Wednesday, April 02, 2008


In following this line of thinkling as an amateur player, I have found that I get the best results by asking myself what I would do if a more experienced and/or professional player were watching and critiquing my every play in the background. I have found by balancing play on this and how I feel about a specific hand in any given situation.

It is a common thought that poker pro's play tightly and aggressively. And although they don’t play many hands, when they do play them, they play as if they had all the nuts. This is a nicely cooked-up saying and all, but it is for those who really don't know how to play and who just want to sound smart, like they've been there and done that. Case in point: It doesn't necessarily apply to no-limit games where a good, loose yet aggressive player can throw you off your game in a heartbeat. Therefore I ought to shed a triune light on what it really means to be a tight and aggressive poker player.

* Think Like A Pro: Do The Math
Generally speaking, you will have about a 1 in 8 chance of holding a set in your pocket pair while you will have roughly a 1 in 3 chance of attaining a flopped flush draw by the river.

Likewise know your "outs" that give a percentage shot at hitting. (Count the outs, multiply them by two, and add one to give you an idea the likelihood of hitting.)

However, knowing your "outs" to calculate hitting percentages are useless unless you match them with the pot odds; your percentage chances of hitting should be no less than the amount you have betted in proportion to the total pot at the river. (Simply divide the size of what you speculate will be the pot at the river flop by the amount you have put in.) Having come up with a 25% chance of hitting/winning by counting your outs, and the bet to you is 25, make sure that the pot at the river will be greater than 100 to call. If it isn't, cut your (potential and likely) losses and fold.

* Feel Like A Pro: Psychological Skills
The latter part of the saying "keep your friends close, hold your enemies closer" is true of any competition. A poker pro is always on the hunt to get a good feel on what his opponent is trying to do.

- What does my opponent have?
- What does my opponent think I have?
- What does my opponent think I think he has? And so on.

Contrary to what you may think, the mindset of poker pro's is not about obliterating their enemies into utter and complete destruction. Often, it is a battle to use your opponents simply to discover your own strengths and weaknesses on equal footing with keeping your ego in check. Developing an understanding that you must empathize with your opponents helps you to answer the previous questions and empowers you to manipulate those answers, putting you at a superior level of game play.

If you have KK and your opponent has AA, and you both know what each other have, why play the game of poker? You have other tools such as bluffing, slowplaying, or fastplaying. Use your acting skills to complement your math skills and tip your opponents off balance.

* Be a Pro: Discipline, Discipline, Discipline
Good poker players are consistent in their demand to seek advantages. A fish looks to get lucky, whereas a poker pro expects to win.

However, discipline is not to be confused with stubbornness. If a particular strategy is no longer working a poker pro will know how and when to change. A high level of alertness will clue him in as to whether he's on tilt or just being too cocky. If a mistake has been made, he will learn from it and move on.

Fundamentally, these three skills can be encapsulated into one word: awareness. Like in school you should be able to learn how to read by knowing your mathematical odds, write by manipulating your opponent's mindset, and finally to think for yourself when new or otherwise unknown situations arise. Once you grasp this triple-threat concept, success should be knocking at your doorstep.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Poker Instead of Surgery

Tuesday was to include a trip to the hospital for surgery, but due to a scheduling conflict I am safe from the knife for a few more weeks! :) Due to allergies and other surgical concerns, I am required to be the first case of a surgery day. In this case, I was rescheduled as another patient has more serious conditions than I do. I am fine with that as it came too fast. So we are off to Solvang later this week to play poker and a few days of needed vacation!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Running Bad or NOT Running at ALL!

In 1964, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart tried to define what may or may not be considered obscene under US law. In the end, he determined that no definition existed, but that when it comes to obscenity, “I know it when I see it.”

The same holds true when you’re talking about running badly at the poker table. You may not be able to identify what’s going wrong, but you know its happening. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no single definition or criteria for “running bad” because it means something different to everyone. For some players, it’s posting 10 or 12 losing sessions in a row. For others, it’s losing a dozen coin-flips during a single session. “Running badly” depends on the individual and on the metrics they’re using to judge their performance.

Whatever the definition is, the fact remains that everyone runs bad at one time or another. What separates successful players from those who go bust is how they handle themselves and their bankrolls when their cards go dead. For me, running bad doesn’t mean having a few losing nights or taking a few bad beats over the course of a session. That’s variance and it’s an inevitable part of the game. In my mind, running bad is something bigger that happens over the long term.

If you’re not sure whether you’re really running bad or not, start by stepping back and analyzing your results over a statistically significant timeframe. If you see a consistent pattern of losing sessions over a matter of weeks or months, then it’s likely that you’re having some real problems with your game. The key to getting back on track is figure out what’s actually going wrong.

For many players, running badly is a vicious circle; they suffer a few losing sessions and begin to tilt, which leads them to alter their playing styles in order to change things up. Soon, they do actually start playing badly, which leads to more losing sessions, and a continuation of their downward spiral. They lose because they’re running badly and they’re running badly because they’re losing.

If you look at your game and believe that you’re actually playing well but are just getting unlucky, then maybe you are. Aces get cracked by lower pairs. Sets get beaten by flushes, and hands get drowned on the river more often than you might think. My advice in these situations is to walk away from the game for a while. Take a break, regroup, and come back when you’re mentally refreshed and are ready to start playing again. Don’t, however, begin changing your game to compensate for bad luck. Focus on the fundamentals, look for good starting hands, and try to play the most solid poker you can. In time, your luck will change.

Whatever you do, however, don’t try to step up in levels in order to try and recoup your losses. I’ve seen many players go bust at times like these because they’re too focused on trying to rebuild their bankrolls by gambling rather than by playing smart poker and moving down to play at a lower level. Think about it; if you’ve been losing, chances are that you’re playing on a smaller bankroll than normal, which means that you’ll be risking a higher percentage of your remaining funds by playing at higher stakes. With a smaller cushion behind you and more of your bankroll at risk, it doesn’t take long for things to go from bad to worse and for you to lose everything you had left.

On the other hand, by moving down a level or two, you’ll be risking less in the short term while you try to rebuild your bankroll. Sure, the pots you win may not be as big as those you win at higher levels, but weighed against the odds of going broke, it’s a trade-off I’m willing to make. What’s more, by moving down, I may only have to play at a lower level for a month or two to recover my losses whereas if I go broke after moving up, it could take me a year or more until I’ve recovered. That’s a pretty persuasive argument if you really value your time.

While I can’t tell you whether you’re really running badly or not, I can tell you that your mental state does impact your game. If you’re feeling good, chances are you’ll play well and, if you’re not, chances are you won’t. Rough patches are part of the game and learning how to handle short-term adversity without losing your confidence or your bankroll will make you a better player in the long run.

On a side note:

From experience, I learned early on not to let a series or even a session of several bad beats get to me in a way where I outwardly express my anger or show any displeasure over the situations at hand. If you always take in stride, you will have better results in the long run.

As we have all heard several hundred times, It's Poker!

Happy New Year!

I am taking a few days off this week after XpressTech's most profitable holiday selling season ever! Next week I am at CES and I am looking forward to playing in any many events at the 2008 WSOP Rincon Circuit Event which runs January 26, 2008 through February 7, 2008 if my surgery on January 22, 2008 in Torrance doesn't get the best of me.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Balancing Playing Poker with other Commitments

The irony in the title of this post became very clear to me the other day when discussing, how business and other commitments were standing in the way of playing poker regularly.

Often how I play poker has came from experience gained in how I do business as well as the insights I have gained with successes and more importantly failures. In a recent Q and A in my column and marketing newsletter, I projected the following thoughts:

1. Poker play is about situations and how you relate to them with the information you have and experience you have with the game, the players and the action that has already occurred.

2. For me, doing business is much the same. Using your experience and information at hand as well as following the same formulas that have previously been successful should achieve the same results

3. Inexperienced poker players often make the same assumptions as inexperienced business people as misunderstanding either can effect results.

4. I have regularly said here and elsewhere that I don't have to be the smartest guy in the room and when I need the assistance of people smarter or with more experience than me, I am not too proud or afraid to ask.

5. In poker, I try and follow the same line of thinking by weighing all of the factors in playing a hand with an unknown or inexperienced player. Why risk tournament position fighting an unknown. You can't bet enough or take other action to force an inexperienced player out of the hand because they don't know any better. This isn't a bad beat analogy, unless you want it to be, but instead its a case for making better decisions all the time in every situation.

6. A good friend of mine often uses the illustration, explain it to me like I am a fifth grader not because that is the level she thinks, but instead because her experience helps draw out the details often overlooked. The analogy is you are not making it simple, by leaving out details, often the devil is in the details and that's what makes the difference. Absent experience, more information is needed.

7. I often experience people using big words to define a situation or claim they are calculating the odds as information in making a decision. If baffling me with antique or "farlexicon" (a) like vocabulary and/or expressing complex odds calculations in order to confuse me are your game, then good luck to you, because in either regard I learned everything I needed to know in grade school, but use a life of experiences in relating it.

(a) The lexicon is the internal dictionary, thus a farlexicon is an internal dictionary that is way out there!

The conclusion here is while I am "balance impaired" what I enjoy is an integral part of how I work and is the basis for everything else.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Favorite Los Angeles Area Casino

After playing at all of the Casinos in Los Angeles, I have to say I have found a favorite.

After some very successful tournament play and some fun cash game play, my favorite is Crystal Park Casino.

I still play regularly at Harrah's Rincon and occasionally in Oceanside at Ocean's 11 and in Lake Elsinore at Lake Elsinore, but for the best tournament structure, Crystal Park is my handsdown favorite. It is also easier to get to than any of the rest and has the most flexible tournament schedule.

I can leave my house at 6:00 PM using the 73 toll road to the 4o5 and be at Crystal Park in under 50 minutes normally at the longest its taken is about an hour and 10 minutes.

They have the Summer Slam coming up July 19, 2007 and I plan to play every event of that tournament schedule.

I opted out of the 2007 World Series as my travel schedule this year is a direct conflict for the main event and being in the South Pacific for over 2 weeks takes a little more planning and strategy to be ready for.

I expect the Summer Slam will be a great work out for the 2007 Legends of Poker at the Bike coming up in August and September.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

bill fillmaff

Well, style or the lack of it could mean everything!

Monday, February 26, 2007

In Reflection of the 2006 WSOP

In Reflection of the 2006 WSOP

2006’s WSOP was a lesson on the dramatic impact of variance. Variance, in simple terms, means that you will win a certain number of hands based on your holdings versus your opponent’s holdings over time. An example would be A-K versus Q-Q, which is basically a coin-toss situation. Math dictates that you will win with either hand roughly half the time, Q-Q being the slight favorite. Variance, however, could mean that you win with the A-K 20 times in a row, but over time, the Q-Q will slightly overtake the A-K in the number of times it wins. Variance also means that you could lose with the Q-Q versus A-K, a seemingly impossible and mathematically improbable number of times. And the bigger the fields, the more variance you will see in each individual tournament.Over time, it will even out, but it will always seem like you lose more times than you should in bigger field tournaments. The problem is that you have to survive many more coin-toss situations and survive against more draws than you would face in turnouts with fewer players.In this year’s WSOP, you had to negotiate record-breaking attendance and what seemed at times to be insurmountable odds. The number of coin flips and dramatic situations you faced increased over previous years. The luck factor also increased over previous years, simply because of the number of players in each event.

Combating big fields

A few years ago, pros talked about small-pot poker in their approach to the WSOP Main Event. Although it’s a sound theory, the problem with it in these enormous tournaments is that you will simply face too many situations in which your chips will be in jeopardy. This means that different tactics are necessary, unless you’re intent on leaving everything to chance, hoping to pick up huge hands when it matters.Odds say, however, that you will not pick up those hands exactly when you need them. That means you have to change your tactics and practice new things to combat the changing dynamics of these tournaments. Players are generally more aggressive now and aren’t afraid to gamble with you. They are overplaying their hands and overvaluing their holdings, forcing you into confrontation more and more. I can’t even tell you how many times players moved me all-in during the WSOP tournaments when I was sitting there with top set on a safe-looking board, only to beat me with some obscure draw. In a case like that, there is really nothing you can do but pray that your hand holds.To combat those inevitable situations, I feel you need to take risks early in a tournament, with the objective of getting chipped up to absorb the inevitable beats and drawing situations that players will force you into. This affords you the opportunity to make plays that your opponents cannot reasonably make. It also gives you the necessary cushion you will need to survive those situations where you are forced to go all-in to protect your hand or when an aggressive player puts you all-in while he is on a play or draw.