Monday, December 19, 2016

PokerNews article #142

Things are always changing in poker. Are you paying attention?

Monday, December 12, 2016

Monday, December 05, 2016

Monday, November 28, 2016

PokerNews article #139

If you make a bad call, don't compound the error with a bad justification of it.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Deuce-Four always wins

PokerNews article #138

This one is about the psychology of the "near-miss" phenomenon in gambling generally, and in poker specifically.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Deuce-Four always wins

Even when it doesn't make the best hand, it plays Jedi mind tricks on your opponents.

Monday, November 14, 2016

PokerNews article #137

Remember the old sitcom "Taxi"? There's a poker lesson in it.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

"The Mandibles"

This morning I finished reading a fine new novel by Lionel Shriver, The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047. It's set in a frighteningly realistic near-future America after a total economic collapse caused by unsustainable federal spending and debt. Hyperinflation sets in, and US currency becomes nearly worthless. But Nevada secedes from the union and becomes a free, rogue state.

I like how she describes Las Vegas:

Monday, October 24, 2016

PokerNews article #135

Poker lessons from Hillary Clinton, Napoleon, Mike Caro, and Sun Tzu.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

PokerNews article #134

Last week I saw a tweet from Teller, of Penn & Teller, and instantly knew that it was a poker lesson waiting to be explicated:

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

PokerNews article #133

Today I try to teach you about how to use a binomial calculator, and what kinds of poker math questions it can answer for you.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Lee Jones, Deuce-Four skeptic

Yesterday I finally met Lee Jones, who is the director of communications for PokerStars, and author of the well-regarded Winning Low-Limit Hold'Em (which Amazon helpfully informs me that I purchased on June 8, 2006). I say "finally" because I had learned from a mutual friend that he lived around Asheville. As a result, I had expected to bump into him a lot earlier, but he moved away around the same time that I was moving here from Vegas.

He kindly reached out to me to say that he and some friends would be at Harrah's Cherokee Saturday, and would I like to join them? I would indeed, and I did.

Delightful fellow, as I had expected based not only on his writings but on reports from others who know him. But I have to say, for somebody so steeped in the poker world, he has a shockingly poor grasp of the game's most powerful hands.

The group of us split between two tables. Lee was at the other with a friend who was taking her first stab at casino poker. After a while, Lee came over to tell us her unhappy experience. She got all in with a set of fives, on a flop of A-3-5.

Would you like to guess what hand beat her? (Hint: Not pocket aces.)

Any regular reader of this blog knows the answer without a moment's hesitation: The Mighty Deuce-Four, of course!

Despite his years in the poker world, Lee has somehow not learned that this is the most powerful hand in hold'em poker. I tried to explain it to him, tried to tell him that I now have 177 blog posts documenting the invincibility of Deuce-Four. I assumed he was in one of those moments that make one subject to seeing the light, having just beheld the power with his own eyes.

Sadly, rather than embracing the truth, he hardened his heart and would not hear the message of the 2-4 Gospel--even though it was coming straight from the High Priest of the Holy Order of the Deuce-Four himself.

Lee, my new friend: I forgive you your unbelief. But I will patiently continue to try to get you to accept what must now appear to you as foolishness. I have confidence that in time the scales will fall from your eyes so that you may see clearly. And I'll be waiting to anoint you into our cult community of faith when that great day arrives.

All Hail the Mighty Deuce-Four!

Monday, October 03, 2016

PokerNews article #132

This is an introduction to the concept of elasticity in poker.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Vegas trip

Through my local tavern poker club, I won entry into two of their national-championship tournaments in Vegas coming up in November. Today I found reasonable hotel and airfare prices, so I booked the trip and I'm going. I'll be arriving late on November 4, leaving early on November 10, and staying at the Orleans (which is where the tournaments are being held). This will be my first time back in town since moving away 3 1/2 years ago.

Monday, September 26, 2016

PokerNews article #131

In which I try to derive a poker lesson from the acrophobia I experienced crossing that swinging bridge at Grandfather Mountain last week:

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Grandfather Mountain

Once a month, Nina and I set aside a whole day to spend together doing something fun or adventurous (ideally, both). Today we drove to Grandfather Mountain, a privately owned preserve about 80 miles from Asheville. It's a lovely place, with stunning views in every direction.

It's been a while since I bragged about the beauty of western North Carolina by sharing some photos, so let's fix that now. (Right click/open link in new tab to see them full size.)

The aptly named Split Rock:

Immediately adjacent to Split Rock is this one, which they call Sphinx Rock. Yes, the entire thing (estimated to weigh 4000 tons) is resting on the small rock under it.

The Rickety Bridge of Certain Death. Well, that's what it felt like walking across. It's possible that's not its official name.

Grandfather Mountain actually has several peaks on the same base. This is the tallest one, seen from one of the more accessible ones.

Just a few random dramatic views:

Here's a couple of shots rendered in black and white, all Ansel-Adams-like. (People often say his work was nearly as good as mine.)

And finally, here's a cute river otter from one of their animal habitats:

Oh, one more thing: On the road up to the summit, signs identify one short stretch as "Forrest Gump Curve." Turns out that a bit of Forrest's famous run was filmed there. You can see it in this clip, from 3:58 to 4:04--just six seconds long.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

PokerNews article #130

Poker advice from...William Shakespeare???

Yes, that William Shakespeare.

Monday, September 12, 2016

PokerNews article #129

This is the last of a series of articles I've written on insights about deception and its application to poker from the realm of evolutionary biology.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

PokerNews article #128

Here I continue with insights about deception in poker from a book by evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers about deception in the natural world.

Monday, August 29, 2016

PokerNews article #127

You can make more money just by wasting less time at the table. Here's how:

Monday, August 22, 2016

PokerNews #126

This is a long piece trying to dispose of a common--but wrong--objection that I've encountered several times about the standard way of calculating poker probabilities.

Something that got cut from the article because of length was a link back to the first time I addressed it in this blog. It started with me doing a probability calculation here, to which an anonymous reader replied. My further explanation got too long for a comment, so I made it into a new blog post here. That, in turn, triggered a long and quite interesting discussion in the comments. By the end, I think we had finally convinced the doubter that the standard calculation is, in fact, correct.

Last week a friend (who knew nothing of that years-old blog exchange) mentioned to me the very same objection, in the context of the standard way of calculating the probability of hitting a flush draw. So I decided to try to refute it as carefully and thoroughly as I knew how to do, and this was the result:

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Phil Laak rocks the Deuce-Four

I just came across this while browsing YouTube. If I've ever seen it before, I don't remember it.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Lee Jones responds

Lee Jones has an article at PokerNews responding to mine of earlier this week (see post immediately below). As would be expected from him, it's thoughtful, articulate, and comes down on the side of going out of your way to make the game friendly and fun, even at the cost of "a shekel or two less that ends up in your pocket."

I have no quarrel with the position he takes. Moreover, it is perfectly consistent with the general attitude he has shown in a couple of other recent controversies about the intersection of rules, angle-shooting, and generosity to other players--see here and here.

Though Lee addresses all three of my examples, most attention from others has focused on my first one, which has caused me to think about it more. Specifically, I've thought about how the situation is both similar to and different from the common one of a relative newcomer to poker putting out a single oversized chip after another player bets, intending it as a raise, but with no verbal announcement.

The two situations are similar in that an ambiguity has been created by a player's action. Is the tapping a check or not a check? Is the single chip a call or a raise?

The key difference is that in the latter scenario, we have a pretty robust, universal rule that dictates how the ambiguity is to be resolved. In home games or pub poker, the player might be given a chance to explain his intention and let it stand, whatever it may be. But in any other setting that I've experienced, whether tournament or cash game, the dealer will automatically announce it as a call, and, if the player protests that it was meant to be a raise, explain the applicable rule. There's no grace period; the outcome is not dependent on the player's intention or level of experience with live play, nor is it decided by asking the other players whether or not to allow it to stand as a raise. Players tend to make this mistake just once, because the consequences of getting it wrong are politely but consistently enforced.

With the questionable check, though, we don't have a comparable interpretive rule. I quoted Roy Cooke's rule book, and I think he's right to have such a rule, but it's by no means universally treated as such. This means that every time the tapping ambiguity is created, it has to get resolved on some sort of ad hoc basis: The dealer tries to determine intent, perhaps other players are questioned about whether they were misled or whether they want to allow the offending player to still be able to bet if he wants to, perhaps the decision is guided by whether others acted in turn afterward.

If we had a universally enforced rule along the lines of Cooke's wording, and, as with the oversized chip, it were universally regarded as the dealer's job to announce the ambiguous tapping as a check, it would end the need to devise a custom resolution of the ambiguity every time it occurs. It, too, would become a mistake that new players would tend to make just once. Other players wouldn't be put in the position of having to decide whether to extend generosity or protect their own interests.

Perhaps the TDA will deem this worthy of consideration for a new rule at their next meeting?

Monday, August 15, 2016

PokerNews article #125

This one is about using less-known poker rules to create a tactical edge for yourself.


I see that some people on Twitter are saying that my article is encouraging and/or teaching angle-shooting. See here.

This is deeply mistaken--and it's not even a close call. There is no honest, reasonable reading of the article that sees it as promoting angle-shooting. (FWIW, I've previously done two articles denouncing angle-shooting, and teaching readers how to spot and combat it. See here and here.)

The hallmark of most forms of angle-shooting is either deliberately creating ambiguity or deliberately misrepresenting what is going on. An example of the former is sliding a stack of chips to a point just short of the betting line (in a casino that uses betting lines), so that it looks like a bet, raise, or call--but technically isn't. The player then either tries to withdraw it or make it count, depending on the opponent's reaction. An example of the latter is falsely declaring one's hand when the action is concluded, then, if caught, proclaim that it was an innocent mistake.

Not a single thing in my article advocates any attempt to trick or deceive another player, nor to misrepresent the truth, nor to create ambiguity, nor to evade or skirt the rules. Quite the opposite; in every case, I'm advocating following the rules.

In the first example, another player has created the ambiguity, which has to get resolved one way or the other. I'm simply advocating trying to get it resolved (1) according to published rules, and (2) in a direction that is advantageous. The blame for the ambiguity lies entirely with the player who created it, as does any fallout from having done so. (Moreover, the ambiguous maybe-a-check-maybe-not-a-check is something that an angle-shooter could do deliberately. I explain how to foil any such intention.)

In the second example, it's even harder for me to understand how anybody sees angle-shooting here. Again, the fault lies entirely with the player who didn't protect his hand. The worst interpretation you can give to my words is that I'm saying that the rules prescribe the outcome and that you don't have to be generous and let him reclaim a hand that the dealer killed. But the fact is that, nearly always, any such dispute will be left to the tournament personnel, and other players will have little say in what is decided.

My third example is what the attorneys would call black-letter law. I know of no set of poker rules (at least for American use) that disagrees on the prescribed order of showdown when the last round of betting has no action. My advice is simply to insist on following the rules. How that could even remotely be interpreted as "angle-shooting" wholly escapes me.

If people simply disagreed with the wisdom of following my advice, I wouldn't mind. After all, a good percentage of my own words were spent explaining why you might not want to. But angle-shooting is ugly and unethical. To say that I am promoting or teaching it is not merely mistaken (though it is that); it is outright insulting.

If you believe that an insistence on standard poker rules being followed constitutes angle-shooting, I'm at a loss to understand how you could so badly misunderstand what angle-shooting is.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Deuce-Four still awesome

Today I played in the seniors tournament at Harrah's Cherokee, part of the WSOP-C series.

The Deuce-Four did more than its share of work for me in the first couple of hours.

First time I had it, I raised, got a couple of callers, flopped a gutshot, and hit the wheel on the turn.

Second time, I flopped a pair and a flush draw, raised the initial bettor, and won the pot.

Third time was the big one--a full double-up. 2h-4h. I raised, got a couple of callers, flopped a flush, busted a guy with the same size chip stack who had flopped top pair/top kicker.

And finally, I must report that I overheard somebody at the table behind me saying, at one point, "I folded deuce-four. I woulda made the nuts." Some people are just too dumb to play poker right!

I made the money. There were 513 entries, 54 got paid. I finished in 33rd place for $530. Shoved my last 9 big blinds with AJ in late position, called by the big blind with A-10. Flop was 10-10-5, and that was all she wrote. If not for that, then, as Marlon Brando famously said, I coulda been a contender, instead of a bum, which is what I am.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Monday, August 01, 2016

PokerNews article #123

How might the information you don't have change a poker decision?

Monday, July 25, 2016

PokerNews article #122

This one is about the endless chain of causation that determines how a poker hand plays out.

Hat tip to this old blog post from Grange95, which talks about many of the same ideas. The original draft of my article lifted a big chunk of his post, but ended up cut due to length. It's worth reading anyway.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Blog worth reading

It's been a long time since I started reading a new (as in, new to me) poker blog and liked it enough to point y'all to it. (I live in the South now, so I'm not just allowed to say "y'all"--I'm required to.) But I've now found one that is worth calling your attention to. It's written by Rachel Kranz, and it's called "Adventures in Poker."

I first became aware of it because Jennifer Newell started posting links to it on both Facebook and Twitter a few weeks ago. I thought I'd get around to checking it out sooner or later, but didn't actually do so.

But then Nina (my girlfriend, aka Cardgrrl) told me that she had started reading, too, and was impressed at the quality of the writing. Nina is not easily impressed by blog writing, but she was this time--to the point of saying that she was envious: "If I were still doing my poker blog, I hope it would be that good." So yeah, that got my attention.

And now that I've read the last three posts, I see why both Jennifer and Nina thought it stood out from the field. It's well-written, thoughtful, introspective, brutally honest and even confessional. Really quite compelling.

You might want to go check it out.

Monday, July 18, 2016

PokerNews article #121

Shannon Elizabeth, the "law of attraction," and the illusion of control in poker.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Monday, July 04, 2016

PokerNews article #119

Tony asked if he had misplayed a hand. This is my detailed analysis.

Monday, June 27, 2016

PokerNews article #118

An evolutionary biologist and George Costanza team up to teach you how to bluff better.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

On abrogating constitutional rights without due process (no poker content)

I wrote this for Facebook, then decided I might as well make it more accessible by posting it here. What got me thinking about the subject was this blog post by legal scholar Josh Blackman, whose writings I have come to like--including, e.g., his book on the legal challenges to Obamacare.

I've been ruminating more on the proposals--by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Dianne Feinstein, and others--that if you're on a terrorist watch list or a no-fly list, you should be barred from being able to buy a gun. It's important to keep in mind that placement on such lists is based only on suspicion--by definition, less than needed to constitute "probable cause" for an arrest warrant, let alone evidence "beyond a reasonable doubt" necessary for a criminal conviction.

The Adam Winkler proposal to have such determinations rubber-stamped by a FISA-like court (see the link I posted earlier today) doesn't improve matters much, because those are secret proceedings, in which the accused does not get to examine or contest the evidence the government claims to have against him. In fact, the accused doesn't even know that such a proceeding is taking place, so there's no right to be represented by an attorney, to confront witnesses, etc.

Just as a thought experiment, imagine if the result of being placed on one of those lists of suspects were a clear violation of some clear constitutional right *other* than that protected by the second amendment.

First amendment: "Citizen, you are under suspicion, and may no longer post your opinions about Islam anywhere on the Internet."

First amendment, again: "Citizen, you are under suspicion, and may no longer attend any Islamic place of worship."

First amendment, again: "Citizen, you are under suspicion, and may no longer have contact with friends or family members who are of the Muslim faith."

First amendment, again: "Citizen, you are under suspicion, and may no longer join in petitions to the government relative to the grievances you claim in the treatment of Muslims."

Fourth amendment: "Citizen, you are under suspicion, and law enforcement agencies from every level of government are now empowered to search your person at any time, and to enter your home and business and search all of your belongings, at their sole discretion, seizing any items they deem relevant, without a warrant."

Fifth amendment: "Citizen, you are under suspicion, and are now required to cooperate in our gathering of evidence against you. This means, specifically, that you must answer all of our questions about your various activities, businesses, social contacts, religious beliefs, ideas, and plans. If you do not comply willingly, you will be jailed in order to coerce your compliance."

Eighth amendment: "Citizen, you are under suspicion. Should jailing you fail to produce your compliance with the questioning described above, we are authorized to employ methods of torture to gain your cooperation."

Thirteenth amendment: "Citizen, you are under suspicion. Therefore, you are hereby declared to be a slave of the federal government. The US Marshal presenting you these papers will now escort you to the forced-labor camp. Noncompliance with any order will be severely punished."

If you would be willing to stand for ANY of these consequences on the grounds of being a mere *suspect*, without evidence sufficient for arrest (much less prosecution), then I'm afraid that your views and mine about rights, liberty, the constitution, and what it means to live in "the land of the free" are so far apart that there is no way to bridge the divide.

If, however, you share my sense of revulsion at the thought that the government could treat a citizen in this manner, then I respectfully invite you to consider whether we should allow the right to own/purchase a firearm, as guaranteed in the second amendment, to be abrogated with that lessened threshold of mere "suspicion."

Monday, June 13, 2016

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Monday, June 06, 2016

PokerNews article #115

Mind control in poker--it's totally possible!

Just for fun, here's some screen captures from that "Jessica Jones" scene described in the article:

Monday, May 23, 2016

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Monday, May 16, 2016

PokerNews article #113

This is the second half of the article started last week, on using a combinations calculator to solve poker probability problems.

Thanks once again to the readers who sniffed out several goofs in this before it went online.

Monday, May 09, 2016

PokerNews article #112

This is the first half of a two-part article on how to do poker probability problems using combinations of cards, with the difficult math done by something called a combinations calculator.

I spent far longer writing this one than most of my PN contributions, and I'm really pleased with the result. If you follow along and do the work with me, rather than just blast through it as fast as your eyeballs can scan the words, you'll go from knowing nothing about this kind of calculation to being able to pose and answer complex poker-math problems on your own.

I owe a giant thanks to five blog readers who responded to my plea in the previous post, and took considerable time and effort to proofread my first draft. Between them, they found six mistakes, ranging from trivial to huge. Without their help in advance, I would now have to spend the next few days being embarrassed and submitting corrections as PokerNews readers pointed out my mistakes. But due to their careful scrutiny, I'm now pretty confident that everything is right.

And thanks also to "TBC" Tony, whose report of the unusual poker-room promotion in Shreveport is what got me thinking about tackling this subject for PokerNews. The calculation of how often that promotion is expected to hit is the last and most complex example I work through in the article, at the end of Part Two, next week.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Math double-check

I've written a thing for an upcoming PokerNews article that involves a lot of math--not highly advanced, but moderately complex poker probability stuff that can't be looked up online. I'd like to have any embarrassing errors discovered before it gets published, rather than after.

If you're reasonably good at figuring out probabilities using the formula for card combinations, and you're willing to spend what I think would be 30 minutes or so looking over my work, please let me know: submit a comment below with "do not publish" or words to that effect, and your name and email, and I'll send it to you for a look-over.


Tuesday, May 03, 2016

PokerNews article #111

Have you ever lamented that you finally pick up a big hand, and everybody folds to your raise? Here's how to fix that.

Monday, April 25, 2016

PokerNews article #110

Autism, Star Trek, and Kenny Rogers:

Full day of poker

Yesterday Nina and I went to Harrah's Cherokee to play in the second WSOP-C seniors event. (The first was April 17.) I did decently well in it, going out with about 150 left out of 568 entrants, but not well enough to make the money (last 63). As is often the case in such things, winning instead of losing one 50/50 race would have made all the difference.

Next I played in a cash game for a while. It's actually been three years since I played a $1-2 NLHE cash game with chips and a dealer instead of PokerPro machines. I kept forgetting to tip the dealer when I won pots. I started well, but eventually made a bad all-in move and lost my buy-in. The game was already breaking up, so I decided not to start over.

But they were assembling a 10-player, $125 sit-and-go for $1100 cash, winner take all. I don't think I've ever done a tournament format like that. The closest I've come has been some WSOP single-table satellites. I figured I had a couple of hours of good poker left in me, so I signed up. Nina came by when there was just one seat left, and I persuaded her to take it.

I picked a seat card at random and ended up sitting next to a blog reader, who lives in Durham. He recognized me and introduced himself. (Hi, Matt!) It wasn't too uncommon to run into readers at the poker tables in Las Vegas, but this is the first time it's happened since I moved to North Carolina.

I started the tournament epically card-dead. Just could not pick up a real hand to save my life. And every time I thought a good steal opportunity was coming my way, Matt, on my right, beat me to it.

The structure was fast. 2000 in starting chips, blinds going up every 15 minutes, starting at 25/25, then 25/50, 50/100, etc. The whole thing took less than two hours. So after losing some chips to blinds and speculative hands that went nowhere, I had to do something. When there were a few limpers but no raise, I decided to shove with A-3 offsuit and hope for the best. It worked. Matt thought a long time about calling, but finally folded with the rest of them, and I was back to my original stack.

Then card-dead again, until I finally made a stand with pocket 8s, flopped a set, and tripled up. Then I finally had enough chips to start really playing.

We had four women starting this event, and three of them, along with me, were the final four. That's right--I was the last man standing.

One got knocked out and it was down to me, Nina, and an odd older woman. She looked rather like a caricature of everybody's grandmother, including a hat that looked like it was meant for gardening. She was impossible to figure out--not because she was particularly skilled, but because she was so random. She would show up with hands that made no sense to have been playing in the spots she was playing them, and she made bad calls that somehow worked out almost every time.

Nina went out in third place, and I was left heads-up with Grandma. She wanted to chop the prize money. I gather that chopping the last two, three, or four places is pretty much de rigueur in these events, but I politely declined her repeated offers to do so. I wanted the whole $1100, I started heads-up play with more chips than she had (1200 to 800), and I was absolutely certain I was the better player. Besides, the tavern poker league I've been meddling in for the last year or so has given me a decent amount of experience heads-up with weaker players at the end of fast-structured tournaments. As long as I didn't do anything too stupid and didn't get too unlucky, I should be able to win.

And I did. The final blow came when I had pocket queens on the button. She called my raise. The flop was all low, uncoordinated, perfectly safe-looking. She checked, I shoved, and she insta-called with king-high, no pair. That was all she wrote.

Grandma shook hands politely, but walked away muttering something about my unwillingness to chop.

I liked the format. Not a huge time commitment, not too much of a financial investment, but a handsome payoff. It felt good to win.

Monday, April 18, 2016

PokerNews article #109

This installment is about anger--how it costs you money, and how it can make you money.

Monday, April 11, 2016

PokerNews article #108

This week's column is all about, well, this:

For the explanation, see:

Monday, April 04, 2016

PokerNews article #107

This is about dealing with freeroll-entry poker room promotions.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

WSOP photos

My friend Elizabeth Wolynski has compiled some of her fine WSOP photographs into a video. I especially like many of the black & white portraits in the first couple of minutes.

Monday, March 28, 2016

PokerNews article #106

A new study of the psychology of Rock Paper Scissors can teach you something about poker, too.

Monday, March 21, 2016

PokerNews article #105

In this one, I categorize the different ways that players observe the flop.

Monday, March 14, 2016

PokerNews article #104

The pros and cons of having a lucky hand.

Strategy quiz

This is a good one. I got 8/8, but I had to really stop and think hard about some of them.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Monday, February 22, 2016

PokerNews article #101

This is part two of my introduction to Bayes' theorem for poker players.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Poker quiz from Mike Caro

Question on his Facebook page:

Okay, so you're playing hold 'em and all cards have been dealt. As you begin the final betting round, you realize that you have the lowest-ranking hand that can't possibly be beat or even tied. What's on the board and what cards do you hold?

See here for his answer and explanation. But try to work it out for yourself first. It's a worthwhile brain exercise.

(I got it right. Did you?)

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Today I went to Harrah's Cherokee today. Got a seat right away in a $1/2 NLHE game at one of the PokerPro electronic tables. I bought in for $200.

On my third or fourth hand, I had 3d-6d one off the button. I raised to $8, because The Spanish Inquisition is awesome. The button called (sitting on $450 or so), as did the big blind (short stack).

Flop: 3s-7c-3c. Yahtzee! BB checked. I bet $12. Button called. Big blind check-raised all-in for $22. It wasn't enough to reopen the betting, so I could only call. Button called, too.

Turn: Qh. The pot was about $90. I bet $60. I was surprised when the button called. I didn't think most people would call that with a flush draw. I thought his most likely holding was a medium pair--something between 8s and jacks. If so, he was calling only as a bluff-catcher.

River: 7d. This was problematic. If the button had called me on the flop and turn because he had a 7, he had just backed into a bigger full house than mine. But I decided that was relatively unlikely, and I should stick with my read that he thought I was bluffing with something like A-K, and therefore might call again. The pot was now about $210, so I threw my last $110 at it. Sure enough, the button called, though not as quickly or eagerly as I thought he would have if he had a 7.

I was sort of right: He had been slow-playing pocket aces. Ouch! Sorry, sir, but your three pair do not beat my treys full.

The BB had As-5s, so he was just going for the flush draw.

I think it's safe to conclude that neither of them expected The Spanish Inquisition.

I kept getting hit by the deck. I raised with 7h-8h, and got a 7-7-10 flop. I raised with Q-K off, and got a Q-Q-J flop. Won them both with a continuation bet. In fact, during this session I won every single hand in which I put in money on the flop and/or turn.

The final example of the poker gods' kindness to me today was this one: I raised to $9 from the button with Qc-9c. Two callers. Flop: 7-8-J rainbow. Checked around. My only hope was really a 10 for the straight. Turn: 10 of the fourth suit! Nutterific! First guy bet $10. Next guy raised to $25. He immediately became my target, because if he's raising here, with me still to act, he might be willing to get it all in while I'm holding the nuts. Besides, I don't want to have to make a horribly difficult decision if the river pairs the board. He had about $115 left. I shoved. First guy folded, second guy called. He had J-8. He had flopped top two pair, and was probably planning a check-raise on the flop, which got foiled when I checked behind. He was springing his trap one street too late. River was a deuce, I think. I'll take that virtual stack of chips you were playing, sir, thankyouverymuch.

I folded a couple more hands, then logged out. I was up $395 in 35 minutes, and it kind of felt like I had used up more than my fair share of good luck, so I took the money and ran.

That turned out to be the shortest session I've ever played at Harrah's Cherokee.

Monday, February 15, 2016

PokerNews article #100

This two-part article (Part One now, Part Two next week) is one I've had in mind to write for a year or more. But it was a daunting challenge. Bayes' Theorem is a difficult mathematical concept for people to grasp, because it often leads to counterintuitive results. But I finally spent enough time over the last few days to put together what I hope is a reasonably user-friendly introduction to the subject. Next week we get to how it applies to poker.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Saturday, February 06, 2016

"Top Pair" podcast

This week, the boys talk about my recent visit to the Salt Lake City home game, one of my recent PokerNews articles, and other stuff. Listen here, with show notes:

There will be more about that Utah home-game experience in my next PokerNews article, probably coming out Monday.

Monday, February 01, 2016

PokerNews article #98

This one is about how we fail to improve at both driving and poker because of the lack of effective feedback mechanisms.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Utah home game

I just got back home last night from my annual trip to Utah to visit family. My father lives there with my sister and her husband, and my brother and his wife flew out from Minnesota so we could all be there together for a few days. This year, for the first time, Nina came along with me.

We did something else new and different: We went to a home poker game. When I was a guest on the "Top Pair" podcast, which focuses primarily on home games, the hosts each invited me to drop in on their games if I were ever in their neighborhoods. One of them lives in Israel, so that's probably not happening anytime soon. But the other, Bruce Briggs, is in Salt Lake City. I emailed him a few weeks ago to see if the offer still stood, and he was gracious enough to contact some friends and put together a game night when Nina and I could attend.

It was a delight. Friendly people, crazy games, and low stakes--what more could one ask for in a home poker game? Well, I guess one could ask to win, but since my losses totaled exactly $1, I'm not complaining too loudly. Where else can you get almost five hours of that level of entertainment for a dollar?

Some of the participants are pictured above. One had already left. Bruce is second from left. Our husband-and-wife hosts are in the middle. Nina was on the other side of the camera, so you'll have to flip your computer around 180 degrees to see her.

I think I'll have more to say about the interesting game selection in an upcoming PokerNews article.

The old saying was entirely applicable here: A good time was had by all.

Monday, January 18, 2016

PokerNews article #97

I don't always come up with my own titles, but I did this one:

"Rebel Without a Hand: Playing 'Chicken' with the All-In Bluff" 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Sunday, January 10, 2016


Here's the stubbornest razz player on the planet:

Friday, January 08, 2016

A reminder: Deuce-Four always wins...

...even when it's the worst possible hand! 

Wednesday, January 06, 2016


Notice the chat from just-knocked-out player handycrab11.

Here's the bad beat I put on him that got him riled: 

Yeah, I reported him. Hope he gets chat-banned. Poker doesn't need stuff like that. 

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Deuce-Four rides again!

From the same tournament as the previous post:

Finished up in third place, $76.

Strangest hand in the history of razz

This is from a HORSE tournament on Carbon Poker that I'm still in as I post this. So no time for analysis and discussion. I'll just post this hand history and let y'all ponder the weirdness of it.