ll try to explain that in todays self-interview.
Question 1: Why does it matter how you define poker? It’s still the same game, right?
Right. It’s the same game.
Whenever you see a description of anything, you can say, “why does it matter? It is what it is.” Often it does matter, though. That’s because how you imagine something determines how you use or react to it. Take a television, for instance. It could be described as a container surrounding a window that glows. In that context, it would become a great nightlight or decoration. If you define a TV that way, its purpose is to destroy the darkness. But if you define it as the receiver of transmitted information and entertainment, it has a more valuable purpose.
By David “THE MAVEN” Chicotsky
It’s common to hear poker players complain about bad beats. So much so, that bad beat stories have become a staple of the poker culture. There are some things we can control and others we can’t. We definitely can’t control certain bad beats, but on a macro level we can manipulate the frequency and distribution of bad beats we encounter.
What I mean by this is that every poker player has a different ratio of the amount of bad beats they take in comparison to the amount of bad beats they deliver. The least risk tolerant players will inevitably have the highest bad beats taken to bad beats delivered ratio.
by Barbara Connors
It’s no secret that poker players can be their own worst enemies. When we’re not calling too often with borderline junk, we’re shoving out too many raises in an effort to steamroll the opposition. Or folding too frequently in the face of such raises. We stubbornly keep on playing the game even when we’re fatigued or full-out on tilt. We play in stakes that are too high for our bankrolls, against opponents who are too advanced. And through all of this, we know perfectly well that we shouldn’t be doing it.
This is hardly unique to poker players. Every dieter who eats a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, every shopaholic who goes on another spending binge, every procrastinator who invents another excuse to postpone getting a job done understands this feeling all too well. We know the behavior is bad for us. We know it’s going to cause problems in the future. And knowing this, we do it anyway.
What’s all this talk about “missing a bet” in poker? You hear it often, but is it real science, just jabber, or both?
That’s the topic for today’s self-interview.
Question 1: What does missing a bet mean?
It means that a player declined the opportunity to make a bet when it would have been profitable to do so.
Question 2: So, missing a bet sounds like a bad thing. Do you agree?
In theory, missing bets can cost money. Just like any other judgment mistakes, betting is often a close decision. And the answer to whether a bet has been missed or not isn’t always obvious.
What is obvious is that many poker players are so worried about missing a bet that the entire concept is damaging their bankrolls. I was there when this craze started. It was back in the 1980s when I first heard the term, I think.
It began as an infrequent way for players who envisioned themselves as superior at poker to point out mistakes others were making: “You missed that bet!” This prodding quickly became a plague that remains with us today – embedded deeply in our consciousness.
Sometimes the scolding was done in a friendly way and sometimes it was done to embarrass. It became so common that players would immediately point out their own missed bets, before they could be criticized by anyone else: “I missed a bet. I’m so sorry. I know better, really. Now I’m going to cash out, go home, and ponder my wasted life, because I’m an unworthy player.” Well, maybe not, but almost.
Question 3: So, wasn’t that a good thing – being conscious of missing bets?
Tom McEvoy and David Chicotsky will again be teaching their tournament strategy at the Golden Nugget casino in Las Vegas on July 3, 2013, a day before the annual Poker Player of the Year Tournament. Their seminars are part of an overall package that begins at 9:00 AM to Noon, with lunch and other refreshments supplied. The second session starts at 1:00 PM and ends at 4:00 PM. At 7:00 that evening the participants will play in a satellite tournament for entry into the next day’s Poker Player of the Year event. The fee for this entire activity is $390.
Last year’s participants at these seminars apparently learned quite a bit, many of them placing at or close to the final table, thus proving the value of this outstanding poker education event. The blend of McEvoy’s decades of tournament experience, he was the WSOP World Champion in the 1980’s and young David Chicotsky’s internet and recent tournament experience, he was the 2008 Internet Player of the Year, has produced a learning experience second to none. It’s something you won’t want to miss as it is sure to improve your game, whether a beginner or an old pro.
In today’s self-interview, I invite questions on anything.
Question 1: Have any of your opinions about poker changed over the decades that you have been researching and analyzing the game?
Not many. And here’s the deal with that: poker theory is timeless.
It puzzles me to read so many comments from young players proclaiming that poker advice is outdated. Actually, there was a time when this was true. That was before I and others began to treat our game scientifically in the 1970s.
Back then, much of the advice was based on homespun wisdom, on what appeared to work or not work, on empirical data. The word “empirical” mean that conclusions are based on observation or personal experience, rather than analysis, logic, and research.
by David “THE MAVEN” Chicotsky
Players raising from stealing position is such a common occurrence that we must use all options at our disposal in order to try and defend our blinds. Re-raising pre-flop is an effective way to deal with loose players that are keen on raising in position. Another way of going about it would be to call more often and try and win the pot post-flop. When I say “win the pot post-flop,” notice I didn’t say “try and hit our hand in order to win the pot.” Somewhere around 70% of the time we’re going to miss the flop with a typical hand we’re holding, so we need to be able to win the pot often enough when we do miss, to make calling pre-flop profitable. Simply put, we can’t justify passively calling out of position pre-flop if we’re not willing to turn off the passive switch post-flop.
This doesn’t mean we have to try and win every hand that we play from the blinds, though we must figure out a certain mix of instances to go after or give up on the pot. Just like with any pot, whether or not we’re isolated against a single opponent will be a major factor in deciding the best path to take in the hand. Many times when there are more players in the hand, we’re able to play more passively preflop. We’ll be getting better pot-odds, and the fact that there are more players, in essence, will help our implied odds increase as well.
by Shari Geller
I’ve been having trouble writing again since my friend, co-host and former editor Lou Krieger passed away in December. When something hits you for a loop, it’s not easy bouncing back. But that’s what we all must learn to do, take what comes your way and don’t let it stop you. This is not just good advice for life, but also crucial advice to poker players. How you deal with adversity is much more important than how you handle when everything is going your way.
The bad beat. We’ve all had them. We love to regale our bored friends and families with the outrage of that miracle card that gave some jerk the hand that should have been ours, conveniently omitting any time we were the lucky recipient of a miraculous suck out. Losing a hand that we are convinced “should have been ours” has a way of taking over our brain. It burrows in there laying seeds of doubt, frustration, and resignation. We lose focus and feel compelled to replay that hand over and over as if on repeated plays we can eke out a different result.
by Barbara Connors
CORRECTION: I gave an example where you call to see a flop with A-7 suited, but you’re concerned an opponent may hold a bigger ace. I explained that if you could push that opponent out with a raise, the remaining aces would become good outs for you, and thus you would gain three more outs. Oops. Obviously if you have an ace, and your opponent has an ace, you would gain no more than two outs with that move. I had a good education so we can’t blame the school system. Mea culpa.
It’s one of the most famous axioms in poker: drawing hands play best against a large field of opponents. When you’re drawing to a big hand like a straight or a flush, you want lots of other players in the hand with you, so you’ll get paid off in case your draw hits. But in poker, where everything is situational, even the truisms are relative and this seemingly universal rule doesn’t always apply. There are times when you actually want to thin the field with a drawing hand. For example, when you have the opportunity to buy outs.
Say you call to see a flop with A-7 of spades and the flop comes down J-8-3 with two spades. You have nine outs to the nut flush, which is pretty simple and straightforward, except that the flush is not the only draw you have going for you here. You could also hit one of the remaining three aces, which would give you top pair. Problem is, your top pair would be married to a mediocre kicker. If one of your opponents has a better ace, say ace-king or ace-queen, your three ace outs are tainted, because spiking an ace will only bring you heartache and an expensive second-best hand. But if you think a wellplaced raise can push this particular opponent out of the pot, you’re effectively buying three more outs for your hand, giving yourself a total of 12 good outs to win. But before you decide to push out that raise and buy yourself a few more outs, you need to look for certain conditions. First and foremost, you want a large pot. If the pot is still on the smallish side, those extra outs aren’t worth the price of your raise. When the prize you’re competing for is still just a piddling pile of chips, the extra equity you gain by giving yourself a few more outs is not worth the cost of putting in a raise. But when the pot is hefty because somebody raised preflop—as tends to be the case when one of your opponents holds a big ace—that’s a different story.