Saturday, June 02, 2007

Pushing and pulling

So I'm playing in the WSOP stage 1 tourney. It's a dollar to play and it's the first step on a ladder that leads to the WSOP main event. Okay, it's very unlikely I'd get there but you gotta dream, right? (And anyway, the other day I was deep enough to smell a ticket to the online final in the stage 3 event when some guy laid a horrendous -- and I mean horrendous -- beat on me: runner runner flush to suck out on my set on the flop.)

Fourteen will get tickets to stage 2 and there are 15 still alive. The blinds are 400/800. I have 5K and will comfortably qualify. The shortest stack has 550 at the other table.

Here is what people do not understand who play these qualifiers: you win nothing more for coming first than you do for coming 14th. Nothing. Not a cent. No prize. Nada. Now I know people are too dim to grasp this, so I wasn't surprised when a guy with 3K called the blind of a guy with 20K, which is disastrously stupid with only one to die. I'm not even surprised when he bets the flop, and then pushes the turn. I've seen this a lot.

But what does surprise me is that when the shorty calls the BB at the other table, sitting at UTG+1, the rest of table does not call. There are guys with 20K stacks, and they fold! WTF? This is just crazy. There's no problem with doubling, tripling, quadrupling, quintupling the shorty. You just need to school him and cut his chances.

Something else struck me while playing the lucky dollar. I wake up with KK and a shorty in front of me puts it all in. The pot's decent so I pop it up big to discourage any but the really serious. The button calls for all his chips. He must have a big hand, right?

No. He has T9. So of course he sucks out to a one-card flush. I let him know that he's an idiot and he says, as fish often do in this situation, it's only a dollar.

But here's the thing: it's precisely because it's a dollar that this is so bad. You don't play the lucky dollar to make money. The prizes are tiny. I made the final table last night and scooped seven dollars! Obviously, you play the lucky dollar for fun, not money. But where's the fun in trying to get lucky? It's soulless, joyless. Playing well is its own reward. Outthinking the fish, outplaying the table. That feels good. But how can it feel good to make a terrible move and just get lucky? If the prizes were bigger, then maybe it would make some sense. You gamble to try to take down big dollars, okay. Now, I'm not complaining. I'm still in the tourney, and I've increased my stack at the expense of further idiots who called allins with very weak holdings. But I do wonder how people think. If they think.

Which I doubt. Here's another example. A guy calls the blind of 400. He has 5K. I call on the button with KJ. I have 11K. I'm willing to play this hand because there's a shorty allin and the limper is pretty loose, so I probably stand up okay against his range. The flop comes AJ2 with two diamonds. I'm going to bet at this if the other guy checks. But he doesn't check. He pushes.

WTF? Clearly he has an ace, I'm thinking, and quickly fold. In an unproteced pot, maybe he could have a flush draw, but I'm doubting it here. Because the shorty is all in, both guy's cards are shown. The pusher has A6s. In my view, pushing here is terrible. If he bets small, I might call (I mean, someone else might; I'm folding here). If I raise him big, he's probably beaten and doesn't get busted with a trash hand. But pushing means he gets called only by hands that beat him. Yeah, he denies me the chance to draw out, but he can bet enough to make it a mistake to try without committing his whole stack. It's not that I mind pushing. If he'd shown some balls and checked, maybe I would have bet and then he could have pushed, making some money on his hand. Anyway, I'm quite grateful to him. He let me get away from my hand very cheaply. This is the good side of playing the lowlimit idiots. When you have a big hand, they are often willing to pay you; and they all too often let you off a hook a better player would hang you from.

7 Comments:

At 7:34 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

boots sez:

But where's the fun in trying to get lucky? It's soulless, joyless. Playing well is its own reward. Outthinking the fish, outplaying the table. That feels good. But how can it feel good to make a terrible move and just get lucky?

It becomes clear that my writing skills are pathetic and that my attempts to point with them have been futile.

Poker is the world in microcosm. It takes the risks of life and limits them to what is on the table. It allows "chance" to affect the outcome of skill. The cards you are dealt are your circumstances. You make decisions using skill and observe the outcome as affected by "luck".

Gambling is not about manufacturing money, it is a means of courting the Lady without risking death or dismemberment. It is, literally, about learning to "get lucky".

If you consider Lady Luck to be an unpredictable mechanical characteristic of the universe, poker is a means of begging the question and you might be well advised to spend the time pursuing an activity that does not involve "chance". If you can find such an activity.

If you were the best player on the planet "luck" could still fuck you, and if you were the worst player on the planet "luck" could give you the pot; if you were the best writer on the planet and you wrote a marvelous novel, "chance" could see it fail through no "fault" of your own.

Find an activity that involves only skill and you have found something that can be better done by a machine, something truly soulless.

The Lady does not consistenty favor those who have exceeding skill, she seems fickle because she can see into the hearts of those who would court her. The best gamblers in the world have learned the skills of courting the Lady and they win with the skills of their hearts as well as the maths.

If you believe there are no skills of the heart, you are wasting your time.

 
At 7:38 pm, Blogger Dr Zen said...

You have misread me. I don't have a problem with luck. The skill in poker lies in making decisions that allow you to be luckier than your opponents. However, there seems no joy to a game that has no skill. Once I realised that Monopoly depends entirely upon luck, I stopped playing it, and I would not spend my days playing "war" online.

 
At 11:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The skill in poker lies in making decisions that allow you to be luckier than your opponents. However, there seems no joy to a game that has no skill.

boots sez:

Decisions of the mind do not influence luck. Shepherding the heart is the most difficult skill of all... Lady Luck cares nothing for logic, hers is the realm of "random chance".

 
At 12:48 pm, Anonymous $Zero said...

The only relevant skill in poker is bluffing -- in both recognizing it and engaging in it.

If you're playing poker online (expecially if you're playing it online with strangers) you might as well flip a thousand coins in the dark -- never bothering to check to see what percentage you've guessed correctly.

And the more players per table, the worse it gets.

HTH

 
At 12:51 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah well, at least you're wrong and faintly amusing, which makes a change from just being plain wrong.

 
At 2:29 pm, Anonymous $Zero said...

there's a very good reason that you only get to see your own cards -- and that you're allowed to bet, raise, and fold.

it would be quite another game altogether otherwise.

HTH

 
At 2:32 pm, Anonymous $Zero said...

IOW: poker ain't chess.

nor is it backgammon.

 

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