Thursday, March 30, 2006

Fish at the table, friend or foe?

Okay, so you hear a lot of things lately about how you want fish at your table. I agreed, in some circumstances. I disagreed that you want a LOT of fish at your table. People didn't seem to be thinking about the equity that you lose for every calling station that sits and chases. If you don't know what I'm talking about, read on and learn with me.

For those who don't pay attention, I play my micro limit cash ring games pretty exclusively now at Full Tilt (see the ad over there? Click it and get it now! Okay, advertisement over). Why? I have found that there are less fish in the micro limit games at FT than at any other sites. How do I know that? I use PokerTracker to datamine. When I rate players, the Full Tilt dB has the least number of people that are rated above Semi-Loose Passive-Passive (go look at the site to see what this means if you don't know). I consider anything worse on their scale than this as a fish, other than a few players who play a LAG style very well. So you have more serious players at the site, and less fish. Was I right in my thinking? Read on and let's learn together!

First of all, I used pokerstove for all these calculations. If you don't have it, go get it now. I can wait.......

Got it? Good. Now let's play with some numbers. First of all, what happens to your AA when you are up against a completely random hand? What's your equity? Well, according to the stove, you have 85.2037% equity. So for every dollar that is put in the pot with this hand, over the long term, you should see 85 cents coming back. This is the best chance that you have against any random hands. You are still +EV as for every dollar you put in, you will get 1.70 out with one caller. Here's the pokerstove output:

2,097,572,400 games 2.468 secs 849,907,779 games/sec

equity (%) win (%) tie (%)

Hand 1: 85.2037 % 84.93% 00.27% { AcAd }

Hand 2: 14.7963 % 14.52% 00.27% { random }

So that's just one fish at the table that will call with any two cards. A lot of sites now are known for having a lot of "fishy" players. What happens when you draw a table with more? Let's see! (A word of caution....If you want to try this yourself, I'd recommend that you move pokerstove to a Monte Carlo mode and get time on a parallel processing system. The stats I'm about to give took several hours to run on my Athlon XP 3200+ processor. User beware!)

When you end up vs two random hands, you lose another chunk of equity. How much? AA vs two random hands drops the AA to 73.4352% equity. So now every dollar in the pot nets you just 73 cents. However, you now get back 73 cents x 3 (two callers) = $2.19 for every dollar that YOU put in. With three you drop a little more to (rounding here) 64 cents for every dollar in the pot, giving you $2.56 out for every $1 you put in if you get all three to call. Here's the Pokerstove output:

1,894,107,877,200 games 3806.625 secs 497,581,946 games/sec

equity (%) win (%) tie (%)

Hand 1: 73.4352 % 73.21% 00.23% { AcAd }

Hand 2: 13.2824 % 12.92% 00.36% { random }

Hand 3: 13.2824 % 12.92% 00.36% { random }

11,107,035,128 games 31916.750 secs 348,000 games/sec

equity (%) win (%) tie (%)

Hand 1: 63.8345 % 63.61% 00.22% { AcAd }

Hand 2: 12.0549 % 11.59% 00.46% { random }

Hand 3: 12.0561 % 11.59% 00.46% { random }

Hand 4: 12.0544 % 11.59% 00.46% { random }

What about AK? You start at 67 cents for every dollar in the pot, netting you $1.34 for every dollar when you are heads up. If you get two callers, you get about 49 cents of every dollar put in giving you $1.47 for every dollar you put in.

It's pretty tough to get to a point where this becomes -EV for you against random hands. So overall, more fish should be better for you. Sure, you will see big swings in your BR, but overall you should be a winning player.

When I first started this little journey, I thought for sure that I would find that more fish at the table made things worse for you. In fact, when I first started writing this I was thinking about the equity being the amount of return you get for YOUR dollar (and the original post name was "the fish tax"). I neglected to take into account that for every dollar you put in, each caller has to put that dollar in with you.

So now I have to change my tune. I was only looking at the short term variance and fluctuations in my roll when I played at some of the "fishy" sites. That was a mistake by me. I am still going to limit myself when I go out to some of these places, but you might see me dipping my toe in the water again now that I'm convinced in the math. I hope that you learned something with me in this journey.

I'll see you at the tables....

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Home Game Report 3/18/2006

Had a home game last night, first one since November of last year. I got pretty lucky, as fellow forumer the Cat was in to visit family, so he got to show up. Other forumer Khan lives just up the road, so she will most likely become a regular at the game. I'm betting that the food helped a little, too. On to the poker report...

First game, first hand. I'm lucky enough to have both forumers at the table, with the Cat to my immediate right. I have John (or Jack, depends on when you met him) on my immediate left, and I'm in the BB. I look down to 10-9 offsuit (a hand that would come into play again a few times in this report, as you'll see) with 4 to the flop. Flop is 9 9 10. Yahtzee! I bet out 100 into the 80 pot (blinds were 10/20 with 1500 in starting chips). John insta-calls, everyone folds. Turn was a low card (maybe a 5, I'm a bit fuzzy). I fire out 300. Smooth call again. I think that he probably has a 9, maybe a 10 (he's pretty loose). River is a K. I bet out 500. He calls. I say "I don't know what you have, but I have the boat". He says "Me too" and I feel sick, thinking he spiked the K on me. He flips up 10 9, and we chop. Whew.

Next hand of note I get 7c3c in LP. People at my home game think I'm really loose and will play anything, so I need to keep that rep up. Blinds are 20/40. So I fire out 200. There's plenty of "Here he goes again!" (especially from Don "The Mouth", one of my regulars. He's soooo fun and easy to put on tilt, and I love to raise his BB cause he ALWAYS goes into the tank, then folds) I think it gets folded to me. I toss my cards toward the muck, but John had quietly called me (I didn't notice). Luckily, my cards are still separate enough that people are okay with me pulling them back (we run a pretty friendly game). Bad move by me. Flop is 7 10 6, rainbow. I decide to continue and bet out another 200. John smooth calls again. He likes to play any pair, so I have no read. Turn is a 3 and I'm happy. I bet out 500. Smooth call again. I think the hook is set and I'm good. River is a K. He only has about 250 left, I have about 600, so I put him all in. He calls. Flips over K10 off. Suck-resuck action. And I'm crippled...sigh.

We started with 15, and I pay out 5 (friendly game) so now I have my work cut out for me. I have about 350 in chips, so I'm in All-in-or-fold mode. Having a LAG image is helpful. I pick up a few blinds uncontested, and get back up to 490 in chips. We move up to 40/80 blinds and I keep pushing, but now have some decent hands. I manage to double up through John when my K10 beats his middle pair (flopped the K) so I'm back up over 1000 chips. Cat has been quiet (he's VERY shy in person, I didn't realize this) in both talk and play. He's UTG, and goes all in for about 800ish chips (again, didn't take notes). Look down to see AsKs. I think, and decide to call. Folded around. He turns up 77. Khan is dealing, and doesn't want to look at the flop (since she doesn't want to see either one of us lose, bless her) so she closes her eyes, burns one, flops 3. I spike an A. Turn and river don't help, and Cat is out. And my streak of sucking out on him continues.

Blinds continue to creep up (everyone thought the blinds were okay, I do 15 min and BB goes 20,40,80,100,150,200,400,800,1000,2000 to try to end the tourney in about 2.5 hours) and I hang out picking up a few more blinds. We finally get to the final 8 and reseat at the FT with blinds at 100/200. John is still to my left. I can't get rid of the guy. I play a few pots, but am still a medium stack. We get down to 5, and I've gone from being crippled into the money. UTG I find KK and I raise to 600. Folded to the button, who pushes all in for about 2500 more. I insta-call and have him covered by 800 chips. He turns up 66. I double through and now have a pretty commanding chip lead. Next out is Bridget and now it's 3 left, me, Khan, and Todd.

Sidebar: Let me tell you a little about Todd: Todd likes to fish. I call him "The Fisherman" after he spiked and A to beat my KK in a home game in his neighborhood about 2 years ago. I was betting aggressively the whole way, and he kept telling me that he had the odds to call pot sized bets on the turn and river to catch his A. So I'm up against Khan and the Fisherman.

<----The Fisherman, calculating Pot Odds in his own, unique way! So I now have a HUGE chip lead. I have about 15K in chips, Khan has about 3.5K, and Todd has about 3.5K. Blinds move up to 500/1000 and I chip up. You can see me with my monster stack. I look down on the Button to see 10c9c (my 10-9 story continues...) and push all in. Khan calls with A10 off and I think I'm in trouble. However, for those that know me from online, I'm a suck-out artist and the streak continues. I manage to flop a 9, and Khan can't hit her A, so she is out in 3rd. (I feel kinda sorry, but not really :-p). So now we are heads up, me vs The Fisherman. I have a HUGE lead and decide to beat him over the head with it when I can. I have a good hand get beat when my As8s gets beat by Q2 off and he hits a 2. I'm still about 3:1 in chips when I get J10 off and push. He calls, flips up Q10 and my suckout magic fails me. Now we are about even. We play a few more hands back and forth when I get 99 in the BB. He completes the SB and I decide it's time to end it. I push, he calls with A7 off. I have him covered by one blue chip (worth 500). Now it's time for The Fisherman to earn his keep, and he does. Flop is A 7 10. I'm in trouble. I need a 9. The river is an A and I'm down to a chip and a chair...sigh. I manage to double twice, but I'm all in every hand and he eventually beats me. So I get 2nd, he gets 1st, and we are on to the second game of the night.

Second game is a little more crazy than the first, as people are warming up. I draw a table with my arch-nemesis (not really, we like to be competitive in poker tho) Ralph. He's a German and VERY competitive, so I find it fun to give him a hard time when I beat him. Of course, he does the same. We are pretty good friends, and the wives get along, so we get to go to dinner and talk poker a couple of times a month. He plays online as well, mostly at PS, tho. I'm more of a Full Tilt guy.

I have also drawn Don "The Mouth", but Khan and Cat are at the other table. Ralph and I start to mix it up right away and I take a hit to my stack and end up down again. Ralph raises under the gun, I look down on the Button to see 10-10 (my favorite hand) and I push to 250. Don's in the BB and gets into his tirade, and finally goes all-in. Ralph mucks (he likes to bluff as well). I think about it for a long time. I almost call. I finally muck. Don shows his A-4 suited ("But it was SOOOOOTED") and we run the cards to see that I would have doubled up. Sigh. I am down to about 675 chips now. Very next hand I have JJ in the cutoff. Blinds are 80/160. Charlotte (a very dangerous player who has taken me out in other home games before) limps, Ralph is in the BB, Don in the SB. I push all-in, no callers. We get around to my BB and Ralph wants to take me out for the bounty and bragging rights (we do a random bounty in the first game, and bounties on 1st and 2nd from the first game in the second game) so he raises to about half my stack. Folded to me, I look down to see AJ off. John is again to my left. I push all-in. John calls. Ralph calls. Flop is Q 8 4. Now John and Ralph are trying to knock me out. John checks, Ralph bets out into a dry side pot. I comment on it and he gets a little testy about me ragging him during a hand, and John calls. (Ralph still thinks I talked John into calling by talking, I don't think so, he's a calling station). Turn is an A so now I'm happy, as I think my A is good. Board is Q 8 4 A with no flush draw. John checks, Ralph goes all in. John thinks a bit and calls, and flips over K10 for the gutshot draw Ralph turns over Ah7h. River is a blank. John is knocked out, and I get the main pot to get up to about 1425 in chips and I'm healthy again. On the other table, The Fisherman gets knocked out and starts mumbling about "damn $10 bounty, people coming after me...blah blah blah.." vv/e

We get down to 4 at the table, other table has 5. One out to the FT again. Our table is me, Ralph, Charlotte and Mark (aka "The Unabomber" as he bets, then pulls his hat down and cups his hands around it to hide). Mark and I are pretty short stacked, Charlotte and Ralph have a lot of the chips. We ante up and the other table says "We are down to 4". I say, "Let's pull back the blinds and combine", not looking at my cards yet (I'm in the BB) but Mark in the SB says "Let's just play one more". I say okay, thinking we will fold around and move on. Folded around to Mark, and he pushes all in from the SB. I'm a little ticked that he just wanted to pick up my blind, and look down to find AcQc. I call. He turns up Q8 offsuit. I flop the A and he's out. Next time maybe he'll just want to

So we combine at 7 players. I have about 4000 in chips, again coming back from the brink. I draw Ralph to my right and Charlotte to my left, so I'm in trouble. Ralph has a buddy Matt (who I took out earlier with KK vs 66 for him to finish 5th) who is next to my left, then Cat, Tom (a neighbor), and Khan.

Cat and Khan are both pretty short stacked. We have a few rounds and not a lot goes on. Khan picks up AA and it folds around to Cat in the BB when she goes all in for 600 at 200/400 blinds. Cat has to call with his 72 off, but Khan survives. Cat finally goes out when his AQ loses to Khan's 10-10 vs Ralph's QJ when Ralph flopped a J and Khan turned a 10. A few hands later, Ralph raises from UTG, I fold, Charlotte folds, Matt raises to 1200. Cat, Tom, Khan fold. Ralph reraises all-in. Matt only has 800 left and finally calls. Ralph shows AA, Matt shows 1010 and Matt goes out, and we are ITM again!

In the SB I look down to find CBL, a favorite hand on the forum (3J, figure it out). I decide to limp, and Charlotte checks. Tom had limped as well. The flop was Qc 6c 7h (easy to remember when there are photos!). I check, Charlotte checks, Tom checks. Turn is the Jc. I decide to bet out here as I have about 2000 in chips and I need to pick up the pot (we are at 400/800, so there is 2400 in the pot). Bet 1200, leaving me 1100. Charlotte calls, Tom raises. Now I'm in a spot. I have 1100 left into a 3600 pot. But I'm convinced that Tom hit his flush, so after hemming and hawing, I fold it. Charlotte calls. River is a 2s. Charlotte checks, Tom bets, she folds. Tom tells me later that he had J-x (and thinks it was J-4 or J-5) so I would have chopped. I'm such a wuss, but Tom was playing fairly tight and I thought he had it. Little did I know he'd started hitting the Jack pretty hard and had loosened up considerably.

So we go a while longer, and I look down at 10-9 off UTG. I have 1100 left, and the blinds are 400/800, so I decide its time to make a stand. Charlotte calls with 1000 chips, so I have her by 100. Folds around to Ralph who only needs to call 300 more, so he does. He flips 8-3 off. Charlotte flips 10-9 off as well (second time that I have 10-9 off as well as the player to my immediate left....what are the odds of that, math-geeks?). Now I'm worred as Charlotte and I have each others outs if Ralph hits. And hit he does. The flop is A 8 3 and he hits two pair. Turn is a 6 and Charlotte and I are out. At least I got 4th, since i had that one extra chip :-).

So now we are down to 3. Khan is hanging on, and gets QQ. Drunk Tom calls with 66. He turns the 6 and Khan again loses in 3rd after getting in with the best hand. Sorry lady, maybe better luck next time. Tom and Ralph are pretty close in chips and decide to chop, and the game ends at 1am.

Overall I thought I did well, other than the CBL laydown. Thanks to Cat and Khan for coming by, and thanks for the pics.

<---The Cat, aka Roger. Khan, aka Teresa->
(coughing, sick, but shows up anyway..what a trooper! and thanks for the pics!)

Friday, March 17, 2006

Limit vs NLHE, Ring vs Tourneys

Been a while since the last post. Hope you are all still with me. Today's topic is pretty broad, but I wanted to get some thoughts down to help me work on my game.

I've come lately to realize that I'm a pretty good limit HE player in ring games (I'm up there the most YTD). However, my NLHE ring game is not very strong. I'm down there.

When I look at my Ring Games vs Sit-N-Goes vs Large Field Tourneys, my results are that I make the most in MTTs, then SnGs, then Ring games. When I play tourneys, I play specifically NLHE. When I play ring, I mix up Stud, NLHE, LHE, and Omaha (both hi and lo)

So looking at my playing style, I can now start to pick it apart and see why. I play mostly low limit NLHE (dime/quarter blinds) LHE (1/2 or 2/4 blinds). Play here still results in huge swings in variance. And that means huge swings in your BR. I try hard to control pot size, but in low limit NLHE this isn't always in your control. At times you are at the mercy of the other players. I do the best when I can control the pot sizes in a game. I know this now, and need to exploit it or play in games where others cannot neutralize this part of my game.

So, naturally, I do better at Limit than No Limit ring games. And I do better in tourneys than ring games, since the increasing blind structures can give those who like to control pot sizes and odds and edge.

So look for me less now at the NLHE tables. Well, maybe always should work on your weak spots. I just need to make sure I play enough Limit and tourneys to finance my "habit".

See you at the tables