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KillerEV

Several months ago, I made a post on Facebook saying that whenever someone told me a bad beat story, I'd send them a link to

.

(I've watched a bunch of old episodes of Columbo over the past few days. That, combined with my old school rap reference here, really makes me feel like I was born a few years too late - lol)

My main uses for Facebook and Twitter seem to be (in no particular order):

1.) Self-promotion

2.) Engaging in debates

3.) Posting an occasional (or more than occasional) jackassy comment

4.) Referencing something I like (article, video game, music, movie, whatever) so that others who stumble upon my comment may discover something awesome

Regarding #4, I think I might repeat some recommendations from time to time. Hopefully, it's a sign of me really enjoying something when I enjoy it rather than a sign of early Alzheimer's. Regarding #3, my Kurtis Blow jackassy comment deserves to be elevated to a full blog post. Here it is:

Not much remains to be said about bad beats in poker. Investing emotional capital in results outside one's control is illogical. 'Nuff said - I'm not going to waste hundreds of words flogging that dead horse. However, as one who likes to theorize and generalize, I think it's important to understand bad beat psychology (and the converse, which I creatively call reverse bad beat psychology).

- Bad beat psychology = responding to bad outcomes

- Reverse bad beat psychology = responding to good outcomes

Fundamentally, bad beat and good beat psychology focus on outcomes (something we can't always control - even when we think we're in control) rather than process (something we can always control - at least, hopefully, to some extent). Overcoming bad beat psychology and reverse bad beat psychology is an important part of personal maturation. Furthermore, understanding bad beat psychology and reverse bad beat psychology can help you interact more effectively with others (since effective communication entails knowing what level your target audience is operating on).

One view of life is that we're in a constant struggle against entropy. Somehow, we've been wired to devote energy towards preserving structure and order. No doubt, some of us are better at this than others. But regardless of how skilled you are at circumventing entropy, you're always going to be a slave to events outside your control.

Maybe I should have used a less negative word than "slave." Events outside our control aren't inherently good or bad - they can be either. Unfortunately, the bad events outside our control can be anywhere from annoying (e.g. losing a $1,000 pot when you're a 70% favorite when the money goes in the middle) to extinction-level (e.g. giant meteor strikes Earth).

The most primitive instances of bad beat and reverse bad beat psychology stem from prioritizing outcomes over process. In all aspects of life, we (hopefully) engage in processes that seek to achieve positive outcomes. As a result, it's tempting to use outcomes as a proxy for measuring the effectiveness of processes. Unfortunately, statistics to determine causal relationships between processes and outcomes can be difficult or impossible to obtain. In the short-term, the best process can result in good or bad outcomes. In the short-term, the worst process can also result in good or bad outcomes.

When we can't obtain reasonable sample sizes, we can't care about outcomes (even though we're always trying to maximize our chances of achieving them). However, this statement can be taken too far. For example, getting the wrong answer to a math problem IS NOT OKAY as long as you used the correct general process. That kind of bullshit is just one example of why education in the US currently sucks. To make sure that I don't contribute to the United States' decent into the abyss of mediocrity, I'm going to change the wording of this paragraph's opening sentence: because causal relationships between processes and outcomes are difficult to establish, we have to be really cautious when it comes to attaching importance to outcomes.

Having decoupled processes from outcomes, we now can link bad beat and reverse bad beat psychology to an essential part of our existences. If you've achieved the poker zen that I allude to in my Killer Poker Analysis segment on thinking in terms of strategy vs. strategy, you should have a healthy view regarding process vs. outcomes when you play poker. However, does this healthy view permeate into all other aspects of your life?

Fundamentally, winning at life is about managing one's risk when it comes to events outside one's control. Because we all have different preferences, we all manage our risks differently when it comes to:

- Choosing which events outside our control we potentially expose ourselves to

- Having contingency plans in place for when things outside our control happen

If you were an online poker player in the US when Black Friday happened, what percentage of your income was derived from online poker playing? Did you have any other skills in the event of government intervention or tougher game conditions? If you're deciding to move abroad to continue playing for most/all your income, do you have any other skills in the event that games become less beatable over time?

(As an aside, note that I think moving abroad is a smart move for some - but not all - who were deriving even large chunks of income from online poker in the US prior to Black Friday. Basically, the decision is a function of your options, your life circumstances, and personal preferences. For me, moving abroad made no sense. I love thinking about poker and I like playing poker, but I don't have the drive to grind long hours. I prefer online poker to live poker, but live poker does have the benefit of getting me away from my computer. Meanwhile, I love Vegas and live in a home that's completely paid for - monthly HOA dues excepted, but they don't kill you on those in Vegas like they do in So Cal. I have virtually no living expenses. And given skills that I've honed over the years, I was able to luckbox my way into finding a well-paying position with a company that allows me to do enjoyable work, interact with awesome people, and further hone my analytic and programming skills.)

Meanwhile, forgetting about online poker playing specifically, keep in mind that nothing in life is guaranteed. All we do is surf probability waves. Governments that are supposedly for the people turn into governments that act at the behest of special interest. Businesses that are now booming can disappear overnight. Regardless of how you make most of your money right now, do you devote any time to expanding your knowledge and skills? Success in a dynamically changing world requires an ability and willingness to prepare and adapt. At the most fundamental and important level, survival requires the same ability and willingness to prepare and adapt.

Bad breaks happen. However, most are surmountable. Regardless of where you currently are in life, do yourself a favor. Vigilantly prepare when it comes to preparing for events that are outside your control. Read textbooks. Learn new skills. Be a student forever - both in and out of your area(s) of present expertise (you want to be a "Jack of all trades and a master of some," not a "Jack of all trades and master of none"). Sure, doing all this doesn't guarantee anything in the face of adversity. But doing the best that we can is better than doing nothing at all and bemoaning the random misfortunes that come our way.

For inspiration, here's a current short-list of stuff on my to-do list. I guess it helps that I simply enjoy learning. But even when life is as close to perfect as possible, you still have to be prepared:

- Finish work on my fourth book, Tournament Endgame Strategy (with Matthew Hilger)

- Read some of the latest poker literature (like The Raiser's Edge, which has at least some content related to what's being covered in Tournament Endgame Strategy)

- Start becoming fluent in Mandarin (I got some great books last time I was in Taipei)

- Further improve my ability to program in C

- Learn C++ and C#

- Go coast-to-coast through all 4 volumes of Knuth's The Art of Computer Programming

- Begin picking through math textbooks - my bookshelves are filled with books (some that need reviewing; some that need initial reads)

May Your EV Always be Positive!

Tony Guerrera

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Tony Guerrera is an instructor at PocketFives Training. For more about Tony, visit his website, KillerEV.com.

KillerEV

I alluded to this hand on a recent edition of Killer Poker Analysis. It's been awhile since I played this hand, so I'm hoping I get all the details correct. In the worst-case scenario, my memory of the hand is incorrect, but I still discuss an interesting line of play. This is a prime example of taking a medium pocket pair and turning it into a bluff when it appears to have little-to-no showdown value.

Blinds were T50-T100 without an ante. I had about T5,000-T5,500 at the start of the hand, and I was playing purely with respect to cEV. I had been relatively active at the table, but after about 2.5-3 hours of play, I had only been involved in one hand that went to showdown. I was CO with 88, and I opened to T225. B and BB called, making the pot T700 going to the flop. The flop was J52 rainbow. BB checked. Though a T375 bet would have been okay, I also checked. B bet about T400. BB folded, and I called. At this point, I put B on something like {KJ+, QJs, JTs, TT-22, Positional Bluff}.

The pot was about T1500 going to the turn. The turn was a Q which was the same suit as the 2 on the flop. I led around T800. B looked a bit puzzled and hesitated a bit before calling. During his hesitation, there was no indication that he was thinking of raising (i.e. I had no real indication of whether he's very strong). At this point, I thought my opponent's range was constrained to something like {KQ+, KJ+, QJs, 55, 22}. Therefore, my opponent's range, broken down with respect to hand combinations, looked something like:

AQ: 12 combos

KQ: 12 combos

AJ: 12 combos

KJ: 12 combos

QJs: 2 combos

55: 1 combo

22: 3 combos

Total: 54 combos

The pot was about T3,100 going to the river, which was a 5. The 5 was the same suit as the Q and 2 - making a backdoor flush possible. With my 88 not beating any part of my opponent's range, I had to decide between bluffing and giving up. Some players feel compulsed to bluff in these situations - justifying their compulsion by saying something like "betting is the only way I can win." However, if the only way to win the pot is a -cEV play, you're better off simply giving up. When deciding between bluffing and giving up, you need to account for your opponent's range, the range of hands you represent, and make a decision accordingly.

In this case, I thought that a river bet of about T1,800-T2,200 could get AJ and KJ to fold. A bet of T2,200 only needs to succeed T2,200/(T2,200 + T3,100) = 41.5% of the time to be profitable in the long run. AJ and KJ represent 24/54 = 44.4% of B's range. Combine that with the small probability of my opponent folding other hands in his range due to me possibly representing {75s, 65s, 54s, JJ+, 55, 22}, and a T2,200 lead looks to be profitable here in the long run as long as the bluffing part of my range isn't too wide - something like {88-66}. Of course, exploitatively speaking, my bluffing range can be wider than 88-66 if my opponent doesn't think I'm capable of launching such a bluff here.

If we suppose that QJo is also in my opponent's range here, the math changes a little bit. If we, again, assume that only AJ and KJ will fold, leading will now only work 24/61 = 39.3% of the time. Given the entire range I'm leading here, and given my uncertainty as to whether QJo is in my opponent's range, a T2,200 lead is still probably +cEV. Whether a T2,200 lead is the most +cEV bet given my leading range is another question entirely. And of course, we should also question my intended leading range to begin with!

If I was currently in Vegas, I'd crank out some CardrunnersEV analysis to figure out what the best bet is given a leading range of {75s, 65s, 54s, JJ+, 55, 22, 88-66}. And I'd also have some fun tinkering around with various leading ranges (and bet sizes given those leading ranges). But since I'm currently in Taipei enjoying some quality time with my wife (who is currently napping), I think I'll cut the analysis short and simply state my belief that small-medium pocket pairs can make for interesting hands to turn into bluffs when you believe they have little-to-no showdown value.

(For those interested in the result of this hand, I led T2,200, and my opponent tanked for 1-2 minutes. He counted his stack - which was maybe about T3,500-T4,000 - and he eventually called with QJo. Given his mannerisms, I think he was waffling between calling and folding. However, there's a chance that we was waffling between calling and shoving. Of course, the result of this hand doesn't make me any less gun shy in these situations. After all, if you're not willing to strap on your seat belt and embrace calculated risks, you're pretty much dead money in tournaments with top-heavy payout structures.)

May Your EV Always be Positive!

Tony Guerrera

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Tony Guerrera is an instructor at PocketFives Training. For more about Tony, visit KillerEV.com.

KillerEV

This past Saturday, my original intention was to play STT satellites at WSOP all day. Upon arriving at the Rio, I discovered that STT satellites wouldn't be starting until 5:00PM. And given the general chaos and disorder that I associate with WSOP, I assumed that STTs wouldn't start until much later. As a result, I drove over to the Venetian, played cash for a few hours, and joined Team Moshman members for dinner and action against the heads-up limit bot situated just outside the Venetian poker room. Afterwards, I somehow had bad luck finding a soft game, but a bunch of Team Moshman members wanted to head back to the Rio - so I joined them.

Upon arriving at the Rio, it turned out that Hellmuth and Juanda were playing heads-up for a no-limit 2-7 Triple Draw bracelet. There was open seating in the final table viewing area, so we sat and watched. At one point, I commented on Hellmuth's opening raise size from the button in comparison to Juanda's (at 20k-40k blinds, Juanda was opening to 90k whereas Hellmuth as opening to 100K and eventually 105K). Collin Moshman let out a semi-big laugh (he quickly stifled it, but I'm hoping it finds its way on the ESPN broadcast).

Though the heads-up action was interesting, I wasn't exactly making any money by watching it. I decided to head over to the single table satellite area. A $1030 was about to go off, but that was a bit too expensive for my taste. A $175 was also getting started. Since that was more within my budget, I opted to enter.

Eventually, I got down to 4-handed action - when the big hand of interest from this tournament occurred. I had about T3800 on the button. CO had about T1200, and I thought that the blinds each had around T2500 (12.5bb). Blinds were T100-T200 without an ante. This satellite was winner-take-all, with the winner receiving $1500 in lammars and $120 in cash. However, most of these tournaments end up chopping heads-up - and I think it can be presumed that most players know this. As a result, a shift away from cEV poker is potentially appropriate.

Even though deals should theoretically be chip-proportional, it seems that plenty of players will take bad deals in the name of risk aversion. The degree to which one should shift away from cEV poker is really tough to determine as a result of this dynamic. However, shoving a little wider than cEV ranges and calling a little tighter than cEV ranges is probably appropriate - especially because this would be a great exploitative adjustment when playing pure cEV against most players in these satellites. Most players in these satellites call shoves way too tightly and shove a bit too tightly. Not only that, but you'll occasionally see some grossly bad shortstacked play - like players open-limping 2.5bb stacks from early position and folding to a raise.

In the hand in question, I had K9o. CO folded, and it was my action. I opted to shove what I thought was 12.5bb effective (if playing equilibrium cEV, KTo is the worst offsuit king one should shove here). SB instacalls with AKo, and it turns out that SB actually had something around T2800 (14bb). Shoving 12.5bb effective is already debatable. Generally, I'd be better off opening my jamming range to 2.25bb with the intention of calling a shove with some subset. One exception to this exists - an exception that I believed to apply here: if the blinds will call shoves extremely tightly but 3-bet shove with a range that's approximately correct in the raise -> 3-bet shove pseudo equilibrium, then shoving is possibly better than raising to 2.25x even though the raise -> 3-bet pseudo equilibrium performs better than the jam/fold equilibrium. However, when the blinds are 14bb and 10.5bb effective instead of 12.5bb and 12.5bb, I think the strategy involving opening to 2.25bb performs slightly better.

While not a big mistake, this was a mistake nonetheless - not because I happened to run into AKo, but because I didn't choose the best strategy profile. And besides being yet another fun opportunity to discuss shortstacked NLHE, this is a good opportunity to discuss an issue that comes up in live tournament play (and even in live cash game play). If you're not absolutely clear about what your opponents' stacks are, it's okay to ask them - even if it comes off as being annoying. If possible, get your information before the next hand starts - that way, you don't give your opponents the opportunity to infer anything about your hand. But whatever you do, just make sure that you're making your decisions based on the best information possible.

May Your EV Always be Positive!

Tony Guerrera

P.S. At some point during the tournament, I got a text from Collin stating that Hellmuth had increased his opening raise size from the button to 110K. But that has little to do with what I really want to talk about here (even though, as an interesting sidebar, Juanda successfully overcame Phil's initial 3:1 chip lead to win the bracelet)

P.P.S. I'm playing in Event #32: $1500 No-Limit Hold'em, which begins on Saturday. I'm starting out at White Pavillion Table 94 Seat 3. It's on one of the corners of the tournament rail - near the high stakes cash games. I won't be in much of a mood to talk, but feel free to come by, rail, and give me a nutty KillerEV shout out. Better yet, go around the Rio asking everyone you see, "are you Tony Guerrera?"

KillerEV

When action is jam/fold preflop in no-limit hold'em, I'm very cautious about playing exploitatively. With my knowledge of non-exploitable jam/fold play, it's just very difficult for me to justify playing guessing games regarding opponents' preflop ranges. However, I recently played a hand in a live cash game where I called an all-in a tad lighter than the equilibrium calling range. Normally, when talking about preflop jam/fold play, we think about tournaments; however, having a solid handle on preflop jam/fold play is important in cash games as well - since you can be in a game featuring one or more short stacks:

Action is 9-handed at a live $1-$3 no-limit hold'em cash game. I'm SB and about $200 effective against BB. UTG+1 declares he's going all-in blind. Dealer doesn't allow him to put his chips in (since he'd be acting out of turn). UTG folds. UTG+1 looks at this cards and then shoves all-in to $40. Action folds to me, and I have AJs. According to HoldemResources.net, UTG+1 should shove {TT+, ATs+, AQo+, KJs+} and SB should call with {99+, AKs, AKo} if everybody started with $40. Given that everybody behind UTG+1 is considerably deeper, UTG+1 can actually shove a little bit wider if playing non-exploitably - since the other deep stacks have to be aware of each other. Since there's only one player remaining to act behind me, my playing range expands to {99+, AQs+, AKo} if I'm playing jam/fold.

AJs is outside {99+, AQs+, AKo}; however, I'm quite positive that UTG+1 is shoving quite a bit wider than equilibrium. Furthermore, AJs is part of a non-exploitable shoving range if action folds to me - meaning that shoving to isolate is reasonable. Instead of shoving, I chose to flat, because I felt that BB's playing range would be the same regardless of whether I called or flatted. (Note that this means I'd also flat AA and KK here).

BB mucked after I flatted, UTG+1 showed KJo, and I held. Good times. There's no way of knowing precisely what UTG+1's actual shoving range was. However, I think I had very good reason to deviate from non-exploitable jam/fold. When it comes to exploiting players who shove too wide preflop, there's one extremely important point to keep in mind:

If you have a hand that you can't open shove with yourself, then you generally shouldn't be calling all-ins from someone who's shoving too wide.

I use the word "generally" because there's one exception to this rule: you can get chips in with hands outside the non-exploitable shoving range had action folded to you if you know the shover's range for sure (like any two cards if he shoved blind), and you know that the chips you lose to your opponents are compensated for by the chips you gain from the shover. Unfortunately, it's difficult to do these types of calculations at the table (and even away from the table), and unless an opponent goes all-in blind, it's difficult to know precisely what your opponent's range is. Therefore, I think it's good practice to use the non-exploitable shoving ranges as a guide for the widest possible range with which I should commit chips to the pot. And the exploitative calling range ends up being something between the equlibrium calling range (given shover's position and my position) and the non-exploitable shoving range (given stacks and assuming that action had folded to me).

I should probably make one important concluding remark here regarding angle shooting in live cash games. Sometimes, you'll encounter players who'll declare an intention to shove all-in blind - but in reality, they intend on looking at their cards and shoving only with top hands. Know who you're dealing with!

May Your EV Always be Positive!

Tony Guerrera

P.S. My cEV jam/fold cheat sheets are currently available exclusively to subscribers at PocketFives Training.

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Tony Guerrera is an established poker author and an instructor at PocketFives Training. More about Tony can be found at KillerEV.com.

KillerEV

When playing poker, your goal shouldn't be merely to profit. Instead, your goal should be to maximize your profits. Suppose you're not yet in the money in a tournament with a top-heavy payout structure (meaning that you're making your decisions purely with respect to cEV). Your table is 9-handed, blinds are at T100-T200 with a T25 ante, everybody has T3000, and you're on the button. The complete non-exploitable jam/fold strategy for this situation can be found here.

If you and your opponents play non-exploitable jam/fold, then in the long-run, you expect to profit about T45.36 every time it's your button. T45.36 doesn't sound like a lot when blinds are T100-T200 with a T25 ante. However, in terms of PTBB/100, T45.36 per button is 11.34 PTBB/100. 11.34 PTBB/100 is a pretty good number considering that elite deep-stacked cash game players probably have a button PTBB/100 somewhere around 20. And if your opponents are playing imperfect jam/fold preflop, then your button will be worth more than 11.34 PTBB/100.

At the very minimum, you should be making 11.34 PTBB/100 on the button when antes are in play, effective stacks are 15bb, and your opponents are playing jam/fold preflop. But simply settling for 11.34 PTBB/100 on your button here means that you're not seeking to maximize your profits. Given that a known strategy exists that will net you 11.34 PTBB/100 when your opponents are playing non-exploitable jam/fold, you don't want to play a strategy from the button that will net you less than 11.34 PTBB/100 when stacks are 15bb. But if a strategy existed that could make your button worth more than 11.34 PTBB/100, then you'd be a fool not to adopt it.

Such a strategy potentially exists, and it's going to be the topic of an upcoming video of mine at PocketFives Training. It's also going to be covered in my upcoming book, Tournament Endgame Strategy. And while some of you are probably salivating right now, the point of this blog post isn't to talk about optimal short-stacking in no-limit hold'em. The point of this blog post is to emphasize that simply taking +cEV lines isn't sufficient (regardless of playing short-stacked NLHE, deep-stacked NLHE, or whatever other form of poker you like to play). Continually challenge yourself to find better lines - even if you're the best player in the game you currently play. Because if you don't, then a day will come where you're no longer the best player in the game you currently play.

May Your EV Always be Positive!

Tony Guerrera

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Tony Guerrera is an established poker author and an instructor at PocketFives Training. More about Tony can be found at KillerEV.com.

KillerEV

Later today, the "greatest two minutes in sports" will be taking place: the Kentucky Derby. If Black Friday left many of us online poker players feeling disenfranchised, then today should leave us feeling outraged. UIGEA, the piece of legislation that allowed Black Friday to happen, leaves the status of online poker ambiguous (Bill Rini wrote an excellent blog post on this). Yet, UIGEA leaves clear exemptions for horse racing and fantasy sports. One of the consequences of this is that horse racing fans can bet on today's big race at TwinSpires.com without any worries. Meanwhile, online poker players are stuck on Merge, Cake, and Bodog - not knowing whether those sites will eventually suffer the same fate as PokerStars, Full Tilt, and UB/AP.

I've been ranting a lot recently about how our (US) legislators don't have our best interests in mind. When legislators act as puppets for lobbyists with big pockets, the free market dies, and a small handful of powerful people grow more powerful - forcing everybody else to work harder for the increasingly fleeting American Dream. Don't misinterpret this for being a spoiled rant. I acknowledge that US citizens enjoy many privileges that people from some other countries don't. However, doing things "better than some" isn't the same as "doing things as perfectly as possible." And though the few with deep pockets would love to keep us brainwashed, the bottom line is that if US Congressmen continue to be puppets for special interest groups, it'll become increasingly difficult to realize our right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." (note that I use Congressmen to refer to Senators and Representatives since both are members of Congress)

In UIGEA, Senators Leach and Kyl specifically included exemptions for gambling activities that most people don't equate to gambling - things like trading stocks, trading commodities, derivatives, and purchasing insurance. By the mere inclusion of these exceptions, Senators Leach and Kyl demonstrate that they have a much more educated view of gambling than most would given them credit for. Respecting one's enemies is important, and I respect Senators Leach and Kyl for recognizing those types of things as gambling.

By recognizing things like trading, investing, and insurance as forms of gambling, by providing special provisions for activities like horse racing and fantasy sports, and by declaring all other forms of gambling to be illegal or (at best) ambiguously legal, Senators Leach and Kyl crafted legislation to manipulate the gambling market - under the guise of protecting the supposed moral fabric or our country and protecting citizens from a force as strong as crack cocaine. Senators Leach and Kyl crafted legislation that favors some companies while leaving others without a way to enter the supposed free market that the US stands for.

For me, the Kentucky Derby is a day to reflect on how broken the legislative branch of US government has become. Members of US Congress are puppets for hire and have become too powerful in their ability to help special interest groups and to push personal moral agendas. Please join me in figuring out how to restore proper checks and balances to US government.

May Your EV Always Be Positive!

Tony Guerrera

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Tony Guerrera is an established poker author and an instructor at PocketFives Training. More about Tony can be found at KillerEV.com.

KillerEV

(This is a continuation of my prior blog post. My apologies again for the awkward breaking point.)

When it comes to moral considerations, religious groups, and special interest groups, we have to acknowledge that different people have different beliefs. And abiding by one’s beliefs is a fundamental right that we should all be entitled to- so long as those beliefs don’t involve harming others. In order to function as a society, it’s important to embrace differences instead of trying to pass laws that attempt to force everybody to act the same. Even if a majority votes a certain way on an issue, the majority should never be able to infringe on the rights of a minority (in other words, majority votes are not okay for issues involving morals, religion, or the wants of special interest groups). Proposition 8 in California, which sought to make gay marriage illegal via public election, is a great example in recent times of attempts to restrict the rights of a group by majority rule. Though Proposition 8 was passed in the election, US District Judge Vaughn Walker later reversed the election’s results, citing that:

Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same sex couples.

Basically, Judge Walker’s ruling supports to notion that the will of the majority can’t be used as grounds to restrict the personal freedoms of a minority group. Fourth degree laws stemming from moral considerations, religious groups, and special interest groups all unnecessarily restrict personal freedoms. Those passionate about their causes would assert that fourth degree laws serve to enhance things like living standards, comfort, and safety. However, fourth degree laws ultimately take power from the hands of individuals and give that power to the government. And given the potential for corruption within government, extending government’s reach beyond where it’s absolutely necessary is extremely dangerous.

One rationale that’s often cited in the passage of fourth degree laws is that the enforcement of fourth degree laws can protect people from being victims of first degree crimes. For example, a modern advocate of alcohol prohibition may say that banning alcohol consumption could reduce the number of drunk driving incidents that occur. Even though an enforceable first degree law against drunk driving already exists, a modern advocate of alcohol prohibition would state that not everybody is responsible for making good choices on the matter – making an outright prohibition necessary. The problem with fourth degree laws is there’s no logical distinction between which fourth degree laws are an acceptable restriction on personal freedoms and which ones aren’t. Education should always be the viable alternative to a fourth degree law. Education equips people to make decisions that are better for themselves and for society – without restricting personal freedoms.

Taking this discussion back to online poker, gambling in the United States has a long and complicated history – stemming all the way back to when Europeans first began arriving in the New World. Some groups arriving viewed gambling as a harmless diversion. Other groups (mainly the Puritans) viewed gambling as a dangerous vice and expressly prohibited it. Over the past few hundred years, lotteries have oscillated back and forth between being illegal and being viable ways of generating revenue. Westward expansion in the 1800s ushered in an era of adventure and gambling – which featured its fair share of professional gamblers. And unlike professional poker players of today, a good chunk of professional gamblers form the 1800s were cheaters (who were known as “sharps”). Meanwhile, organized crime had a large part in gambling operations in the 20th century.

Not all gambling was rooted in dishonest activity. However, dishonest dealings in gambling have created a rift between advocates of personal freedom and advocates of consumer protectionism. The Wire Act of 1961 – which prohibited interstate transmission of sports betting information via electronic communications – was passed mainly to provide legislative means to attack members of organized crime since organized crime elements were heavily involved in bookmaking. The problem with the Wire Act is that it makes interstate bookmaking illegal for everybody. It’s logically equivalent to making a law against selling food since participants in organized crime need to eat. The Wire Act of 1961 was an indirect means of trying to achieve a direct end. And as it turns out, the RICO Act of 1970 ended up being a much more effective legislative weapon against organized crime. Instead of having a climate where gamblers can choose to do business with legitimate licensed operators (including those overseas – since we can’t be participants in a worldwide economy if we don’t respect participants from other countries), we have a climate where personal freedoms are unnecessarily constrained by fourth degree laws (such as UIGEA) that prevent legitimate operators from being able to provide a service that people want.

Lotteries and online wagering on horse racing is fine. Trading stocks online is fine. But playing poker and other casino games online isn’t fine? The problem with the fourth degree laws against internet gambling and the formation of gambling businesses is that no rational argument can be formed to distinguish between acceptable forms of gambling and unacceptable forms of gambling. If the US is truly to be the “land of the free,” we need to clear all fourth degree laws from the books – not just those having to do with gambling. When it comes to online poker and gambling in general, this means that:

1.) People should have the freedom to do business with online gambling (poker, casino games, sports betting, etc.) sites that are licensed in the US or overseas

2.) People should have the right to run licensed online gambling operations in the US

If we’re to be a free market economy – not just on the national level but also on the global level – it’s imperative that we don’t allow corporate protectionists or advocates of big government-run monopolies/oligopolies to dictate legislation. The fact that legislation can be passed based on a desire to protect profits and restrict competition within an industry is an abomination of the notion of free enterprise that the US supposedly stands for. If markets aren’t allowed to be naturally competitive, then innovation is stifled and quality of goods and services ultimately suffer. When Haig Papapian (CEO of Commerce Casino) says,”we also have an issue with offshore companies coming in and taking over the industry,” he’s basically asserting that he’s against the type of competition that’s ultimately good for consumers and the overall health of the economy. Economies don’t exist to make large corporations money. Economies don’t exist to serve as a means of income generation for governments. Economies exist to continually improve the quality of goods and services that are passed on from firms to consumers. Fourth degree laws that protect large corporations and government-run monopolies/oligopolies only serve to limit options.

Protectionist legislation not only makes it more difficult for entrepreneurs in the US, but also damages our standing in the world. We can’t expect other countries to obey our whim simply because we’re the US. The world has steadily been losing respect for the US, and if we refuse to play fair, we’re in big trouble when other countries decide that there’s no longer a reason to do business with us. We’re a nation of consumers that doesn’t produce nearly enough to be self-sufficient. Playing fair means allowing US citizens to do business with foreign websites. Playing fair also means respecting rulings from the World Trade Organization (WTO). The way that the US has responded to the WTO ruling in favor of Antigua is downright embarrassing. And suppose just for a moment that the US was self-sufficient. Even a self-sufficient US should play fairly on the world stage. Positive relationships with other countries can only serve to advance human civilization at a faster rate than it could otherwise.

Bank fraud and money laundering are serious offenses that I would classify as necessary first degree laws. If people involved with PokerStars, Full Tilt, or UB/AP are found to be guilty of such activity, it’s quite unfortunate. Even with the best of intentions, partaking in those activities can’t be tolerated. If people involved with PokerStars, Full Tilt, or UB/AP are found to be guilty of violating UIGEA or operating an illegal gambling business, it’s also unfortunate. However unjust a currently existing law is, a law is a law. PokerStars, Full Tilt, and UB/AP have been providing online poker players with great service for many years, and I wish those indicted the best in defending themselves against the charges brought forth. Online poker players and those concerned with the bigger picture of personal freedoms need to concern themselves with fighting to get UIGEA and all other fourth degree laws off the books.

May Your EV Always be Positive!

Tony Guerrera

-----

Tony Guerrera is an established poker author and an instructor at PocketFives Training. More about Tony can be found at KillerEV.com.

KillerEV

I intend for what follows to be treated as a living document. I highly encourage active participation in the comments, and I intend on make periodic revisions to this. Who knows, maybe this blog post will evolve into being my platform if I ever decide to run for public office ;)

The domains of the three top US-facing online poker sites were seized by the F.B.I. on 4/15/2011 (which is now being referred to as Black Friday), and the following charges are being filed against various parties associated with PokerStars, Full Tilt, and UB/AP:

1.) Violation of UIGEA

2.) Operation of Illegal Gambling Business

3.) Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud and Wire Fraud

4.) Money Laundering Conspiracy

Many online poker players are quite emotional over everything that's happened. Facebook pages and Twitter feeds are filled with rants. Some rants are decently thought out. Other rants are on the order of "FU FBI." In today's internet culture, it's really easy to say the first thing that comes to mind. However, negative one-liners aren't going to bring about change. Times like this require coherent and logical thought.

The Department of Justice (DoJ) has a vital function: to enforce existing laws. Without law enforcement, laws are meaningless. I'm not going to take a legal position on the issue. However, if the DoJ believes that they have legitimate cases against PokerStars, Full Tilt, and UB/AP for violating existing laws, then the DoJ is simply doing its job. If we don't like certain laws, then our complaints should be directed towards those who create the laws in the first place: our legislators (i.e. the House of Representatives and the Senate). And with respect to our legislators, the real issue at hand isn't simply the status of online poker in the US. Instead, the real issue at hand is how legislators are no longer representing the best interests of the people. Black Friday should be a rallying call not only for those passionate about online poker, but also for those who are simply frustrated by government that's broken at all levels (federal, state, and local).

At the very least, the situation with online poker in the United States exemplifies how:

1.) Personal freedoms are stifled with no logical justification

2.) Government acts as a for-profit business by concerning itself with revenue generation

Personal freedom is the ability is do whatever one wants. It's the ability to make choices - choices that may carry good or bad consequences. With complete personal freedom comes immense responsibility. For example, if I were to have complete personal freedom, I couldn't simply play video games 24 hours per day. I'd still have to make enough money to provide for my wife and myself (or alternatively, move to a place where I could live off the land and be completely self-sufficient - and even then, I still wouldn't be able to play video games 24 hours per day). I'd also have to be proactive in eschewing things that are bad for me. For example, if the distribution of heroin was legal, it still wouldn't be a good idea to inject it into my body. Big Macs and Red Bulls are legal, but since I choose to take care of myself, I opt not to put that junk into my body.

Living with complete personal freedom requires discipline and sound decision-making. Not everybody can be relied upon to always exercise discipline and sound decision-making, so laws become necessary - because sometimes, the decision-making of some can adversely affect the life quality of others. The types of laws that are immediately obvious when it comes to protecting people from others are laws against things like murder, robbery, rape, and fraud. Laws having to do with issues like property rights also come to mind. Though I'm probably best classified as an extreme libertarian, I acknowledge that laws like these are necessary. Of course, the introduction of any laws implies a restriction on personal freedoms. Therefore, the question at hand is to what degree is it okay for government to restrict personal freedoms.

Let's use the term "first degree law" to refer to a law that

1.) Prohibits an individual, a group of individuals, or a business from partaking in an activity that adversely affects another person - without consent from the one who is possibly being affected adversely

2.) Protects protects property rights

3.) Prohibits government corruption

The enforcement of first degree laws serves to protect the masses from the few who have malevolent intentions.

Let's use the term "second degree law" to refer to a law that ensures safety in a public setting. An example of a second degree law would be requiring everybody flying on commercial flights to submit to full body x-rays. Though such laws can violate personal privacy, doing things in a public setting implies a certain forfeiture of the right to complete personal privacy. In a world where technology can be used for creation or for destruction, second degree laws become necessary for the same reason that first degree laws are necessary: to protect the masses from the few who have malevolent intentions.

Let's use the term "third degree law" to refer to a law that requires licensing for a certain type of business to be legally conducted. Though licensing requirements place a restriction on personal freedoms, there's probably a need for a system that guarantees that various service providers (doctors, lawyers, casinos) are providing competent and fair services. And while there exists the possibility for government corruption, the possibility of corruption is (unfortunately) always going to exist in any system. The best we can hope for is that first degree laws against government corruption are enforceable as a result of people willing to stand up for the greater good.

One very important note about third degree laws is that government licensing should not be viewed as a vehicle for revenue generation. In fact, it's debatable whether licensing fees should exist at all. Can we really count on government to restrict licensing fees to an amount that only covers the cost of granting a license? Whenever the topic of legalized online poker in the US comes up, it's almost tied in with how much tax revenue it can generate. Shutting out foreign businesses in an industry because of the potential for US-based businesses in that industry to generate substantial taxes is a perversion of what government should be. A government doesn't serve the people by sucking money out of the economy (national and worldwide) and distributing some of that money back to the people. A government serves the people by providing a minimalist set of services and allowing people to live the lives they want to lead.

Let's use the term "fourth degree law" to refer to any other type of law. I assert that all fourth degree laws are superfluous. Examples of fourth degree laws include alcohol prohibition, personal safely laws (like motorcycle helmet laws), and gambling laws. I'm open to exceptions existing to what I'm about to propose, but I assert that fourth degree laws primarily stem from:

1.) Moral considerations

2.) Religious groups

3.) Special interest groups

4.) The desire to prevent first degree laws from being committed

5.) Large corporations trying to protect their business interests

(I know that this is an awkward ending point, but my thoughts on this matter exceed the character limit for blog posts at PocketFives. I'll post the second part in a bit.)

May Your EV Always be Positive!

Tony Guerrera

-----

Tony Guerrera is an established poker author and an instructor at PocketFives Training. More about Tony can be found at KillerEV.com.

KillerEV

I intend for what follows to be treated as a living document. I highly encourage active participation in the comments, and I intend on make periodic revisions to this. Who knows, maybe this blog post will evolve into being my platform if I ever decide to run for public office ;)

The domains of the three top US-facing online poker sites were seized by the F.B.I. on 4/15/2011 (which is now being referred to as Black Friday), and the following charges are being filed against various parties associated with PokerStars, Full Tilt, and UB/AP:

1.) Violation of UIGEA

2.) Operation of Illegal Gambling Business

3.) Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud and Wire Fraud

4.) Money Laundering Conspiracy

Many online poker players are quite emotional over everything that's happened. Facebook pages and Twitter feeds are filled with rants. Some rants are decently thought out. Other rants are on the order of "FU FBI." In today's internet culture, it's really easy to say the first thing that comes to mind. However, negative one-liners aren't going to bring about change. Times like this require coherent and logical thought.

The Department of Justice (DoJ) has a vital function: to enforce existing laws. Without law enforcement, laws are meaningless. I'm not going to take a legal position on the issue. However, if the DoJ believes that they have legitimate cases against PokerStars, Full Tilt, and UB/AP for violating existing laws, then the DoJ is simply doing its job. If we don't like certain laws, then our complaints should be directed towards those who create the laws in the first place: our legislators (i.e. the House of Representatives and the Senate). And with respect to our legislators, the real issue at hand isn't simply the status of online poker in the US. Instead, the real issue at hand is how legislators are no longer representing the best interests of the people. Black Friday should be a rallying call not only for those passionate about online poker, but also for those who are simply frustrated by government that's broken at all levels (federal, state, and local).

At the very least, the situation with online poker in the United States exemplifies how:

1.) Personal freedoms are stifled with no logical justification

2.) Government acts as a for-profit business by concerning itself with revenue generation

Personal freedom is the ability is do whatever one wants. It's the ability to make choices - choices that may carry good or bad consequences. With complete personal freedom comes immense responsibility. For example, if I were to have complete personal freedom, I couldn't simply play video games 24 hours per day. I'd still have to make enough money to provide for my wife and myself (or alternatively, move to a place where I could live off the land and be completely self-sufficient - and even then, I still wouldn't be able to play video games 24 hours per day). I'd also have to be proactive in eschewing things that are bad for me. For example, if the distribution of heroin was legal, it still wouldn't be a good idea to inject it into my body. Big Macs and Red Bulls are legal, but since I choose to take care of myself, I opt not to put that junk into my body.

Living with complete personal freedom requires discipline and sound decision-making. Not everybody can be relied upon to always exercise discipline and sound decision-making, so laws become necessary - because sometimes, the decision-making of some can adversely affect the life quality of others. The types of laws that are immediately obvious when it comes to protecting people from others are laws against things like murder, robbery, rape, and fraud. Laws having to do with issues like property rights also come to mind. Though I'm probably best classified as an extreme libertarian, I acknowledge that laws like these are necessary. Of course, the introduction of any laws implies a restriction on personal freedoms. Therefore, the question at hand is to what degree is it okay for government to restrict personal freedoms.

Let's use the term "first degree law" to refer to a law that

1.) Prohibits an individual, a group of individuals, or a business from partaking in an activity that adversely affects another person - without consent from the one who is possibly being affected adversely

2.) Protects protects property rights

3.) Prohibits government corruption

The enforcement of first degree laws serves to protect the masses from the few who have malevolent intentions.

Let's use the term "second degree law" to refer to a law that ensures safety in a public setting. An example of a second degree law would be requiring everybody flying on commercial flights to submit to full body x-rays. Though such laws can violate personal privacy, doing things in a public setting implies a certain forfeiture of the right to complete personal privacy. In a world where technology can be used for creation or for destruction, second degree laws become necessary for the same reason that first degree laws are necessary: to protect the masses from the few who have malevolent intentions.

Let's use the term "third degree law" to refer to a law that requires licensing for a certain type of business to be legally conducted. Though licensing requirements place a restriction on personal freedoms, there's probably a need for a system that guarantees that various service providers (doctors, lawyers, casinos) are providing competent and fair services. And while there exists the possibility for government corruption, the possibility of corruption is (unfortunately) always going to exist in any system. The best we can hope for is that first degree laws against government corruption are enforceable as a result of people willing to stand up for the greater good.

One very important note about third degree laws is that government licensing should not be viewed as a vehicle for revenue generation. In fact, it's debatable whether licensing fees should exist at all. Can we really count on government to restrict licensing fees to an amount that only covers the cost of granting a license? Whenever the topic of legalized online poker in the US comes up, it's almost tied in with how much tax revenue it can generate. Shutting out foreign businesses in an industry because of the potential for US-based businesses in that industry to generate substantial taxes is a perversion of what government should be. A government doesn't serve the people by sucking money out of the economy (national and worldwide) and distributing some of that money back to the people. A government serves the people by providing a minimalist set of services and allowing people to live the lives they want to lead.

Let's use the term "fourth degree law" to refer to any other type of law. I assert that all fourth degree laws are superfluous. Examples of fourth degree laws include alcohol prohibition, personal safely laws (like motorcycle helmet laws), and gambling laws. I'm open to exceptions existing to what I'm about to propose, but I assert that fourth degree laws primarily stem from:

1.) Moral considerations

2.) Religious groups

3.) Special interest groups

4.) The desire to prevent first degree laws from being committed

5.) Large corporations trying to protect their business interests

(I know that this is an awkward ending point, but my thoughts on this matter exceed the character limit for blog posts at PocketFives. I'll post the second part in a bit.)

May Your EV Always be Positive!

Tony Guerrera

-----

Tony Guerrera is an established poker author and an instructor at PocketFives Training. More about Tony can be found at KillerEV.com.

KillerEV

As indicated in my last blog post, I final-tabled the nightly 7:00PM $100+$20 tournament at The Venetian last Friday. Being that I quickly put the kibosh on a proposed deal, I thought this would be a great opportunity to write about tournament deal-making (live - but also online).

This tournament featured 67 entrants, and the top 9 spots paid. The final table started with 10 players. This was the first live tournament I had played in a long time. But I knew that it was customary for deals to be made in live tournaments where the player who busts on the bubble gets his tournament buy-in back - typically from money taken from first place. I was about 7th in chips when we got to the final table, so there was non-negligible chance of me finishing on the bubble. However:

1.) There were about 2 really short stacks

2.) Even though my stack was below average, I knew that I was the best short-stacker at the table (and at this point, no one had more than 20 big blinds) I estimated my probability of 1st place to be around 1/10.

3.) Even though I was in 7th, my stack was deep enough to pose a threat to most stacks at the table. My opponents were already playing way more tightly than they should. If there was no bubble to worry about, there was a chance that my opponents may have gravitated closer to proper play.

Therefore, when the floorman asked us if we each wanted to give $10 to the bubbleboy, I immediately said "No. Let's play on." One of the players at the table thought I was being really cheap - and remarked that he'd be willing to put up the $10. This would be the amount of money that I'd expect to lose based on what I estimated my P(1st) to be. Exceedingly tight play on the bubble would increase my probabilities of other high finishes as well. As a result, I declined his offer, and we quickly moved on to playing.

Had I been the shortest stack at the table, I would have accepted the deal. And while it may seem unfair to take deals only when they're beneficial, the whole point of playing poker is to leverage poor financial decisions made by others. Yeah, you can (and should) be friendly and have a good time while doing it. But if you're not going to make any attempts to exploit your opposition, then what's really the point of playing? Slick deal-making is just another aspect of playing the best tournament poker possible - which is why I dedicated chapter 9 in Tournament Killer Poker by the Numbers to it.

To conclude, here are a few morals from this story and about deal-making in general:

1.) Don't feel pressured into taking a deal that you don't like. Be nice to your opponents, but don't feel compelled to win any popularity contests

2.) Always be open-minded when it comes to deal-making - even when you're the best player at the table. Estimate your $EV, and do whatever you can to strike a deal where you make more than your $EV. For instance, when I'm at the final table of a tournament at Full Tilt, I always have the "Discuss Deal" box checked. The worst-case scenario is that we can't make a deal where I get more than my $EV - at which point I simply say something like "It looks like we can't make a deal. Let's just play on."

3.) When you decline a deal, don't justify it by saying something like "I think I'm better than all of you, and therefore I think I deserve more." Instead, just tell the table what your terms are. If the table won't give you the terms you want, just politely say "no."

May Your EV Always Be Positive!

Tony Guerrera

-----

Tony Guerrera is an established poker author and an instructor at PocketFives Training. More about Tony can be found at KillerEV.com.

KillerEV

On last Friday's edition of my podcast, Killer Poker Analysis, I addressed some theoretical questions about bet-sizing in no-limit hold'em. During the discussion, I said that I'd throw some supplemental calculations online. Final tabling the 7:00PM $120 tournament at The Venetian on Friday night and a late dinner with Thrash370 resulted in me staying up way later than I like to now that I'm old and in my 30s - especially since I had to do a coaching session with someone in the UK at 10:30AM Saturday morning. After a long, exhausting, but good weekend, it's now Monday - and time to crank out some calculations.

The three questions at hand are:

1) Is it always correct (pre-river) to get opponents to put the maximum number of chips in the pot when we know they’re behind?

2) If there is no folding an opponent that is drawing, is it ever improper to put him all-in prior to the river – blocking his ability to fold a missed draw?

3) Is it ever correct to make a bet that is designed to fold an opponent that is apparently willing to draw against pot odds and is currently behind? (Does it make sense to let an opponent draw against pot odds on every street if he’s willing to put his money in bad?)

When playing no-limit hold’em, it’s important to realize that you should always be playing against your opponents’ ranges rather than making plays to target specific parts of their ranges. But even though these questions focus only on opponents who are magically known to be only on drawing hands, I do think that understanding the answers to these questions is important. (Note that I’m assuming that you’re playing purely with respect to cEV)

Question #1:

If you’re ahead of your opponent, it’s not always correct to get your opponent to call the maximum possible. I attempted to do a bunch of algebra to prove a general point; however, I think a specific example is much easier to understand. Suppose you have AcAd against an opponent with KhQh, and the flop is 7h4h2s. The pot is $100, and you and your opponent both have $40 remaining. Your opponent has 36.566% equity and the flop, and he’ll therefore call an all-in on the flop. Your $EV for going all-in on the flop is:

(Your Equity)(+$140) + (Opponent’s Equity)(-$40) =

(.63434)(+$140) + (.36566)(-$40) = $74.18

Meanwhile, if you check to your opponent with the intention of shoving a non-heart, your opponent will be forced to fold when he doesn’t hit a pair, and he’ll be forced to call when he has a pair. The EV of checking the flop with the intention of shoving the turn on a non-heart is:

P(Non-heart and non-pair)($100) + P(Non-heart and pair)[(Your equity)(+$140) + (Opponent's Equity)(-$40)]

(30/45)($100) + (6/45)[(.68182)(+$140) + (.31818)(-$40)] = $77.70

The EV is checking the flop with intention of shoving the turn on a non-heart exceeds the EV of shoving the flop when stacks are $40. As stacks get deeper, things change. Suppose stacks are $100. Your opponent will still call a shove on the flop because he’s getting proper odds to do so (assuming he’s card omniscient like you are). If you shove on the flop, your EV is:

(.63434)(+$200) + (.36566)(-$100) = $90.30

Meanwhile, if you check the flop and shove a non-heart, your opponent will be forced to fold…even if he hits a pair on the turn. Therefore, the EV of checking the flop and shoving a non-heart on the turn is now:

(36/45)($100) = $80

The general concept here is that if stacks are really short – but deep enough to shut your opponent out of the turn, checking the flop and shoving the turn can be best when you know you’re ahead of a drawing opponent. However, as stacks get deeper, simply shoving the flop becomes preferable to checking the flop and shutting out on the turn.

Question #2

You should always get all-in against an opponent who won’t fold a draw that’s less than 50% to hit. Checking down to the river minimizes your EV in this situation, and your EV is maximized by getting your opponent to put as much in as possible. Note that this question is different from question #1 because we’re now assuming an opponent who’ll never fold – regardless of the odds he’s getting.

Question #3

I was able to think of one particular case where you’d rather fold out an opponent. Let’s change up the example from before slightly. Suppose you have KcQc, your opponent has 8h7h, the board is KhQh5s2s, and both you and your opponent are omniscient. The pot is $100. If you make a bet that clearly doesn’t give your opponent straight-up pot odds, he’ll fold – making the EV of such a bet $100. Your opponent only has 20.455% equity in the pot, but let’s say he’s willing to call a bet of $30 on the turn – a bet that your opponent needs at least 23.077% equity to call. The EV of this bet is:

(35/44)($130) + (9/44)(-$30) = $97.27

Even though your opponent is making a mistake by calling, this bet costs you $2.74 in $EV against an opponent who’s willing to fold to a larger bet. The moral here is that it’s not simply enough to deny your opponent odds – you need to bet large enough to profit more than you would by simply shutting your opponent out of the pot.

Now that you know how best to deal with opponents on draws, note that putting opponents solely on draws is typically a big mistake. Maximizing your performance against the drawing portion of your opponent’s range ultimately needs to be balanced with maximizing your performance against the non-drawing portion of your opponent’s range (which consists of hands your beat as well as hands that beat you). Nonetheless, the ideas presented here should at least give you a rough idea as to how you should consider approaching your bet sizing in no-limit hold’em.

May Your EV Always be Positive!

Tony Guerrera

—–

Tony Guerrera is an established poker author and an instructor at PocketFives Training. More about Tony can be found at KillerEV.com.

KillerEV

Buy-In Strategy for Full Tilt's Multientry Tournaments suggested when you should take multiple entries to start a tournament - and when you shouldn't. That blog post left one issue unresolved: when (if ever) should you re-enter a multientry tournament after going busto? Re-entering a multientry tournament after going busto is synonymous with entering a tournament late. Therefore, the question really comes down to when registering late is okay - and when it isn't. The rest of this blog post is devoted to the general issue of late registration and maximization of hourly win rate.

Let's start with the easiest case: if you play -cEV poker when deeply stacked, then registering as late as possible is the best thing you can do if playing a tournament where the betting format is pot-limit or no-limit. Obviously, you'd like to develop your game to where you're +cEV at all stack depths. However, playing strategically sound poker isn't the only aspect of being a winning poker player. Knowing your weaknesses and playing to your strengths are just as important.

Suppose that you play -cEV limit "whatever poker variant" a tournament is. Stack depth isn't really an issue in limit tournaments. If you play -cEV with 30 big bets, you're going to play -cEV with 15 big bets as well. In pot-limit and particularly no-limit, excellent short-stack skills can make up for poor deep-stack skills - meaning that someone with a -cEV deep-stacked game can still end up playing a tournament profitably. In limit, the situation doesn't change. As a result, your best bet (if your goal is to win money in the long-run) is simply never to enter the limit tournament. However, if your goal is to minimize your losses, then again, you should register as late as possible in order to minimize the number of -cEV hands you play.

Having addressed the relatively easy issue of players who play -cEV poker during the late registration period, let's move on to the tricky issue: players who play +cEV poker during the late registration period (and beyond). If you fall into this category, registering late will adversely affect your ROI. Thinking strictly with respect to maximizing ROI, you're better off entering a fresh tournament of the same buy-in than registering late. However, if your goal is to maximize your hourly win rate, the decision to late register becomes much more complicated.

Let's take an $11+$1 Rush On Demand SNG at Full Tilt to motivate the discussion. Rush On Demand SNGs at Full Tilt allow late registration through level 5. Players start with 2,000 chips, and the first 5 blind levels are:

T15-T30

T20-T40

T25-T50

T30-T60

T40-T80

Suppose that your winrate in each of these levels is 3PTBB/100, and suppose that you play 15 hands per blind level. This means that you make .45 PTBB/Blind Level. On average, your stack at the end of the fifth level will be T2,000 + .45(T60 + T80 + T100 + T120 + T160) = T2,234. In a tournament where the average final table stack is on the order of T40,000-T60,000, an extra T234 at the end of level 5 doesn't seem like a lot. Shaving 15 minutes off a tournament that takes about 2 hours would seem like the best play with respect to maximizing hourly win rate. However, let's consider a few factors:

Unless you only plan on single-tabling, you're going to be playing a session consisting of multiple tournaments. Therefore, other than the very start of your session, there are no real time-savings to be realized by registering late.

Average stack at the end of the fifth level is a poor number to look at. At the end of the fifth level, you really have a distribution of possible stacks (where you have some probability of having each possible stack). One of the big benefits of playing from the start as a +cEV deep-stack is the opportunity to win lots of chips from poor players who are most abundant at the start of a tournament. You might not have a 4K+ stack at the end of the 5th level very often, but the times you do have such a stack are, at the very least, non-negligible contributors to your overall ROI (though at this time, I have no idea precisely how important they are...doing so would require statistical analysis of a very large tournament database)

Keeping these factors in mind, the following are my current recommendations regarding late registration for players who are +cEV during the late registration period (and beyond):

Registering late adversely affects ROI, but if you're +cEV at all stages of a tournament, your ROI should be positive regardless of whether you enter.* Therefore, if there's only one possible tournament that you can enter - and it happens to be in late registration - then you should go ahead and enter.

Registering late makes sense as an online session is drawing to a close. Suppose you plan on ending your session in 1.5 hours. 1.5 hours isn't enough to play a fresh tournament of interest to completion, but 1.5 hours is enough to play a tournament of interest in late registration to completion - go ahead and enter the tournament in late registration.

It's uncertain whether it's beginning a session (live or online) with late registrations serves to optimize hourly win rate because of competing trends. On the one hand, registering late reduces session time. On the other hand, registering late adversely affects ROI. Even if you played neutral cEV poker during the late registration period, it's tough to say what the best play is. My intuition on the matter is that early tournament play is more important than many players seem to believe and, as a result, beginning a session with late registrations probably serves to decrease your session hourly. However, I'm by no means certain about my intuition on this matter - I definitely wouldn't be surprised if statistical analysis on a player with a huge sample set proved my intuition wrong.

May Your EV Always be Positive!

Tony Guerrera

*I guess it's technically possible for your ROI to be negative if you make bad decisions once play is no longer purely with respect to cEV (like at the final 1-2 tables)

-----

Tony Guerrera is an established poker author, an instructor at PocketFives Training, a member of Team Moshman, and host of the popular poker strategy podcast, Killer Poker Analysis. Tony blogs about decision optimization on and off the felt at KillerEV.com.

KillerEV

Killer Poker Analysis is my weekly podcast at Rounder's Radio. It airs live on Friday nights at 5:00PM Pacific Time. My last show was on 3/18/2011. On it, I talked about the following:

1.) How being overly optimistic with implied odds can cost you serious money

2.) Using your opponents' implied odds to determine when you should call

3.) Why you should be maximizing ROI instead of ITM% in tournaments

Click here to listen. I hope you enjoy the show! And let me know if you have any questions that you'd like for me to cover on an upcoming edition of Killer Poker Analysis.

May Your EV Always be Positive!

Tony Guerrera

KillerEV

Killer Poker Analysis is my weekly poker strategy podcast, hosted by RoundersRadio. Topics covered on this edition of Killer Poker Analysis:

1.) Poker Tracker 3 and Hold'em Manager HUD basics

2.) NLHE MTTs: Adjusting for antes; responding to 3-bet shoves

3.) Playing the turn in limit hold'em (LHE) when the board pairs

Left click to listen now, or right click to save for future listening.

May Your EV Always be Positive!

Tony Guerrera

KillerEV

Last week, I hit the Aria poker room with some friends of mine for some no-limit hold'em (NLHE) action. At some point, I took a break with my friend Dan to get some food. After eating, we decided that we wanted to hit up the Fun Dungeon at Excalibur. My friend, Craig, was still playing, and we waited for him to finish his orbit before leaving.

I watched Craig's last few hands, and one really noteworthy hand occurred. Pardon me if I don't recall all the specifics, but there's a huge point to be made here even without all the specifics. The table was a $2-$5 NLHE table. Preflop, there was a raise to $25 and five callers (I know - if you've been playing almost exclusively online, a 6-way raised pot in even a $0.01-$0.02 NLHE game is almost unheard of). The flop is monotone QXY. I don't remember X and Y, but the flop was something like Qd8d3d. Action checks to somebody in middle position who bets $70 into the $146 pot ($150 preflop minus 10% rake capped at $4). I have no good recollection of what happened after - except for one thing. At the conclusion of the hand, a lady with maybe about $300-$400 in front of her commented that she had check-folded A(non-diamond)Q on the flop to the single $70 bet (after flatting AQ from the blinds preflop), saying that $70 was a lot of money to pay with top-pair-top-kicker (TPTK) in a 6-way pot with a monotone flop.

Is A(non-diamond)Q vulnerable here? Of course! However, winning poker isn't about getting money in as a sure thing. Winning poker is about getting involved in situations where you're getting a good price. Given this player's stack relative to the pot, flatting the flop with the intention of shoving a non-diamond on the turn is an extremely attractive option. One of the only ways the remaining $300-$400 shouldn't get in is if, after flatting, there's a raise and a caller.

Players who think in terms of absolute dollar amounts - rather than in terms of amount relative to the pot - pass up on profitable situations repeatedly. But that's not the only reason they're profitable to play against. These players potentially do any number of the following:

- Fold to "large" bets that they're actually getting a good price to call

- Call "small" bets that they're actually not getting a good price to call

- Make small bets that give you a better price to call than you'd normally get

- Make large bets with hands that are better off playing in smaller pots

Suppose you're playing in a $2-$5 NLHE game against a player who considers $50 to be a "big bet." You raise to $20 preflop and get called by this player (pot about $40). You bet $25 on the flop and get called, making the pot about $90. Where you might normally fire $60 or $65 at the turn, you're now in a position where you can fire a second barrel for only $50. Of course, this means that you might possibly get less value from your made hands. However, against players who think simply in terms of absolute dollar amounts, your edge isn't always going to come from going to value town. Against some players (like Ms. AQ), your edge is going to come from getting better prices on your bluffs and by being allowed to draw to hands that you normally aren't allowed to draw to.

Having knowledge of how to exploit such a player is different from having knowledge that you're facing such a player. To identify a player who thinks in terms of absolute dollar amounts, look for information from table-talk and your opponents' bet sizing. When it comes to table talk, look particularly at how players comment about your bets into small pots. For example, when I play live $1-$3 NLHE, I often get comments when I bet $3 or $4 into a heads-up unraised pot on the flop. When it comes to opponent bet sizing, identify players who routinely make round-looking bets that are either underbets or overbets

May Your EV Always be Positive!

Tony Guerrera

P.S. For those with your minds in the gutter, the Fun Dungeon at Excalibur isn't an S&M palace on the Strip - it's an arcade that happens to have a bunch of Dynamo air hockey tables (my friends and I are big air hockey fans).

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Tony is an instructor at PocketFives Training. For more information about Tony, check out his website: KillerEV.com.

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