Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Bubble insurance

Hmmm, a 3 post day. I'm really bored.... (I'm running some tests that are taking hours to complete...)


Apparently there is a new promotion running at Hollywood Poker that offers protection for players in the 2006 WSOP main event if they bust in the last 5 positions before the bubble bursts. It doesn't matter how you get your seat for the Main Event, the qualifier for the insurance is to earn 1500 Poker Points. Given the small/medium stakes LHE games I play, this probably works out to about 1000-1200 raked hands. Averaging 2 short handed tables, this is close to about 7 hours of effort.

How would you estimate the value of this insurance (to justify the time investment)? I assume the most beneficial situation the insurance would provide for is if you have a stack with an M around 3-6. Other stack sizes obviously benefit, but my feeling is that players with modestly low Ms get the most bang for the buck. With this insurance, you can open push almost 100% of the time during the bubble+5 -> ITM until you either get to a slightly healthier M (perhaps ~10) or bust.

All things being equal (in terms of the calling standards of your opponents), the number of times you will have the opportunity to steal the blinds is simply proportional to the number of hands that will be dealt in the bubble+5->ITM period.

Assuming a field of ~8000 entrants and top 10% paid, then the bubble would hit at the ~800 player mark. Thus hand-for-hand bubble play would involve 80+ tables.

I imagine that time-wise, the bubble period is pretty long. In terms of number of hands played, it may be pretty small, given 80 tables in play. What is a reasonable estimation on the number of hands this will be?

Naturally you need to avoid letting anyone at your table know you are carrying this insurance policy.... (Given that I have a big mouth, I would need to remind myself to zip it...)

I guess another situation this has significant value is if you are in the dead zone (M ~1) at the bubble + ~10 mark. If card dead, you might be able to play like Broomcorn's uncle to make it to your artificial bubble.

Again, how can you translate these potential situations into a present value?

Basically the value is composed of two parts: 1) value gained given the percentage of the time that you would have busted without the insurance. 2) net value gained by building a larger stack because you have a license-to-steal (NET value because the probability of busting is much higher).

These are my current assumptions:
- my probability to reach the bubble zone is 10%.
- bubble + 5 -> ITM lasts 2 orbits
- Stack size distribution:
--- 5% of the time I have an M < 1 at bubble + 10
--- 70% of the time I have an M of <6
--- 20% of the time I have an M of 6-20
--- 5% of the time I have a very healthy stack.
- For each of the 4 stack size distributions, there should be 4 numbers estimated: i) probability of busting OOTM given you have no insurance, ii) probability of busting OOTM given you have insurance, iii) increased tournament equity due to increased blind/ante stealing, iv) tournament equity lost by busting OOTM (due to larger risk taking from insurance)
- For each of the 4 stack size distributions these are my estimates for those 4 numbers:
--- M < 1 at bubble + 10: 95%, 95%, $0, $0
--- M of <6: 25%, 50%, $2000, $0
--- M of 6-20: 15%, 35%, $1000, $2000
--- very healthy stack: 5%, 10%, $500, $4000

Punching these numbers into excel yields a value for the insurance at $468. (Close to an hourly rate of $66/hr assuming 7 hours to earn enough points to qualify). The one assumption that has a dominating effect on the estimate is the probability of reaching the bubble zone. 10% is very very optimistic. Perhaps 5% is a better number. Even then $234 of value is worth the time investment given the stakes I play at.


One other thought on bubble play relates to my understanding that Harrah's (Binion's) traditionally gives the bubble boy a free roll into the following year's WSOP main event. Assuming this is the case and considering the point of view of satellite qualifiers to the main event who reside in the retarded-taxation-on-recreational-gambling-USofA, getting a freeroll into the 2007 WSOP is worth almost $3k more than a ~$12.5k bottom tier cash (when taxes are taken into consideration). Thus with any stack with an M less than 3, I think I would jam 100% of the time on every hand regardless of the action in front of me on the real bubble, insurance or not. (actually even more so with the insurance since finishing on the bubble is worth much more than finishing with a tier 1 payout; closer to the payout for top 5% of the field; better check the T&C at Hollywood, maybe they don't cover the true bubble boy because of that loophole)

"These are the Daves I know I know, these are the Daves I know..."

Shout out: Dave Scharf

Okay, so I don't actually know him, but he is both a fellow Canadian and a fellow Dave; that must count for something.

Dave is a long time semi-professional midstakes player; both live and online. Among other activities, he blogs regularly on topics that often includes thoughts and ideas related to psychological factors and preparation related to playing poker.

Although he only posts about once a week, I find his writing interesting and motivational. Perhaps you will too.

(I don't believe his blog is syndicated, so you actually have to, gasp, go to his website to check for new posts....)

RE the title of this post: This was a song from a skit on the show Kids in the Hall.

Protect yourself

Dealing is not an easy job, and a good dealer is a valuable asset to any cardroom. Unfortunately an inexperienced or bad dealer often requires players to take up the slack.

There have been a number of threads at 2+2 alluding to pay structure changes by Harrah's for dealers in this year's WSOP. Simply put, there is effectively a substantial pay cut for dealers.

This almost certainly means that, on average, dealers will be less experienced and more error prone than in the past. Some trip reports from 2005's WSOP were not particularly flattering with regards to dealer standards, and this year will likely be worse.

It is perfectly conceivable that you may be seated at a table with 9 opponents who have virtually no live B&M experience. Don't let any of their lack of experience hurt you. When their lack of experience helps you, that is a different matter entirely....

The absolutely most important steps that you, as a player, should take are:
- DO NOT release your winning hand until the dealer pushes you the pot
- DO NOT muck your hand at showdown until you are certain that your opponent's hand is the winner. Visually verify your opponent's hand; don't rely on what your opponent declares his/her hand to be or even what the dealer says

The above two points are simple but HUGE.

Other relatively import points are:
- Follow the action to ensure you know which other players are still in the hand to avoid "acting out of turn" situations. Many players will have the hole cards hidden and the dealer may frequently miss this.
- At the end of an all in showdown (win or lose), pay attention to make sure the dealer counts the stacks correctly. It may be hard to bring yourself to do this if you just lost a monster pot, but you need to have the discipline to do this. (I'll be the first to admit that in a number substantially big $ live tournament showdown situations, I was too upset or disgusted at the time to audit the dealer. On other occasions, the number of times I have observed a dealer miscount scares me.)

A few other, but in comparison very minor, things to watch out for that inexperienced/tired/or bad dealers will miss:
- Ensure the dealer is not sloppy in exposing cards while dealing
- Ensure your opponents are not shorting the pot with their blinds/antes or when making bets/calls etc
- Ensure the button and the blinds are in the correct positions

Additionally, there will be numerous situations where players can make minor actions that can help speed the game up; e.g. making change in advance, not disturbing the dealer or active players in the middle of a hand, making it very clear if you are still in the hand by keeping your hole cards in plain view or not putting your hands in front of your chips when you have already mucked (perhaps confusing active players into believing you may still be in the hand), etc.

Can anyone think of other things to keep in mind?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Overheard in the postgame...

Mr. DH: "Wow, I just won another WSOP seat!"
Mrs. DH: ".... great.... That means you are going to spend even more time in Vegas?"
Mr. DH: "Um.... no I guess this just covers some event I was already going to enter. Nevermind..."

Nothing like spending your dough before you make it to take away the thrill of winning...

Fully funded

I took down a bracelet race tonight on FTP. Additionally, I ran well enough during the week in live LHE cash games to be fully funded for all of the WSOP events I intend to enter.

This was the kind of (abnormal) week that makes me want to quit my day job. Here's hoping to staying on the sunny side of variance....

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Rakeback query

If you have a tiered rakeback deal, it often comes in handy at the end of the month to be able to do an instantaneous rakeback calculation based on your current MGR (monthly gross revenue) to see where you stand if you are very close to hitting another tier. (many sites/affliates provide this info on a daily/semi-daily basis, but sometimes you just need more up-to-date info!)

The following thread at 2+2 details how to create a query to obtain your current rakeback from your poker tracker database.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Further post session analysis

After further reflection on my last long live session, I want to record some thoughts on the psychological factors.

Internal factors

I was able to maintain a very healthly/positive state of mind for the entire LHE session. This contributed to me "only" making 2 BB worth of ~known~ mistakes while playing LHE: 1 missed turn value bet and 1 bad river call (realistically, I made substantially more mistakes that I didn't identify, but that is out of the context of this discussion).
However, I realize now the strong mental state was merely due to luck and timing. Assuming exactly same hands had been dealt with exactly the same opponents, if the ordering of the hands had been switched around only a modest amount, then I would likely have been in a weaker frame of mind and made far more mistakes.

I won my very first hand of the session and did not take any bad beats in the first hour. The high water mark for the session was about +50BB, and, after this high, the lowest point was probably about +30BB. Had I opened my session with the same -20BB run, it would have been much harder to be as selectively aggressive postflop with weak and vulnerable hands.

Many online players use a variety of techniques to hide their current sessions results from themselves specifically for these types of reasons. (e.g. buying in for a moderately large, but random amount, or covering your table cash balance using a physical or virtual post-it note)

I suppose that when playing live I could use a similar concept - namely stacking my chips in a manner such that I cannot accurately determine my chip stack. However, realistically this can't mask the stack size by more than +/- 15-20%. I've never tried this, but perhaps that degree of ambiguity would be enough. I'll give it a shot in my next session.

Ironically, keeping a running count on all chip stacks, particularly one's own, is essentially in any tournament (or NL cash game). Since prepping for live MTTs is my number 1 priority, perhaps I should only be focusing my effort in becoming more, in the words of threebet33, emotionally detached but mentally engaged. How the heck can I do that?


I'm really not impressed with my stamina when playing for very long live sessions, and I'd like to devise some kind of action plan to improve in this area.

Yesterday, I grinded through a 12 hour live session (which is not very long for many people, but apparently it is for me). I distinctly remember thinking at about the 5.5 hour mark, "Boy I've been sitting here a long time, and I'm not even HALFWAY done yet". I hope this just takes some getting used to.

My mental alertness for the first 9 hours ranged from very good to satisfactory, but suffered a serious decline in the last 3 hours. Perhaps not coincidentally, my game choice was Limit Hold'em for the first 9 hours and ended with 3 hours of Omaha 8. The amount of thinking and analysis I need for LHE is substantially less then Omaha 8, however mental exhaustion was definitely a major factor (e.g. taking 10-15 seconds after showdown to comprehend why I got scooped from being counterfeited, not remembering my hole cards if I mucked - not a terrible thing but more of a litmus test for fatigue, etc). It might have been easier to gauge had I played Omaha 8 for the first 3 hours and then LHE for the last 9.

At any rate, the only simple plan I have for now is: try, try again. I'll shoot for at least 3 12 hour sessions per month until I head to Vegas.

My diet and exercise regime are pretty solid right now, although the sleep schedule is still quite dubious. I've gotta be more disciplined about that.

Results from the session were solid. I earned one small WSOP event buyin. (This is how I measure results these days....) I still need to earn roughly 2.5 more small WSOP buyins to cover all the events I intend to enter. (events: 20-23 and 39-45)

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Live marathon: take 1

Due to scheduling conflicts yesterday, I didn't qualify for the Sunday Crypto $1k+50 WSOP super. Hence, I've decided to make today a live play day.

I'm shooting for a 12 hour session, and I'll take a 5 minute break every 3 hours. The plan is 3 sessions of limit hold'em, and one session of limit Omaha 8 (the only non-hold'em game I have been giving much thought to of late).

Monday, May 15, 2006

Common theme of the year

There have been a lot of blog postings, forum postings or poker articles this year from very successful online ring game players along the basic lines of "My poker life story".

One theme that frequently comes up is the subject of putting in a high number of quality table hours while the games are still unsustainably good. One poster at 2+2, James282, put it very well in his post, "...you don’t want to be like those professional athletes that piss away their opportunities by not working their asses off while they had huge, but time-sensitive earning potential".

In my adult life, I have seen the peak of a dot-com bubble and a real estate bubble, and I appreciate the time-is-of-the-essence mentality that is espoused. Throughout my poker life, I have wasted much time and not made the most of the many chances that were afforded to me.

This post is to serve as a reminder to myself not to waste my time or opportunities.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Note to self

Never never sit with a short stack in a limit game where betting is uncapped headsup. In fact, just do yourself a favor and make sure you have everyone covered.

You never know when someone is going to go 20BB on the river w the nut flush on a double paired board.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Grinding away

Online Ring games

Poker time has been primarily focused on online LHE ring games again.

Recently, I've started playing $20/$40 6max, and given the higher stakes, the amount of effort I put into game selection is even higher.

The nice thing about playing so high (by my standards), is that I'll seldom need to play more than 2 games at a time. This allows for better concentration, and hopefully more learning. It has been a swingy experience so far; partially because of the fewer hands played, but also due to the nature of those games. If I'm not busto by the end of the month, I just might pick up a thing or two.

One other benefit of 2 tabling: Since I don't need to reserve so many Fn keys, I have been able to tweak my autohot key scripts so that they can safely be used at any site (including the ones that do the stupid focus stealing), not just Party. It is quite a relief for my weary mouse hand.

Live play

Some weekend day this month, I'm going to try for a 12-14 hour marathon live LHE session to get a feel for my endurance. In the past, I've been very sloppy towards the end of long sessions, but I'm hoping that my regular daily cardio workouts (which are now up to a 25 day streak!) might help. It will be nice to get a feel for how long I can focus. I have definitely found that I'm noticeably more alert during the mid-evening time frame (~9pm) than just a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully this translates over to marathon sessions...

Online supers

I was happy to learn (from this post from SamENole) that Full Tilt accomodates players who have won WSOP ME seats from other venues in their WSOP ME supers. This is an example of classy behavior by a classy company.
The structure of their $200 supers is a little better than at Party and Stars (despite the $1 higher vig), and with this policy, I will be entering more of the FTP WSOP supers.

With the rescheduling of the HORSE event, I'm thinking of playing in one or more of events 21-23 after I quickly bust out of the HORSE. With the plan to play in events 41-45 if I make an early exit in the ME, there is a good chance that I could use the lammers. I'm budgeting another $2k of my bankroll for WSOP supers on FTP and the Cryptos; too bad there is never any overlay for the ME supers at these sites...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

WSOP Schedule change

Harrahs today announced they are making schedule changes for the $50k HORSE event to facilitate television coverage. The event was changed from July 25-27 to July 12-14. The press release says the final schedule is on the WSOP web site, but naturally it hasn't been updated yet.

While it is all fine and dandy that the event will be getting TV coverage, the unfortunate thing for me is the logistical snafus this causes. Travel arrangements already made need to be changed (my dad already booked his flight down from Canada), vacation time from the day job needs to be rescheduled, and now multiple trips to Vegas are needed. Boo!

Ask me 6 months ago if I would have minded accomodating schedule changes before I had won any of these satellites, and I'm sure I would have heartily agreed. Funny thing about human nature in how people react differently if something they already have gets taken away or changed vs. if they never had the thing in the first place. (or maybe it is just me....)

I just hope this is the final schedule. I feel a bit foolish telling people the firm dates I had already detailed have changed, and would feel like a complete idiot if they change again....

The Main Event and the HORSE event were not being run concurrently (more like back to back), so I don't really understand why the schedule change was needed. :(

Playing the dead zone: another view

In the "The Zone System" section of Harrington on Hold'em II, the lowest level Action Dad describes is entitled "The Dead Zone" where (by accident) a player ends up with an M of less than 1.

In tonight's Party $2k added, I stumbled into this neighbourhood for the first time in quite a while. (Trapped another almost identical medium stack all in..... runner runner str flush....waah waah...) I was left with exactly 9/16 big blinds on the button, and the antes total 9/16 big blinds (9 handed; ante costs you over 10% of your stack each hand).

The decision to be made is when to get those chips in. It definitely needs to be soon, but you still want to consider your starting hand choices and the tendencies of your opponents. You have no fold equity. Frequently when you have a short stack you want to ~open~ push your stack in (and fold if any player has entered the pot in front of you). Harrington states that it is essential to be the first player in the pot, but I would argue with a stack roughly the size of the small blind, then under the right circumstances you would like a nice size raise in front of you to both protect your hand and give you even better pot odds.

Let's consider 3 possible scenarios:
1) Folded to Hero on the button who has 87o (0.5625bb). Small blind is a loose passive, Big blind is a tight passive, both with medium size stacks. This scenario provides you 3:1 pot odds, and the most likely scenario is that a flop will be seen three ways and will only drop to headsup if one opponent flops or turns a hand. 87o has no high card strength, and plugging into PokerStove shows the hand has ~30% pot equity vs 2 random hands. Expected value: 0.675 big blinds, likelihood of surviving 30%.

2) tight MP+2 player opens for 2x big blind (his standard raise), folded to Hero who has A2o in CO (0.50bb), loose player on button, tightish players in blinds (however, big blind has medium stack and can easily afford 1xbb to see the flop). This scenario again looks like close to 2 opponents seeing the flop. Assuming a hand range for MP+2 of any pair, ATs+, KQs, and one other opponent with a random hand, Hero's pot equity is ~23.5%. Expected value: 0.47 big blinds, likelihood of surviving 23.5%.

3) MP player with huge stack raises 3.5x bb. His open raising standards have included some speculative hands, which will be classified as any pair, any A better than A5s, A7o, any 2 broadways, and suited connectors down to 76s. Folded to hero in CO+1 who finds JTo (0.4375bb). One loose passive in CO, the remaining players are fairly tight. This scenario offers a better than average chance of a headsup pot with a hand that actually stands to be a coin flip or better to a substantial part of Villain's range. PokerStove computes a pot equity of 39% against Villain's range. Expected value: 0.85 big blinds, likelihood of surviving 39%.

As you can surely tell, I elected to get my chips in during scenario #3. I wish I could say I picked the best spot, quintupled up, and went on to take down the MTT. It would make a nice story, and it would really emphasize the importance of not giving up in an MTT and the importance of paying attention. Alas, Villain shows KQs, flops a K and no miracle happens.

Bah, hopefully there will be a better story to tell next time....

Monday, May 01, 2006

Misc stuff


I have a $1 chip from every B&M poker room I have ever played in except for Aladdin in LV and the Holiday Inn in Aruba. I'm not sure when the Aladdin -> Planet Hollywood transformation will be complete, possibly before my next trip to LV in July. If any of you readers out there have a spare $1 chip from either of these cardrooms, please let me know....


I've been doing the daily cardio thing now for a little over 2 weeks, and I'm no longer feeling nauseous at the end. I haven't yet noticed any appreciable difference in mental alertness, but maybe this will just take some more time.

Better dietary and sleep habits have been rather hit or miss. Definite area for improvement.

Online MTTs

I undershot my target of 60 $100+ buy in MTTs for April. Part of the reason, is that I frequently got home too late from the day job to play in the 9pm Party $2k added (the only $100+ MTT that I could play on a weekday). This is somewhat out of my control. However, I skipped a goodly number of Sunday tournaments that I was available to play in merely due to lack of discipline. BAD DAVE!

I feel very good about my MTT play of late, so optimistically it feels like I just need to get enough events in.

There is a moderate amount of time management balance required when playing MTTs. The reason is because, when I have enough available attention, I try and keep a modest number of ring games open simultaneously to maximize my hourly rate. Finding the optimal balance is an ongoing learning experience.

An important component in my MTT strategy is to increase my chance of having an above average stack when the field size has been cut by 75% but only taking a reasonable amount of risk and attention. I've been experimenting with starting to pay more attention to the action at roughly the 45 minute mark (and/or when the field has been cut by roughly 40%) when my and the average players' M still allows for a wider range of plays. Restealing, trapping and avoiding traps in deep stack situations require better reads (and hence require paying more attention).

Under a number of circumstances I would allocate more of my attention for ring games. These include: My M dropping early to a range of 10 or less, being moved from a broken table to a table which will break soon and I have little info on my opponents.
A case where I would focus an above average amount of attention to an MTT is if I am able to double up early at a loose table that has a lot of chips in play and that the table will break in roughly 15-45 minutes.

Other MTT stuff

I've taken some notice of medium -> large field $300->$500 buy in online MTTs. The average quality of play seems not substantially different than $100->$200 buy in events, so I will no longer feel any trepidation into buying directly into these events. (this goes back to time management/hourly rate considerations)

I completely skipped the Grand Series of Poker on the Poker Room network mostly because I haven't spent the time to figure out why Poker Tracker is not working for me on those sites. This turned out to be quite foolish since many of those events ended up having very substantial overlays.

Online ring games

Ring games for the later half of April were very swingy. Up 100BB one session, down 100BB the next session, repeat....

The main problem from the last few weeks was my tendency to play shorter sessions when I was winning and longer sessions when losing. Since it is very natural to play better when you are winning, my behavior should be the reverse. I've been better about this in the past and will make a more conscious effort to follow this mantra.

I'm currently undecided on if I should be spending time trying to become comfortable 4 tabling Party $10/$20 6max or 3 tabling $15/$30 6max or 2-3 tabling $400NL.

Live ring games

In term of live ring games, almost all of my time was spent in the $20/$40 LHE game for the last couple of weeks. I've been running very good and playing well. I switched poker rooms to play in a place where $20/$40 is the largest stakes spread, and the game is even better than the great $20/$40 games at the old poker room.

To continue the learning process, I've incorporated more selective LAGgyness into my play. This serves 2 purposes: 1) to win more pots with the worst hand vs players that are capable of folding, 2) to get more action on my legit hands. The degree of LAGgyness requires some fine tuning, and I imagine I'm going to run so bad at some point that I'll be psychologically forced back into a TAGgy style of play. For now at least, it is a lot of fun.