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.