Sunday, July 19, 2009

Poker Ethics

I had two distinct situations arise in a tournament the other night that brought to mind the issue of ethics in poker.

The first happens during a break in a tournament while the green chips are being colored up. I happen to have quite a few greens, in fact I have a full stack of 20 (t500) plus a couple of odd chips. The dealer counted down my stack to make sure it was actually 20 and a moment later he tossed two t1000 chips to me. I processed for a second because sometimes when they are coloring up they will get some larger denomination chips from you to round up to larger chip amounts, but I realized all he had taken were my greens. I said something like, "I think you gave me too much dude" and showed him the two t1000s. He quickly realized the error took those back and gave me a single t500. There were a couple of other players there and one of them said something indicating appreciation that I would bring that to the dealer's attention myself.

The second incident happened once we had lost a couple of players at the final table. I opened the pot all in with KJ offsuit and got one caller. I was happy to see him roll over K9 of diamonds. I was even happier when the flop came A72 with no diamonds. The turn was another 7 and as the dealer gets ready to put out the river, I'm just thinking "no 9". I got my wish as the river was a non 9. I saw my opponent deflate a bit and listened to the dealer reading the board, "7s with an AK and the jack will play." As the dealer got ready to push me the pot I took a closer look at the board and realized the river was another 2, leaving the board to read A7272. Two pair with an ace kicker on the board. Not only does my jack not play, neither does my king and neither do either of my opponents cards, we're playing the board. I tried to keep my voice as even as possible while telling the dealer that we we're both playing the board. The dealer looked for a second and then realized wha happened and corrected himself. I think my opposnent was the last to realize it. The dealer chopped it up and the lady sitting on my right said "wow you're really honest!"

I appreciate the compliment, but I think it's kind of unwarranted. First, I'm pretty sure that the dealer would have caught the situation even without my pointing it out before the pot got pushed. More importantly though me pointing out the situation to the dealer is in my own best interests. Every player has an interest in protecting the integrity of the game and that interest is way more important than the results of any individual hand.

I think by and large people who take poker even moderately seriously recognize this fact and as a result the game becomes a little self policing, not unlike the golfer who calls a penalty on himself. By me making sure that the results of a hand comport with the way the cards played out, all I'm doing is keeping the game healthy, and in the long run that's good for me.

It's interesting especially in light of some of the national exposure the game got recently on the "Celebrity Apprentice" with Joan River's diatribes about poker players and her implications, if not outright statements, that poker players are basically a sleazy bunch. Quite the contrary, I think as a rule, poker players are people of high integrity. I wonder how many people realize the extent to which money is borrowed, repaid and what not, simply on handshakes. Sure there are some bad apples, but as a rule, I think most players are good people.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Worlds Colliding - But Gently

I would imagine that just about anyone reading this blog has wandered over from where I post on the boards. I've had a couple of interesting experiences relating to my posting there. I made some posts about my "local room" the one I live closest to. They have been open about 8 months and quite frankly they've had some struggles getting games going. I'm trying to bang the drum a little on the AVP boards just to get the word out and see if I can get the room active.

Anyway, last weekend, I walked in there to play and the floor pointed me out to one of the dealers. He walked up and introduced himself and asked if I was the one who posted about the room on AVP. I said yes and he thanked me and said it was a nice post. We chatted a bit about some of the board goings on and then it was time for me to play. During the week, I popped into a room near the office and the floor there (who knows I post on AVP) also commented on my post and offered me some thoughts on the situation. Finally, last night I went back into the local room and the room manager greeted me and thanked me for trying to spread the word about the room.

It was kind of wierd for me to have my online activity intersect with the real world like that. It was a nice reminder that the things going out here do reach some people.

Alright, I'm getting food ready for a BBQ later (smoking some tomatos to go in a black bean dish). Perhaps some actual poker content later.

Friday, July 10, 2009

If I were a twitterer I'd tweet something like: "tired of people hitting 2 outers on me to knock me out of tournaments".

Thursday, July 9, 2009


So I've been thinking lately about the evolution of a poker player. It was probably sparked by seeing a t-shirt at the Rio last week with the above image on it. I think it's generally true that as people grow as players they pass through these types of stages. It reminded me of something I studied once when discussing the process of learning a new skill. The theory was that when learning a new skill one passes through four stages.

First is unconscious incompetence. In other words, you're bad - but you're so bad, you have no clue that you're bad. To me, these are the fish. These are the people who don't see anything wrong with playing J2 suited or playing Arag because, aces are good.

If the fish progress they move from being unconsciously incompetent, to being consciously competent. I think this equates pretty closely to donkeys. They're still bad, but they're starting to pick up the ability to recognize their badness. I think the first step of this progression is tightening up preflop. There is a better idea of hand strength, but play after the flop is not so good. Mistakes are still a plenty by these folks, but there is more recognition of the mistakes and if the right effort is made, the donkey will climb to the next rung of the ladder.

Conscious competence. I think this is represented in the above graphic by the man. Someone at this stage has probably devoted some energy to the game away from the game itself. There's some good theoretical understanding and when presented with a hand to analyze they can probably offer a reasonable discussion. The conscious competent's play will be solid and they can work through problems at the table, although it may take more time then they feel comfortable with. Of course, the conscious competent aspires to reach the last level.

Unconscious competence. You've seen these people. They just have an uncanny sense of where they are at when they are in a hand. They can read opponents well and it all seems to come so easy to them. These are clearly the sharks. When they are making a decision in a game they take as long as they want to, not as long as they need.

I think that relatively recently I've transitioned from donkey to man. Unfortuneately I find myself slipping back into donkeydom from time to time. I've had a couple of situations recently where I obviously reverted back to total Level 1 thinking and the results showed it. I think one cure to that is to focus more on "visual thinking" when playing. In other words, I need to force myself to talk through a hand in my mind before I make a decision. I feel pretty good that if I do that then I can make good decisions that are reasoned and not just impulsive. So that's what I'm going to do in my effort to continue evolving.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

My Brush With Poker Celebrity

So the highlight of the pokercation (aside from playing a lot of small buy in tournaments) was playing in the Suzie & Howard Lederer charity tournament at the Golden Nugget last Wednesday. It was an interesting experience as I had both Annie Duke and 2007 Main Event winner Jerry Yang at my table along with a couple of other people who were obviously experienced and skilled tournament players. I was pretty close to being in the situation of not being able to spot the sucker at the table (which means you are the sucker), but I think there may have been one other person who edged me out.

It was a situation where the only way I was going to go far was if I ran unbelievably well, and unfortunately I did anything but. I did make it through the first hour and the rebuy period which was a bit of an accomplishment, but I simply couldn't catch any kinds of cards. I had one pocket pair - 5s which ended up being my bustout hand, and I only recall one ace - we'll get to that in the minute. It was fun playing next to Annie (I was on her immediate left) - I got into a couple of hands with her and ended up with absolutely no idea where I was. I had asked her right before the break if she would mind taking a picture with my wife who is a fan and she said sure, but then hustled off on the break talking to some other folks. Once I busted out though, she brought up getting a picture and took a couple of moments to pose with my wife which was nice. She even graciously commented to my wife that I just couldn't get any cards which was true. I tried to make a couple of position plays, but the two guys on my left were tough and were willing to call me down pretty light. I don't know if I'm that easy to read or if they just had me figured for a newbie that was likely to be making a move.

So the highlight of the event was definitely the pot I took off of Jerry Yang. I limped in early position with the A9 of diamonds (I had pretty much adjusted my preflop strategy to limping and seeing whether I could hit the board). A couple others limped as did Mr. Yang from the cutoff. The flop was K high with two diamonds, so I decided to check and raise any bet all in (no one was terribly deep). The bet came from Jerry Yang and I followed through with my strategy. He tanked for a while and then finally made the call saying it was a donation. I said I was probably the one donating and flipped over my hand expecting to need an A or a diamond to win. I was surprised when he turned over Q6 of diamonds for a lower flush draw. The turn brought the A of hearts and I had the 2007 Main Event Winner drawing dead. The guy on my left - who was a very tough player from Ireland looked at me and said, "so I see you have a bit of tricky in you as well" (we had been talking earlier about how you had to be tricky in order to win) and that was definitely a good feeling. I feel like I outplayed the guy because there was just no way he figured me for being able to do that with a flush draw.

The rest of the pokercation was good. I learned some lessons (i.e. I completely butchered some things and realize now how bad I screwed up) and netted one outright tournament win. Details to come on some of the lessons in the future.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Poker Vacation Day 2

The plan for the day was to hit the gym in the morning, have lunch with some friends and then catch the afternoon tournament at the TI.

Once I was done at the gym, I had an hour or so before it was time to meet my friends. We were eating at the Orleans, so I played a little 2-4 while I waited and won my buy-in for the TI tournament, so the freeroll was on. After lunch, I made my way over to TI and got signed in jsut a few minutes before the tournament started.

There was a very good turnout, 57 entrants. I have to say that the TI seems to do a great job with the daily low buy-in tournaments. They run them four times a day, the structure (considering what kind of event it is) is good and when I have been by, the turnouts have always been good.

The first few levels were a rollercoaster for me, mostly because I kept catching hands either in the blinds or in early position that warranted a raise, but left me playing out of position after the flop without really kitting the flop hard (overcards to a good pp or missing on AK). So, I was up, I was down, I was up, I was down. Ended up the third level with only a few chips over starting stack.

I've gotten the feeling that in these low buy-in events that the first couple of levels after the first break tend to be very significant. People can't reenter the tournament after busting out anymore, the blinds have gotten up to the point where if you haven't chipped up then you are playing 10 or fewer blinds deep. I was lucky yesterday as I hit a couple of hands that allowed me to pick off other short players and build my stack up to 1.5 to 2 times the average. From there I was able to pick spots and (pretty easily) get to the final table. I had a pretty good stack by this point and was able to make a couple good position plays to keep myself ahead of the blinds. GOt down to three handed with the second biggest stack, but the spread between the big stack and the third stack was less than three big blinds, but everything was really fluid. Also, even though I was second, I still only had six big blinds, so the game was definitely in the shove fest category. I shoved with K10 offsuit from the button and got looked up by the big blind who had an ace. He had me covered and I was out in third. I was pretty happy with how I played the middle part of the tournament.

Today is Golden Nugget day. We got a room for the night, I will play in their 11am tournament and also a charity event there this evening. If I'm available around 2pm, I'm going to hit up the weekly poker discussion group across the street at Binion's jsut to check it out.