I think the one thing that more than any other makes me occasionally feel like a honest-to-goodness professional at this game is the rare occasion when I'm able to figure out what an opponent's thoughts and/or weaknesses are, to get inside his head, then either design or exploit a situation in a way that takes maximal advantage of what I have concluded about him. This was one of those moments. They don't happen every day--not by a long shot.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Thursday, November 10, 2011
It's not often these days that I learn about what is to me an entirely new strategic tool to keep in the poker toolbox, but Dusty Schmidt's column in the latest issue of Card Player magazine (November 2, 2011, Vol. 24, #22, page 36) qualifies as such an occasion. He calls the move "checking with a chip":
In no-limit when the pot is medium or relatively big, you're out of position, and checking would normally be the play, sometimes it's advantageous to bet a small amount (usually the minimum bet) rather than the obvious check. As long as the pot is reasonably large relative to the size of the bet, the additional risk is minimal. Even still, you'll benefit in a few ways.
- Both of you are on a busted draw. He might fold his better no-pair hand. This doesn't have to happen very often for it to be an incredibly profitable play.
- If your hand is likely the loser yet strong enough that you would have to call at least a medium-sized bet after checking to your opponent, one chip can act as the cheapest possible blocking bet. If he raises, you can have more confidence that he has you, and fold with minimal loss, but if he just calls, you get to showdown more cheaply than if it had gone check-bet-call.
- Many opponents can't resist the temptation to read such a small bet as weakness and bluff-raise. In situations where bluffs are a large part of his raising range, so that you have an easy call, checking with a chip may induce a bluff more reliably than a check would.
Wednesday, November 09, 2011
Pius Heinz just won the 2011 WSOP. But I'm writing in commendation of Martin Staszko. I really liked how he played. He made a crucial mistake near the end calling an all-in with just a flush draw, which is probably what cost him the match in the end. But before that, he had been in the lead for most of the heads-up battle. He looked completely unflappable, whereas Heinz showed obvious signs of the stress and frustration. He said hardly a single word. He tamed the wild Heinz by using the call as his primary tool--just as Mike Caro advises for dealing with a maniac. He supplemented that with some impressively well-timed bluffs, deadly traps, and perfectly sized value bets. His style of play is not flashy or sexy, in the way that Heinz's daring high-wire act of unrelenting aggression is, but it is highly effective. It's the classic tortoise and hare story. I've always been partial to tortoises.
Tuesday, November 08, 2011
We are here once again with one of our occasional "you decide" series. I'll describe the situation the best that I can, let you figure out what you'd do and submit a comment committing yourself to it if you'd like, then in about 24 hours I'll post the end of the story.
Monday, November 07, 2011
Ed Miller, in Card Player magazine column, November 2, 2011 (vol. 24, #12), page 34.
I once again feel compelled to write a post in response to something Very Josie has written. In describing a recent trip with Waffles to Foxwoods, she mentioned that she and Waffles had an agreement that if either of them had a big hand, they would bet big so that the other would know to get out. She was upset that Waffles violated this agreement by, among other things, bluffing her. She also said that having some sort of agreement like this was routine for her when she played in cash games with friends. It might take different forms (like agreeing not to get into big pots with each other), but there is usually something put in place in advance.
When someone robs a convenience store, you know who the bad person is. He’s the guy with the gun. As wrong as that is, in my mind it’s not as sinister as a poker partnership. The robber and the convenience store haven’t exchanged solemn promises. With poker partnerships, the thieves usually go unnoticed and nobody knows anything was stolen. Lives can be ruined when unethical players break their promises and directly target the honesty of others who are being fair to them. What’s worse than that? That’s why I have long-ago stated that poker cheaters should be boiled and eaten. If you think I’m not serious, you boil; I’ll eat.
Strangely, many players think they should give friends a break. But when you soft play friends at the table others get hurt in the crossfire.Aggressive opponents, who are playing honestly, especially suffer. That’s because they mistake what’s happening through secret alliances as tactical traits exhibited by the group of friends.This causes those honest players to make poor decisions for the wrong reasons on future hands.Much worse, soft playing often means that honest players get less value when they hold strong hands because some opponents have decided not to participate in order to make it easy on their buddies. Also, honest players may call trying to catch a bluff, not realizing that the opponent would never have bet a weak hand due to a secret understanding with a participating friend.Soft playing friends is cheating. If you want to be generous, win the money through honest play first.Then you can give it away to your friends later.
Some players consider that playing best-hand poker (where partners signal each other and only the strongest hand is played) is a gray area of ethics that isn’t quite cheating. They’re wrong. Playing best hands is a simple and serious form of cheating and the method will usually destroy ethical players. You should never consider joining such partnerships and if asked to participate I believe you should report the players immediately. Tattling may seem uncool, but you have an obligation to other players to keep the game honest. As uncomfortable as it may seem to do this, poker can’t be protected without your help.
Obligation of pros and other players.
Look, we’ve made great advances. Poker has crawled out of the dank corners of taverns and dimly lit two-table card rooms. We’ve survived the era when scammers roamed and ruled. Now poker is in the spotlight, but it won’t stay there unless professionals and other honest players protect our game. It’s no longer enough to look the other way and just refuse to participate.We need to let unethical players know, in blunt terms, that we don’t tolerate any form of cheating, including partnerships big or small. It’s our game and we will defend it. The consequences of tolerating unethical poker are too great; the stakes are too high. Tell them that exactly. If that doesn’t work, it’s time to start boiling the water.