August 4th, 2009
|03:31 am - Everything's Gone Greenish|
Just returned from a brief jaunt to France to celebrate another marriage of another friend. I wish the British middle classes would marry off in their early teens and be done with it to save the bother of the endless treadmill of marriage ceremonies we're in our thirties. That said, we had a lovely time in Lyon. The highlight was, I suppose, the British contingent stifling a round of giggles when one particular member of our party - a GCHQ spook no less - robustly accused a friendly American guest of harbouring racist beliefs. We blushed and fluttered our copies of The Guardian a little more vigorously as the American grew agitated. He ended up storming out. If the French stereotype is to appear arrogant and rudely aloof whilst maintaining progressive political beliefs then the American is gently humble and polite whilst holding all sorts of filthy reactionary ideas.
So we travelled by train and not plane because in case you hadn't realised I am fully committed to green issues. I realised this when my girlfriend decided that we could never set foot in a plane again because of the quantity of its carbon emissions. My entire life until this point has been lived in wanton excess, yet these days I duly place used teabags in the composter, water the tomato plants religiously, and read from the book of Lovelock, which states that modern man's leisure time is best served sitting around playing computer games and watching telly because they don't involve travelling anywhere.
I intend to sit back and live a worthy hermetic existence tending my potatoes and looking forward to when the bombs start crashing down.
July 24th, 2009
|12:00 am - Microblogging killed the Livejournal star. Thappers 2.0!|
I used to post on Livejournal, once upon a time. Fantastic tales, tall stories, hyper-ironic political comment and boringly bad updates on poker. I think there was a long period of time when Livejournal and my related internet escapades on various forums were a meditation on my own fractured identities and a way of exploring and parodying them. But reality intervenes and those days are long gone. Life just got serious!
Okay, so life didn't just get serious because it never does. But Facebook killed the artistry of the internet with its use of 'real' names and friendslists composed of people we know in 'real' life whilst still offering a fully postmodern social experience. It's like the web found its own happy medium, with the avant-garde consigned to the fringes of 4chan and whatnot. Where the schizophrenic nature of capitalism found an expression through new technologies, Facebook is the psychoanalyst calming and stratifying the symptoms into something manageable and comprehensible. In fact, I shall probably Tweet that last sentence just to underline and undermine it.
Right! So in other totally rigged news, here's the score. First, I got my girlfriend knocked up so we're expecting a kid sometime in January. Took fucking ages to say the least. Secondly, we've moved to a leafy village just outside Bristol where there's an enormous garden and deer wander freely. Thirdly, I'm still living a twilight life as a professional poker player. Hard way to make an easy living.
February 4th, 2009
|05:57 pm - Moving blog house...|
I think it's time to shift over all the poker stuff to a new blog since LiveJournal is gay.
Here it is, where I can hopefully keep things ticking over nicely without worrying about clogging up my friends' pages:
Poker people, that way please!
January 29th, 2009
|11:28 pm - Aha! moments in poker|
As it is late and I have little else to do I think I shall share with my lovely readers a few aha! moments that struck me whilst playing cards. These are the moments when suddenly the misty veil is whisked away and one sees things much clearer.
1) Poker is simple. As we all know, poker is as Brunson says not about winning or losing but about making the right decisions. But more than that, it's about making simple decisions. It's easy to play poker as something of a guessing game, looking at the bet your opponent is made and thinking, 'shall I call here? Raise? Fold?' These tricky decisions are part of the everyday poker experience. Somebody raises - okay, they are telling me they have a strong hand. What sort of strong hand? Will my range of hands play well against theirs in this situation? There is, however, another way, and that is to manipulate situations so that decisions become clear and easy. For instance, if somebody raises preflop and you reraise them and they push all-in, if you have any kind of knowledge of the player you will know they are representing a tiny range of hands by making this move and you must fold out the vast majority of your hand range. This is an easy decision. Or if you have reached the turn card and you check-raise and they call, their range of hands is similarly narrowed. Essentially by making use of bets, raises and check-raises you can manipulate your opponents range of cards so that their hand gets ever closer to being played face-up. This allows you to play optimally and thus, poker becomes simple. All subsequent points flow from this.
2) Bet/fold is a valid line. I hold QK. Flop comes Kxx two hearts. I bet, villain calls. Turn is a blank. I bet, villain calls. River brings a third heart. I check, villain overbets pot, I think wtf and fold. Situations like these were (and maybe still are), I think, a major leak in my game. I would convince myself that my hand is too strong to fold if I bet and it gets raised, so I hope to check/call, then villain makes a big enough bet to convince me to fold anyway. Then I realised it's not actually such a big deal. I simply bet anyway and I don't have to call the raise. Or, I bet enough on the flop and fourth street that I'm committed by the river so there is no decision to make. Undoubtedly the key to making good profit at low-stakes games is betting for value, often thinly.
3) I don't have to bet the flop just because I raised pre, particularly if I have a hand with showdown value. I hold AK, flop comes 225 and villain checks. Is it super-standard to always c-bet here? In all likelihood we have the best hand but if we bet villain folds out nearly 100% of their range that is losing to us, and calls with nearly 100% of his range that beats us. I think a more optimal line is to check-behind, bet any high card turn if checked to and usually call any bet villain makes on the turn also. This is a hand we want to take to showdown as cheaply as possible, with the bonus that many villains will bluff with a high frequency on the turn as well. This point is not about c-betting per se, more about when we are in raised pots with showdown value but don't want to polarise ourselves too much. A similar situation might be when we 3bet pre with, say, 56s and flop mid-pair. An excellent spot to check-behind and get one street of value from turn bluffs rather than just mindlessly c-betting the flop. Obviously this point is slightly more complicated than my previous two as it is more villain/situation dependent.
4) Frequently check-raise flops with air/big draws/strong hands, and frequently call down with top pair. These days I generally have a plan for what to do on the flop with certain hands. Say I call out the big blind with QKo and flop a queen. I check, villain bets. Against most villains I simply go into check-call mode here. So many people go broke with check-raises on these types of hands and certainly sometimes you should be check-raising TPGK, but unless the board is super-drawy then what exactly do you achieve by check-raising a TPGK on the flop? I balance my check-raises only occasionally with top-pair type hands, and generally use them for what I say above: utter junk, big draws and very strong hands.
5) Finally, don't raise draws when you have no fold equity, unless you have significant equity in the hand otherwise. I hold 67s and raise it to $2, get two callers. Flop comes with two of my suit to give me a flush draw. Villain leads into me for $6 and we both have full stacks. There is a big difference between raising or check-raising on a draw when you have fold equity and when faced with this situation. One of the reasons to raise big on a draw is because you can win the pot two ways: if villain folds you take it there and then, if villain calls you still have equity in the hand, and if villain shoves you can often call because you now have the correct odds to do so. In this situation villain is telling you clearly that you have zero fold equity, so raising/getting it in on a flush draw will mean, assuming villain calls 100% of the time, that whilst you have equity you are still a significant dog in the hand. Call or muck here, do not usually raise. Conversely, do not raise on a draw when you being given excellent direct odds to hit. The best time raise a draw is against a 2/3rds pot standard c-bet. Note that I also said, 'unless you have significant equity in the hand otherwise'. By this I mean it is fine to raise with no fold equity when your hand is massive anyway. For instance you hold AKs on a TQxss board, villain pots it - money should go in right now.
There we go, some of the biggest aha! moments I've had in poker. Combining all this day-to-day means that in most of the near-infinite permuations of hand situations that arise I have a general strategy for playing, and I sit there less and less just clicking buttons on a whim. All one can ever hope for is to move ever-closer towards the invisible and ungraspable core of poker that is 'optimal strategy'.
|07:55 pm - Oh yeah, results graph|
I missed this off yesterday so here's the Jan results graph. Like I said, pitiful quantity of hands but good winrate despite the slight downswong at the very end.
|03:22 am - Quiet poker month for me|
What with world events being as they are, what with America inaugurating a mass-psychological projection of Martin Luther King, what with Israel re-enacting its own mental phantasies of terror-bombing Dresden, what with Modernism ceaselessly trying to reclaim its 'post' prefix in the economic sphere, and most importantly what with this nation's collective watercooler moment Celebrity Big Brother one's poor little brain has been busily dessicating itself into a withered pea, leaving little time for more important matters such as poker. Indeed, I have taken to tilling the soil and extolling Gaia's virtues as I switch to a character in The Good Life, frolicking for a post-oil future amongst my vegetables and chickens. I have also taken the advice of James Lovelock and committed many hours to my Xbox and the new games I bought for it, since playing video games and living through an avatar are some of the more ecologically-sound modern human activities. My girlfriend has even resolved not to fly ever again; it's not easy being green! At least that is my excuse for continuing to delay my driving lessons.
So all this amounts to around 6,000 hands this month at 50NL, which by all accounts is piss-poor. My only real goal for the month was to break-even since this is a new limit for me to grind at but I haven't found the games particularly hard. I'm about $700 up at 10ptBB/100 so that's a good start, and I wouldn't say I've been running especially hot. Today I was experimenting with 3betting a little lighter and pulling off a few more moves post-flop. Here's a cool little hand:
Villain was a multitabling 'reg' with presumably some hand-reading ability. I called pf for set value, whiffed the flop but decided to play the hand like I had a set, as wtf flats pre, calls flop, minraises turn then bets that amount on the river on such a dry board? In this instance all went to plan thankfully but it's probably not something I should attempt too much at 50NL. I jus wanted to get me some of tha redline manies...
Thus my total earnings for the month is a poxy $700, plus $500 I won from my family game at Xmas, plus about $40 from random tournaments. Good for 10 hours work, bad in absolute terms. To celebrate being such a lazy bastard I went out yesterday and bought a brand new 32g iPod Touch and it's a thing of beauty. I was also amazed at the fancy new computers on sale, truly there has been technological revolution in my absence and my hulking, hissing towers of steel are looking antiquated by comparison with these sleek lotharios of the computer world. I may just have to get me one. I've also made a hugely gay 1500VPPs at Stars which makes me a 'Silverstar' VIP again, so my first goal for February is to crank up the volume and hit GoldStar status for 4000VPPs as early as possible.
Over and out, thanks for reading.
January 22nd, 2009
|03:26 pm - Dawkins and 'The God Delusion'|
Last year I saw the comedian Simon Munnery at the Edinburgh Festival running his 'AGM'. Much of his act consisted of him deconstructing Dawkins' 'The God Delusion' without him ever having read the book, just imagining the kind of things Dawkins might say (and getting it pretty much spot-on). Onstage he did a brilliant gag where he spoke to an inflatable kangaroo with a cut-out of Dawkins' face on it:
Munnery: 'What's that Richard Dawkins? You're writing a new book? What's it called?'
[kangaroo whispers into Munnery's ear]
Munnery: 'The Salad Delusion? That sounds interesting. What's it's basic thesis?'
[kangaroo whispers some more]
Munnery: 'So you say there is no such thing as salad, only individual pieces of lettuce?!'
I've gone one better and read the damn thing, but it was over a year ago and I cannot remember specifics. Dawkins is involved with this out-and-proud atheist campaign that's getting its message across through the medium of London buses lately and is causing the mildest of media stirs. Needless to say I find the whole thing incredibly tiresome and Dawkins' book is utter drivel. Perhaps it has some practical value in giving mentally-perverted American teens ammo to fight against their religious parents but from an intellectual standpoint the book is useless and symptomatic of NERD (New-Enlightenment-Rationalist-Doctrine) all over.
Arguments about whether God exists that come from a rationalist, evidence-based perspective have been chucked back and forth since the Ancient Greeks. Dawkins adds absolutely nothing to this argument although he seems to think that he does. Yes, there is no hard evidence for the existence of God. We get it. Religious people are generally irrational. Yes, we get that too. The thing is, religious people simply approach the question from a different register entirely and this makes the rationalist agenda fundamentally redundant, rendering the question of 'does God exist?' irrelevant. Far more pragmatic, and useful, is to approach the issue from a different standpoint; I would suggest Nietzsche's line, that the question is not 'does God exist?' but 'how are we saved?' is far more productive. From this perspective even if religions were true it doesn't matter, we should still disagree with them on the basis of how they go about saving us.
Moreover, Dawkins appears sterile and limited when any kind of sociological analysis is applied to his argument. For Dawkins, what is true is better than what is false, what is rational is better than what is irrational, and presumably humanity progresses when we cast aside superstitions in favour of what is true and rational. So if we take a phenomena such as the rise in the number of Islam in the world (or even in the UK) or perhaps the shoring-up of Christianity in the US, then Dawkins' only response can be that this is explained by a rise in mass irrationality in the world. True perhaps, but what a clunky and limited answer.
Viewed sociologically with an eye to identity politics, the rise in people claiming Muslim identity in the UK can be seen as a perfectly rational response to a perceived attack on this identity from the dominant, non-Muslim ideology. Similarly, immigration in the US and perceived threat from a Muslim otherness globally can be counterbalanced by Christians reinforcing their beliefs tenfold. Religious identity is intertwined with any number of other identities, be they national, cultural, personal or whatever. The ebb and flow of these fractured identities as they enter into contact with others provides a much more fruitful framework for considering religious belief. This resurgent NERD (I made up this acronym!) attempts to cast issues like these purely in terms of truth and falsehood and misses the point by a country mile. This is why Dawkins et al are so impotent and why what they think is an authoritative and scientific intervention appears more and more to be ideological whimsy.
That is my critique of Dawkins based on a half-remembered reading of his book. On a personal note I have been reading Zen lately. Zennnnnnn.
January 14th, 2009
|11:34 am - Rate my spew|
Played a fair bit the past couple of nights for a profit of approx. $400. Pretty good winrate but I have been running hot. Mixing up 8-tabling 50NL 6max and single-tabling 50NL heads-up cash. I'm very comfortable with the 6max tables but I'm quite new to HU cash games. Memories of the last time I played 50NL HU against my brother a few months ago still haunt my dreams.
So I end up in quite a prolonged battle with this guy who was pretty terribad but took exception to me almost the moment I sit down, asking me if I've joined any training sites or read some books or whatever, and suggesting that I think I'm a great player. I have no idea why as I'd said nothing and I guess he was just projecting his own insecurities. This went on for some time. Bizarre psycho-defensive fish I guess.
Anyway I have something of a basic strategy for HU play. First I try to minraise about 80% of my buttons. The main reasons for minraising are: a) most opponents fold too much when facing a raise, so you risk very little in order to take their $.5 a lot; b) opponents who 3bet with relatively high frequencies often size their 3bet in relation to the minraise, i.e. quite small in relation to effective stacks - this makes it less of a mistake to call 3bets with speculative hands 100+BB deep and helps balance calling ranges. Secondly I am pretty tight in my calling range to a standard 3x opening. These days I muck Ax unless it is suited, A8o or A9o being about my minimum. My 3betting range is weighted towards very big hands and junk hands + suited connectors a decent percentage of the time, but I'll tend to call with hands like JTs and KQo rather than 3bet. Post-flop I'm still getting to grips with, but getting there.
Although a fair few interesting hands popped up, I'll just post this one (I coolered him for a $155 pot not long after and he quit) as I attempted a Big Bluff that failed miserably.
Here's my thinking on the hand.
#1 I should have folded pre-flop. His standard 3bet to my minraise was $3 or $3.5 (whereas I would typically 3bet his 3x raise to $5-$6) and here he raised to $4. Bit weird, but hey, I have soooooted cards.
#2 He rarely ever has a queen here when he checks the flop. His c-bet frequency was pretty low and mostly if he bet, he had at least some part of it. QK, 78 etc. are definitely in my calling range so I bet the flop. He calls.
#3 Turn completes nothing for him and everything for me (as I think he would see it) so I make a 'value' bet as I hope it appears. Oh dear, he calls again. When he check-calls two streets I'm narrowing his range in my mind toward TT, JJ, maybe lower pps or mayhap 9Ts, possible flush draws including AKd etc.
#4 Ace arrives, flush doesn't and it's decision time. I figure that if I shove he folds out all pocket pairs, most hands containing an 8 or 9, a super-weirdly played queen, and possibly Axd hands. The only hand I see him calling me with is AK. The actual result is bizarre, AJ was certainly not a hand I could put him on at all. Soulreads ftw? He gave it the spiel in chat, saying how he 'knew I was bluffing' and so forth, which of course he didn't as I hadn't made a spewy river bluff like this thus far. Only thing I can think of is a while earlier when I shoved the river for value on a similar board when an ace rolled off and he mucked kings. A shame perhaps that I didn't get to show my nut straight that hand.
Question is, which of us is spewing here? I genuinely do not know.
January 9th, 2009
|03:45 am - 2009 etc.|
Here's wishing everyone a happy, prosperous 2009. For you lot, anyway. I've got a gold maneki neko (lucky cat) sitting on my desk right now waving its paw like crazy and bringing me all sorts of good luck and fortune - so I'm sorted for the year.
After closing down my marginally successful business in 2008 I kicked around for a few months before deciding in November that I'd try my hand at poker professionally. Although I'd been playing for years I'd never sat down and actually tried to make decent money over a sustained period even though my lifetime winnings thus far must have been well over $10K+. I think I first deposited $50 or so into an online poker site about four years ago and I've never had to redeposit once since, and although I had read the poker canon religiously (Harrington, Sklansky and so on) I'd never really considered just how deep the game goes. My eyes were opened railing (watching other players) friends and acquaintances, and gaining a membership to Stoxpoker, a poker training video website. I watched these videos day-in, day-out and my eyes were duly opened that the game goes much further than level 1 (playing your cards) and level 2 (essentially, 'reading' and playing other people's cards), and I gained insight into how some of the top players think.
In short, I've long been interested in books, music, arts, whatever, and I possess a first class degree in Economics and IT and a distinction-grade Masters degree in Critical Theory. But poker is probably the most intellectually stimulating endeavour I've yet discovered as it crosses all sorts of boundaries between science and art, logic and creative flair, and even boredom and excitement. The vast majority of players are not open to the huge cosmic plane of thought that poker opens up - they do not even understand that it exists. I am only prying open the wormhole and peeking into its depths at the moment, but some of the youngest, freshest minds out there have realised and actualised the theory and become millionaires as a result. I sometimes consider cards in the way I might consider art: as a tool to think with. It is also naked capitalism at its very worst and I am definitely in this for the money.
So as documented thus far in this blog I began my long trek on the way to becoming a Zen poker master at the 25NL tables. Just $25 buy-in, that means. You are never going to make it rich this way, but it builds confidence, experience and ability. I managed to play eight tables at once, which is an achievement for an old soul like me staring at the computer screen and attempting to process a million pieces of information at once in order to try and make the right decision every time. Anyway I finished the year about $1.5K in profit for those two months. A thousand pounds for a couple of hours work a day isn't too bad, but there's no way I can play 8 hour days straight so this year I have moved up. Minimum wage is not for me.
Yesterday and today I took my first baby-steps at 50NL, effectively doubling my stakes. With each level of stakes in poker the games get noticeably tougher as players become ever more thinking and aggressive. What you tend to find is tables full of multi-tabling 'regulars' and the odd fish who pays them off. 50NL is still considered pathetic, baby stakes and certainly not what any poker player in his right mind would call tough. But it's new(ish) for me and it's not hard to swing up and down a good few hundred bucks a day so the first thing is to get used to that and the fact that at any one time I have at a minimum £200-£300 in play. My goal is to get my PokerStars bankroll from $2K to $5K within four months but I hope to achieve this much sooner. At this point I will double stakes again for 100NL, the first level at which it could be said that you can make a halfway decent income.
My strategy for 50NL so far is as follows (obv. subject to serious change as my experience grows!):
a) Number 1 assumption is that the game plays mostly like 25NL, with a few less fish and a few more regs. The winning style I developed at 25NL should - SHOULD - work here, so I should play my cards mostly the same way.
b) Squeeze a little more against regs, i.e. reraise their open raises in position. Multitabling regs will generally have a very tight range for calling 3-bets so by doing this they play their hands effectively face up against you. I think that in order to generate a good winrate at 50NL (and this is undoubtedly very important for the much higher-stakes games too) you need to fuck with the regs as well as the fish.
c) Play as close to a 22/18 TAG (tight-aggressive) style as possible. Although by nature I am generally pretty LAGgy (loose-aggressive) it pays at 50NL when multitabling to play TAG. However see b). If I am to be a multitabling reg I must also understand how to fuck with the other multitabling TAGfish.
d) Stay polarised! Unless I have a huge history with another player I will not in general balance my ranges. If I find a way to play profitably a certain range vs another then I will stick to it. Which leads to:
e) Don't level myself! Too often in NL cash I find myself in a tricky spot where, say, I've bet and been raised and thought: 'hmmm, this is such a retarded spot for him to raise as a bluff. he's repping such a small range by doing this. but he knows i know this therefore it probably is a bluff. thus i call with third pair!' and been shown the stone-cold nuts. Do. Not. Level. Myself. V. important Thappers, for future reference.
Anyway so far I've played a grand total of, uh, 1.2K hands over 2 hours for a profit of, uh, $60. Still, profit is profit!
December 18th, 2008
|06:57 pm - End of year, 40K hands challenge results...|
Done for the year now, and just about managed my 40K hands challenge over the past couple of months.
Redline graph is also pretty good, as it finished well above $0 - not exactly the easiest thing at uNL.
In 2009 I'm going to keep plugging away until I reach around $2K profit to give me a $5K+ bankroll, then step up to 50NL. I want to charge through that rapidly so that by April I'm ready for 100NL where things are likely to get a lot tougher and much more profitable/expensive. It's pretty shameful on my part that I was planning on grinding this year so that I would already be at 100NL by now, but it took me until November to actually start! But now I have the motivation and am overcoming tilt/discipline issues plus I realise that 99.9% other players totally suck at poker so let's hope 2009 is a good 'un.
Thanks for reading, those of you who know what I'm on about and are taking an interest.