Friday, November 06, 2009

Thinking too high

This post from Shamus today details Darvin Moon's recollection of the big hand in which he knocked Billy Kopp out of the World Series of Poker main event, just before getting to the final table. Shamus also points to this interview with Kopp, in which he lays out his thinking as the hand was progressing. I haven't been paying much attention the November Nine, so I had not been aware of either of these sources.

The contrast is stunning. Kopp is thinking, oh, about 17 levels ahead of Moon. Moon isn't even correctly aware of what the cards on the board are, let alone getting inside Kopp's head. He's playing somewhere between that infamous Level Zero and Level 1.

This reminds me of several things, all of which are basically making the same point. First is a little tidbit I read just today in Jeff Hwang's column in Card Player magazine (November 4 issue, vol. 22, #22):

In poker, we might assume that our opponent took a certain action for a
reason, when the reality may be that he has absolutely no idea what he is doing.

For example, your opponent--a tourist who has never played poker
before--bets $600 into a $1,000 pot on the river. You wonder what he has. You
wonder what he thinks you have. You wonder what he thinks you think he thinks
you have...and so on. And you try to analyze his bet amount.

For all of the multiple levels of thinking you've done, it's possible that
his bet size and action is completely random. Maybe the minute timer on his
watch read "00," and maybe a girl walked into the room who looked like a "6," so
he simply put the "6" and "00" together and decided to bet $600!


Next is this from Bryan Devonshire, which I posted as a "Poker Gem" last year:
I always laugh when people fail to realize when players are not paying
attention and try to put moves on them, because some people wouldn't notice if
an African elephant walked across the table, much less what your bluff bet was
supposed to be representing.

Then there was this from Dave Irish:
You can't play level 3 poker against people who don't understand Level
1.

And finally, there is a great chapter by Rafe Furst in the Full Tilt Poker Strategy Guide, in which he cogently discusses what can be learned about poker from roshambo (rock, paper, scissors). The basic idea is summarized nicely in this exchange between Furst and Michael Craig, the book's editor (p. 414):

FURST: Against expert roshambo players, you have to go many levels deep in your
thinking.
CRAIG: How many levels do you usually have to go to win?
FURST: The amount never varies: one level deeper than your opponent.

The point is, of course, that going one level too deep is just as disastrous as going one level too shallow, and that is true no matter what your opponent's depth of thinking might be.

Billy Kopp probably knew that before this year's World Series of Poker. If not, he learned the lesson in the most expensive way possible. Either way, my guess is that he will never, ever forget it.

6 comments:

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Michael said...

While Kopp may be correct in some of his logic (heck, he most likely is since I'm just a $1/$2 recreational player so WTF do I know anyway!) his comments about not being able to play against people like Moon are, in my opiniion, crying over spilled milk.

He gets all in depth with his analysis of how he played the hand, what range he put Moon on, why Moon can't call, etc. But he forgets about one simple thing. he never even asks himself "Will this guy fold if this is the line I present" Presenting a line to represent your hand a certain way means absolutely nothing if your opponent won't recognize that line. So, while Kopp may have out thought Moon with the play of the hand, Moon outplayed Kopp because Kopp never seemed to consider that Moon was never laying down the second nut flush on a paired board.

Kopp never seemed to consider that maybe the line he took made sense to himself but maybe, just maybe Moon didn't think Kopp flopped a set of Kings or Nines and therefore didn't fill up on the turn.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Rakewell said...

Michael: I agree. There have been more times that I would like to admit when I have run a big bluff against a player in a situation where, if it were reversed and I held his cards, I would have folded, but this opponent called. I do not attribute those losses to the other guy being a bad player, but to me misjudging my opponent, and what strength of hand he requires to make a big call.

NerveEnding said...

I saw the recent interview on youtube where Kopp gives his logic on the hand. I have to wonder whether he is trying to justify it after the fact. I think it is entirely possible that he figured his flush was good and that Moon was making a move with a semi-bluff.

I also enjoyed Moon's call. If you listen to his voice and watch his gestures (on the ESPN broadcast), he gives me the impression of hoping he is good, but knowing that he might be very, very wrong.

timpramas said...

If Kopp is trying to represent a full house by pushing all on the turn, he needed to ask himself would a person with a full house actually re-raise all in? The way Kopp played the hand and the hand Kopp claims after the fact he is trying to represent are not consistent.

Once Moon re-raised to 6 million, Kopp should have asked himself if that was the action of a player who was going to fold to a shove.

Kopp played the hand poorly, he was way too deep to bust with a suited 5,3. He tried to run a bluff on a player despite conceding he hadn't played many hands with Moon and did not have a good handle on his playing style and tendencies. He also played a big pot in the late stages of a tournament without a big hand against about the only player in the tournament with a bigger stack.

Moon had an incredible run of cards in the Main Event, but he also doesn't seem to be making too many mistakes. Kopp made a huge one.

Mantis said...

Great post Grump.. something that I need to work on for sure. Saving the multiple level thinking for the right times and the right players. Important point.