Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Where all the old white men at?

It's been said that playing limit poker is as exciting as watching paint dry.

After playing WSOP event 6 (limit hold em) I'd like to add that at least you won't be alone.

I'm referring to the roomful of old white men that will be watching the paint dry with you.

That's right. I'm outing all the old white men. If you can't find them anywhere it's because they're all playing limit poker.

Did I mention that there were alot of old white men at the Rio for event 6?

Boy do they love the limit poker. It makes complete sense too. Limit is what they were all playing before the no limit boom. It's their game.

But before I get to my story of folding, allow me to share the distraction that I got to stare at for an hour or so. I'm speaking of the table next to mine where Shannon Elizabeth was seated to the right of David Sklansky.

(Insert punchline here).

Seriously. Where do I begin?

Sklansky has written 13 books on gambling theory and poker including his classic The Theory of Poker. It's one of the best poker books out there. Yet despite his great contribution to the poker community, there are many poker people who seem anxious to diss him. They love to point out that Sklansky didn't invent the ideas in his book. Instead they insist he took known concepts and just gave those concepts names.

Now this might be true. But regardless Sklansky definitely deserves some props for actually putting these words down on paper for a whole new generation of poker players to learn from.

Everyone acknowledges that Brunosn's Supersystem changed poker. And Doyle Brunson is clearly a greater player than Sklansky. But I'd still argue that without first reading The Theory of Poker and gaining it's foundation of poker basics, most players will get themselves in alot of trouble just reading Brunson's book.

So the Universe (or Harrahs) has placed Sklansky next to Shannon Elizabeth. Now Shannon isn't a novice. She obviously has skill at poker. But in this case she's easy to pick on. She's a woman in a room full of old white men. She's also beautiful. And as if being a beautiful woman isn't enough, she's also a famous actress.

Talk about the triple crown of stigmas.

I'm in the Screen Actors Guild but since I'm not famous as an actor no one knows to make fun of me for playing poker. Like if I were the neighbor on a television sitcom everyone would be like "What's the hell is he doing here? Since when does he think he can play poker?"

It's like as a society we decide that people are only allowed to be good at one thing. And everything else people try to do we make fun of them for.

Like we can all make fun of Jared Leto's band. Simply because he became famous first as an actor. It doesn't matter to us whether or not he was doing the band first. Or how good the band is. All that matters is how we perceive him.

Meanwhile if he was famous for doing the band first, we'd all be making fun of his acting!

Isn't it wonderful to be a human?

Shannon has done well at no limit poker. But most no limit players (myself included) can have a hard time switching over to limit. I'd absolutely HATE to sit next to Sklansky in a limit tournament. Other than it being a good story, no one wants to sit next to Sklansky at a pure math game.

Now I'm not sure if sitting next to Sklansky distracted her but somehow she was out of the tournament in level 2 which is pretty hard to do in a limit tournament.

For what it's worth, I'm not trying to pick on Shannon here. I would look at whoever was sitting next to Sklansky and think it was funny. But the fact that it was Shannon just seemed too damn scripted. The seating is supposed to be random. And obviously randomness has a good sense of humor. Or Harrahs.

As for myself:

We started with 3000 chips.

At the end of level 1 (50/100) I had 3600 chips.

In level 2 I got up over 4k but then gave a chunk back when I raised with AQ preflop, hit an ace but lost to a set of 4's. This brought me back down to 3450 at the end of this 75/150 level.

I was up and down in level 3 and finished that hour of 100/200 with 3575.

In level 4 we're at 150/300. I get up over 5k after winning a blind on blind battle. Guy to my right was way too aggressive. I called his raise preflop with queen 9. Flop was jack, jack 10. He bet, I called. Turn was a queen. He checked. I bet, he called. River was an extraneous queen.
I'm sure I already had him. He bet out probably cause it was the only way for him to win the pot. (He did that alot on the river). I raised to 600. He folded.

What I did not know at the time was that this would be the last hand I would win the on the day.

Still at level 4. A guy limps under the gun for 300. I'm in the small blind. The button (the aggressive player from the blind on blind hand I described) raises it up to 600 (again). He raised preflop every single time he had the button. His strategy is common and works pretty well. He was simply making the pots bigger on the hands where he had position.

Now in hindsight my mistake here was not to reraise it to 900 with my aces from the small blind. I know this seems like such an obvious play. And perhaps I over thought it. But here was my reasoning: I didn't want to alarm the aggressive player to my right. He wasn't stupid. He knew to get out of the way when someone had a hand. My thinking was that I could sneak in from the small blind with my aces and trap the guy later in the hand.

So I call the raise to 600. And so does the guy under the gun.

Flop is 7,9,king. The button player to my right usually checked the flop and then bet the turn after he'd raise preflop. So since I didn't expect him to bet the flop, I decided to do the flop betting for him. My thinking was I was going to give him the chance to raise me on the flop or turn. Both players called.

Turn is a 5. I bet out again. Like I said, I'm actually hoping to get raised by the button so I can put in a 3rd bet.

But much to my surprise the reraise comes from the guy under the gun. The button then folds.


I call.

River pairs the board with a second 7. Since he check raised the turn I should probably just check call here but sitting there I start to wonder if maybe my aces are good. After all he could have check raised me on the turn with top pair king. I also saw this guy reraise someone on the turn and then show down just an ace high.

(Although based on this line of thinking, I should have made it 3 bets on the turn instead of calling).

But regardless I decide that my aces are in fact still good. And so I bet out.

He sighs out loud at the paired 7's and I think I'm good. He probably has a king.

But then he decides to call and turns over 6,8 for a straight.


Oh dear. Lets get me into therapy. Immediately.

He limped with 6,8 offsuit...............under the gun.........in a limit tournament...........at the World Series of Poker.

How bizarre is this?

Did I mention that we're at the World Series of Poker?

In theory this should be some of the best "play" to witness.

Not the worst.

If I reraised it preflop to 900 like I'm supposed to maybe that gets him to fold the 6 8.

So this was definitely a mistake on my part.

Yet I can also sit here right now and say that maybe it made no difference.

This might have been a case where no matter what I did there I was going to lose this pot to this guy.

I absolutely should have reraised it preflop. No need to slow play aces at limit. I need to do all I can do to charge him to be in there to see the flop with his 6,8.

But there's also a decent chance here that a raise makes absolutely no difference to him. Maybe he's just determined to play that 6,8. It's quite possible. He did limp with it under the gun. He wants to see a flop.

Who knows what possesses someone to play 6,8 under the gun?

The energy in the room? Nerves? Favorite hand? Lucky numbers?

Sure you can get away with playing 6 8 off under the gun once in awhile in No limit because if you actually hit your hand you can win someone's entire stack. And that's awesome.

But at limit even if you hit your miracle hand you're only going to win yourself a few bets. Thus it's not really worth the risk. Thus I just don't get it.

By the way my favorite part of this hand was him slowing down and just calling my bet on the river. He got scared that his straight might not be good because the board paired. Isn't that brilliant? The same guy who is fine with playing 6 8 off from under the gun suddenly slows down with his straight on the river after the board pairs. Like why start worrying now? His play reminded me of that old Shecky Eichman joke about how people will have unprotected sex with a stranger but then still put toilet paper down the seat because "they don't want to catch anything.")

So this hand was a set back. Instead of becoming a table chip leader I was back to around even. But I still had plenty of chips. And because it was limit it would be hard for me to go on tilt.

I next got involved with ace king from the blinds against a guy who raised with king queen from under the gun. I couldn't win this battle after a king and queen flopped but at least I had the sense to check call on the river and save myself one bet.

Then I couldn't win a 3 way hand after flopping the nut flush draw with my ace 9 suited. The pain became worse when the opponent who won the pot showed down pocket 5's. I had 15 outs twice and couldn't get there.

3 straight pots I could have won. And none went my way.

Someone smart once said that when playing a poker tournament you gotta keep winning pots or else you run out of chips.

Blinds were now up to 200/400. Down to 1500 chips I picked up ace jack on the button. The under the gun player had limped. What I don't know yet is he is holding 10 7 suited. It's not that big of a shock though as this guy had been talking way too much about how he only plays no limit and was sort of confused about the differences that occur playing limit.

So for him the 10 7 suited makes complete sense. In no limit it's the kind of hand that can sometimes win big pots. So his instinct is telling him to play it.

Now due to my dwindling chip stack this is my moment. I'm not normally in love with ace jack but in this spot I'm going to play for all my chips with it.

I got a great flop too. I hit top pair on a jack, 10, rag board. But my big chance to double up was spoiled with the arrival of a 7 on the turn giving him two pair.

And that was that.

I lost my last 4 big hands and went home.

At least I got 4 chances.

In no limit I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have made it to the 4th hand without getting all my chips in there.

Then again in no limit I'd have reraised preflop with my aces to isolate.

Just like an old white man.


FreeFormCoder said...

Hey MC Vegas Year, I have a question I'd like you to seriously address in the blog. Why is it when someone wins with an absurd play (like 6 8 offsuit in a WSPO game) he's a bad player? I don't mean this argumentatively, I am asking a philosophical question I'd love to hear you address in a future post.

It could be phrased as this: Knowing that poker isn't only about playing the odds, but is also about manipulating the other players and the flow of information at the table, why is it you still stick to the belief that playing "right" is more important than winning? Isn't poker about winning $, period? Or is it about ego, and feeling that you made the right decision, even if it costs you material gains. Of course, I know that poker can be many things to many people. But what matters to me, and other people that love you, is what it means to you, since you're the only one of us with the guts to do the Vegas year. And since you are, in some slight way, representing those like me who have played against you and respect your skills (both at writing and playing), I want to hear your current state of mind on what your poker priorities are. As you know, for me the game is all about analyzing people and making decisions from the gut, and letting the math happen somewhere in the darker recesses of the ballpark...of course, I'm not doing the Vegas year probably for that very reason....my concern is that you're still limiting yourself by casting judgment on other's unpredictable decision-making, when for my money, that's good poker...especially if they know you're doing that!

anyhow, we all miss you, come back and visit us in Brooklyn sometime for a dealer's choice game, and for god's sake talk about this issue!

dave said...

Apparently Sklansky finished 13th, so he had the last laugh on Shannon Elizabeth.

Robert said...


I don't believe playing 6,8 offsuit from under the gun in limit poker makes someone a bad player. But I do think it's a bad play.

You mentioned the being right vs. winning. I think that being right (playing right) is what makes you money in the long term.

The unpredictable decision making you mention certainly has value. You have to mix up your play. Especially against good opponents. (In fact that's how I got myself into trouble with this hand in the first place. By not reraising the button with my big pocket pair because I was trying to disguise my hand.) However I don't consider limping with 6,8 off under the gun to be mixing up your play.

If you and I both built poker robots. And they played optimal strategy on every hand. The only difference was that your poker robot limps in with 6,8 offsuit from under the gun. And my robot folds that hand in that position. I'd be willing to bet you that in a couple of thousand years when our robots are sitting around having a drink and remembering humans, my robot will have a little more money than your robot.

FreeFormCoder said...

Ahh, yes, the poker bot defense. I agree that after thousands of hands, playing by the book certainly pays off, but only if your opponents are playing by the wrong book at the same rate. But actual people adjust their play...and besides, what's this about having a little more money? What kind of gambler are you!? I want to hear about your dreams of riches, not your grind for pennies! What's next, a nickel-slots blog?

I agree, by the way, that the hand and quite possibly the player were bad. But how does that analysis help you as a player, or winner? I think the right approach is what you stated in your response above, that it was your own play choice that created the situation.

There is always, and I mean always, a guy who will play his heart or ass and come in with that offsuit 6 8 under the gun. I think your job is to identify him, and force him into a decision, or punish him in the 90 hands out of 100 you'd beat him in. Granted, that's easier to do in no-limit, but still. I just don't think physiologically it's good to blame that kind of play for your own loss. Which I don't think you're doing by the way. Keep of the good work big C.