The Cards Spoke

After 5 years of silence, I'm back! Check out the new poker blog.



"Oh the humanity!"

"Industry executives and analysts often mistakenly talk about strategy as if it were some kind of chess match. But in chess, you have just two opponents, each with identical resources, and with luck playing a minimal role. The real world is much more like a poker game, with multiple players trying to make the best of whatever hand fortune has dealt them."
--David Moschella

The good news is, I found myself highly ranked in a top ten list of poker bloggers. The bad news is, the king of the poker blog did not even make the list, along with many of my favorite bloggers. So, I'm not sure how I feel about the list, but I guess a little PR is probably a good thing. But in tribute to the man left out:

Sign up at Empire Poker with bonus code IGGY1! (and get $100 and a date with Iggy)

Ok, I feel better now. In all seriousness, if you haven't yet, go read Ignatius, where you'll find great poker content and the best set of poker news links anywhere.

Party Poker Games by EV
Since I didn't get to play any poker tonight (I'm exhausted after finally finishing a big project at work where I was the designer, programmer, and lead tester on), I thought I'd take a stab at figuring out which games on Party offer the "best bang for your buck", or highest expected value. I can only write about the limits I've played, but I'd love to hear other opinions (email me, or click on the comment link below this post).

6. NL $100: Party's best no limit players hang around here, and although the games are still good, the players at the lower NL limits are considerably weaker. If you want to play NL, don't waste your time here, take a step down to $50 (see below).

5. $5-10 Limit, 6 max: Grubby insists these games are Party's most profitable, but the sharks hang out in these waters. Even the minnows can jump up and bite you in this game. The variance is huge, and without a sufficient bankroll, you will not survive. This game requires an iron will, and the unwavering belief that you WILL win, or else you'll succumb to tilt when the fish bad beat you on the river. The best thing about these games is that if you find a table with 3 fish, then you only have to split the winnings with 2 other players, as opposed to 6 others in a full ring game. These games are full of tricky, aggressive play, and are not without psychological warfare. An excellent place to test and develop your poker skills, but if you're looking to make money, spend a lot of time finding a fishy table.

4. $5-10 Limit: Although these tables are usually tighter than a nun's bustier, I've had my highest win rate here. Unfortunately, there are usually at least 10 people on the waiting list for every table, so it takes a while just to get a seat. Although the tightness makes the pots smaller, it's relatively easy to put players on a hand, and bluffs and semi-bluffs have a reasonable chance of success. The $5-10 games feel like "real poker" to me, where psychology and hand reading are crucial, and can win you a few extra pots per hour.

3. $3-6 Limit: Depending on the time of day, there are usually plenty of fishy games with open seats. Tight, aggressive play is rewarded here, and the bets are big enough that it's possible (sometimes) to raise out ridiculous draws, which limits the number of bad beats you take. These are the tables you'll usually find yours truly at... I'm afraid of cheating at the higher limits, and refuse to wait forever for a $5-10 table. A bonus is that a wide variety of players jump in these games, so each table has a different feel to it.

2. $15-30 Limit: From what I've seen, the $15-30 games aren't much different than a tight $3-6 game, with the added bonus that you find plenty of players trying to throw money at you and bluff you out of a pot. If your bankroll is big enough and you aren't afraid of the cheaters (be afraid, be very afraid... with that much money at stake and the ease of hopping on instant messenger, I believe cheating is RAMPANT in these games), you can rake it in at Party's highest limit.

1. NL $50/$25 Ring: The true grinder's game, the lower limit ring games on Party are full of passive pre-flop players, who are happy to go in with top pair. In many games, you will find 7 or 8 people limping in for the minimum bet. In a no-limit game, this is the grinder's dream. Just sit and wait for the nuts or near nuts, push all your chips in, and double up when one or more players calls. The implied odds of multiway pots are through the roof if you can be pretty sure that you can get one caller to the showdown. Just think, you can play 25 hands for $1, and only have to flop a big hand (and get at least 1 caller) once to double up. Not a bad hourly rate. The downside is that this style of play is barely poker-- almost no strategy, and very little risk, but it will get you the money in the long run.

The list doesn't include tournaments... I'm still on the fence about Party tournament EV. There is lots of dead money in both SNGs and Multis, but you start off with so few chips, it's just too much of a crapshoot. I've done pretty well in the 40 or so I've played, but my intuition is that the long term EV of Party tourneys isn't nearly what it is in the ring games. Of course, that's the nature of tournaments... much higher variance, and much greater potential profit.

The Bot Question
There has been a lot of talk about poker bots for a while now, and after getting a master's in Artificial Intelligence, I've been intrigued by these discussions. Iggy addressed this a while back in this post, suggesting that while a bot could play good ABC poker, it would not extract the maximum profit, and would have great difficulty in reading an opponent's hand. To me, the real question is:

If I had a year or two to program a bot, how would the bot's win rate compare to mine in low-limit games?

Well, the simple answer is that the win rate would probably be inferior to mine, but by how much? If it was only 50% worse, then the bot is a profitable endeavor-- clearly a bot can play twice as many hours as me, and is unsusceptible to tilt, fatigue, and hunger. But as you escalate in limits, psychology and hand-reading grow in importance, and the logic for the bot becomes far more complex.

The poker player should aspire to use all of his or her knowledge and skill to extract maximum profit, and this will not happen at the low limits. I've gotta get to the limits where HDouble beats HDouble 1.0, otherwise I might as well spend my time coding.

On to the B&M...
Can't wait to sit down at Hawaiian Gardens casino tomorrow, after a LONG and stressful week of programming. I'm looking forward to meeting Grubby and his sister Grubbette... a $20 buy-in limit tourney, followed by heavy action in the Friday night games. You'll only get the REAL version of what went down here-- Grubby's a playwright, so he believes in that poetic license thing.

Congrats to Pauly for winning his first SNG!

Thanks for reading, and take it one hand at a time...

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