A Couple of Back-to-Back No Limit Hands

So I’ve been running poorly and am down a bit in a $200 buy-in NL game. I’ve been there for hours. The people there know I’m only playing the good hands. I pick up Ah Kd with $270 in from of me and decide to isolate a early limper. I raise to $20 (BB is $5), and get one caller after me, the SB, and the limper. Together the 4 of us see the flop with $80 in the pot.

Flop is As Qc 8h.

It’s checked to me and I bet out $35 into $80. That flop hits my raising range and these players, fishy as they are, realize it. There’s not much to draw to, so I feel a relatively small bet is in order. The player after me folds, and the SB (who has me covered) raises to $110. The player in the middle folds and it’s back to me.

My instincts and experience tell me that my hand is no good here, but I saw this flop with an SPR of just over 3, and at some point I feel the SPR just demands that you get it in. Should I fold here with an SPR of 3? I guess in hindsight, maybe I should.

Anyway, I put the money in bad versus the small blinds AQ and suck out a King on the river.

The SB had $47 left after paying me off. So that brings us to the next hand. A grinder with $200 in front of him raises to $20 from UTG. I look down at JJ. I pretty much flat my entire range against him because I want the weaker players to take the flop with me, because I feel I make my money from the soft spots in the game and not the good players. So I call. It folds to the button, the guy I just beat, and he’s steaming. He puts in his $47 all-in. The blinds fold, and the grinder makes it $110.

This feels like an AK move. He wants to shut me out and take his hand heads up against a weak hand with my money as a sweetener. I ponder if he could be making this move with AA or KK, and it just doesn’t seem likely. I feel like he’d want me in the pot in that case. So I move all-in. He calls with AQ. The button has 69 of clubs. My Jacks hold up, and now I’m up for the day.

I’d make the moves I did willy nilly. I had reasons for why I did them, but I am open to discussing them if you have any questions or comments.

The Mathematics of a Lowball Sidebet

This month I have gone ahead and gone along with the other Lowball players wishes and played the “gidgets and gadgets” of Lowball sidebets. I figure it doesn’t cost me anything, it’s good for my image, and it pays to be liked by the other players which will tend to happen when they go along with their stupid bets.

A younger player has learned the game and proposed a new side bet. He was open to taking either side of the bet. The bet is that one player will pay another play $20 if he doesn’t have a King. However, if that player does have at least one King, then he will be paid $35 per King by the other player.

Let’s take a look at the math on that. Since we’re dealing with a 53 card deck using the Joker, the total number of five card hand combinations are 53 choose 5 which total 2,869,685. The total number of hands which involve no Kings are 49 choose 5 which equals 1,906,884. So the odds of getting a hand without a single King are 66.4%. We can alos tell that there are exactly 2,869,685 – 1,906,884 = 962,801 hands containing a King.

The total number of hands which involve getting one King are 4 choose 1 times 49 choose 4 which is: 4 x 211876 = 847504.
Divided by the original 2,869,685 we see that the chances of getting a hand containing a single King are 29.5%.

For a hand with two Kings, it is 4 choose 2 multiplied by 49 choose 3: 6 x 18424= 110,554
For a hand with three Kings, it is 4 choose 3 multiplied by 49 choose 2: 4 x 1176 = 4704
For all four Kings, there is only one combination for the four multiplied by 49 = 49

So if we add up all of the the hands with Kings, we get 962,811 hands containing a King: ten more than we were expecting. I’m guessing there we some rounding errors in dealing with these large numbers. When we’re accounting for close to 3 million hands, having a 10 hand discrepancy ain’t too bad. So I’m just going to convert to percentages.

66.4% of hands contain no King. 29.5% contain 1 King. 3.8% of hands contain two Kings. .16% contain three Kings, and .002% containing 4 Kings.

Going back to the original wager, if we play out 10,000 hands, then we’d have:
10,000 x 66.4% = 6640 No Kings receiving $20 = $132,800
10,000 x 29.5% = 2950 with one King receiving $35 = -$103250
10000 x 3.8% = 380 with two Kings receiving $70 = -$26,000
10000 x .16% = 16 with three Kings receiving $105= -$1680
And quad Kings being such a rare event that it doesn’t figure into 10,000 hands.
So if we do the math, over 10000 hands, the person buying the Kings will reap a profit of
$1870 which amounts to 19 cents a hand or so.

Nothing to get excited about, but the kind of stuff that gets the chips flying.

Reflections on My Brief Career at Hollywood Park

Calls from Human Resources are never good. Every time they say they need you to come over right now it means you’ve lost your job. I got this call last Wednesday as I was waiting to clock in. Oh, well; there went that job, propping for Hollywood Park Casino. I can’t say I was particularly nervous walking down to sign job away, (because it was still my second one), and wouldn’t leave me unemployed. In case I needed any more reinforcement that I didn’t need the job, the whole walk down there reminded me of all the things I didn’t like about that casino.

Casinos are inherently bureaucratic organizations: they produce nothing of value and simply take customers’ money. Thus, casino management is virtually always comprised of layer upon layer of bureaucratic departments whose entire purpose is maintaining the status quo. After all, as long as the lights stay on, no drugs are being dealt, and the employees remain relatively civil, why should anything change? The consequence of all bureaucracies is that strange, inconvenient rules seems to work their way into the organization and soon become just another annoying aspect of it. All casinos have these, but I think Hollywood Park’s HR department might deserve honorable mention in terms of its uselessness.
Continue reading Reflections on My Brief Career at Hollywood Park

First Day on the Job: An Interesting Hand

So yesterday, Monday September 12th, was my first day on my new job at Hollywood Park Casino. I haven’t left my old employer, Normandie Casino, but as the start of the year they announced they were cutting my pay. Then they cut my hours down to part time. Meanwhile, Hollywood Park starting hiring part time. So I pieced together to pay time positions to make one full time position. As it stands now, if all I do is break even at the game of poker, I’ll we working 46 hours for $1270 a week. Which, given the current economic situation, is really nice.

Now first days on the job are interesting, but I don’t know if it’s ever been quite like this. You see, casinos tend to be run pretty loosely, and that applies doubly so for how they treat house players. Most of time your “orientation” is nonexistent and you just start to pick up habits from other house players in a “monkey see, monkey do” fashion. And, of course, I’m coming from a different casino with different habits. At the Normandie it was appreciated if I helped out in running chips for players, because they ended up getting rid of their chip runners. Not that anyone asked me to, but often I was just sitting around anyway. Another related habit I picked up was “echoing” a call for player checks or food service so the designated people could more rapidly attend to the patrons.

So here I am, my first day on the job, carrying on my old habits. A player busts out, and I’m already calling for the chip runner. As I settle into a $3-5 No-Limit game,  I see one of the long time former hosts of Hollywood Park who has recently be made just another house player like me. You see, Hollywood Park used to have a group of three or four hosts on staff who were responsible for individual games. They would gather player information and call them up to get them to come in and play with them.  This particular guy used to be the host of the big NL game, and this was the first time I was really playing with him. I looked forward to playing some pots with him. Continue reading First Day on the Job: An Interesting Hand

Call for Action: Join the Poker Player’s Alliance

If you aren’t an avid poker player, you may not have heard that the Department of Justice/FBI have recently take some very aggressive action against the game of poker as played through the internet. How aggressive? Well, just click on over to any one of FullTiltpoker, Pokerstars, or Absolutepoker and you’ll find the following notice.

The Banner Annoucing the Seisure of Poker Sites
The signs of tyranny

It spells out the that these sites have been seized as part of a larger criminal legal action against these companies and the individuals who run them. They’re out for blood… and money of course. Continue reading Call for Action: Join the Poker Player’s Alliance

Probabilities for Fun and Profit

So it gets around after a time that I’m pretty good with probabilities. Strangely, the management at the casino I work at has asked me to start giving them “the answers” to various problems that their management just hasn’t been able to figure out. I am sometimes astounded as to the questions they’ve started bringing me.

For example, check this one out. If the casino gives away stamps for players playing blue chip games, and the stamps can be traded in for electronics goods at the rate of 3 stamps for every $1 cost of the item, what is the dollar value of the stamps given? It’s obviously $.33, and I feel that my 8-year old daughter could have solved this very simple math problem, however, various members of management came up with the answer of $6 per stamp. I have no idea how they reached this conclusion. It’s funny that people who are in the business of advantage gambling don’t really seem to understand some of the basic math behind it. As I told my manager, these people could never make a living playing poker.

Two days ago I was approached to see if I could solve some more advanced probability questions that they were thinking of doing for a game very close to my heart, Blackjack. I said sure, since they offered to pay me. Here are “the answers”, which I had to figure for both a 5-deck shoe as well as for double deck black jack.

One idea was to pay more if you ever got three sevens on your first three cards. That is, your first hand was 77 and, when you hit, you receive another 7. The bonus would be larger if the sevens were all the same color, and largest if they were suited. I informed management that it was simply not possible to get three suited sevens in double deck Blackjack because there would be, at most, two available. This is, apparently, why they pay me.  They nixed that idea. Continue reading Probabilities for Fun and Profit

Defending the Big Blind and Preflop Hand Selection

I’ve been criticized in my limit play for calling a single raise out of the Big Blind with hands such as A6 offsuit. Poker players are prestigious as Jennifer Harmon in Super System 2 say that you should not call a raise with a hand as weak as A7 off in a 10 full game if the initial raiser is under the gun.

The logic being that an under the gun raise is not an attempt to steal the blinds, but rather a raise based purely on hand strength. And if all forms of Hold’em people tend to avoid hands that might be “dominated”- which is to say they don’t want to be in a hand where they have the same top rank as their opponent and in inferior kicker. In this example, an Ace with a 6 or 7 kicker figures to not do well at all against someone with an Ace and a superior kicker. The reasoning being that if in order to win the hand you’d have to pair your lower rank and hope that the opponent isn’t going to pair his other rank. So, in a match of AK versus A7, the A7 hand has to hope for a board that contains a 7 with no King and that’s the only way he’s going to win. Such is a rare board, and that’s why people fear being dominated.

The thing is that this very reasonable fear of domination leads people to seek hands that are definitely far away from the range of the preflop raiser. Thus, people would not want to call a raise from the big blind with A7, but would instead prefer to call with a hand like 87 suited. Here’s the thing though, if we take a program like Pokerstove, which can evaluate your pot equity (your percentage of winning a hand over infinite trials) and put in A6 offsuit versus a villain with the range of hands of pocket Aces through pocket 99s, plus all Ace-Kings, all Ace-Queens, Ace-Jack suited, and King-Queen suited (a typical preflop raisers range) we discover that A7 has 27% equity against that range.

27% means you’re about a 3-to-1 dog to the preflop raiser, but since we’re discussing limit Hold’em and you’re in the big blind, 3-to-1 is what you’re getting to call a single raise. This is why I defend the blinds with such hands. In deference to those who argue for suited connectors or small pocket pairs, 87 suited has 30% equity against the villains range, and a pocket deuces has 35%. Of course, the problem with deuces is that that equity assumes you’re calling all the way to the river if you don’t improve the board against a hand like AK, and that can be a fairly daunting task. Still, the math seems clear that you can defend your blind with all of these hands and be alright. Continue reading Defending the Big Blind and Preflop Hand Selection

An Indispensable Book on Poker

My friend (and blog reader) Taylor called me yesterday to ask me questions about what constituted an out and when he would know that he was getting odds to draw. I started to explain the “rule of two” (where you treat each out as 2%) and how to convert 1 in 3 to 2 to 1.

Then I realized that what he really needed to read was the Theory of Poker by David Sklansky. It’s a book that contains concepts that a professional player keeps coming back to over and over again, without realizing that they are coming out of this book. Taylor said he wanted to buy a copy, so I decided to write this little blog post and provide a link for him.

Rough Day at the New NL Table

For a time, my employer was trying to get a yellow chip limit Hold’em game going, so I ended up getting paid to play $15-30 Limit Hold’em with a kill. I loved this because I had already logged over 1000 hours of experience in that specific game. The game helped my bottom line for the time period that my casino was actively encouraging it, and I’m sorry to see them give up on it.

Still, it’s hard to deny the appeal of no limit. It’s what everyone sees on TV and what everyone wants to play. I feel I’m developing some skill at the game, but I miss the protection of limit where the bets and calls are fairly automatic most of the time and where your liability when you get drawn out of is just one more bet. So here are a couple of hands where I lost some money today.

I had about $500 in front of me, and I pick up AK of diamonds in early position. I raise it to 3 big blinds (my standard preflop raise) and get called by Tom, a somewhat reckless prop who can sometimes be easy to read, and a lose called who’s be playing a lot of hands and has more chips than I do. It was hard for me to imagine a better flop for my hand when I saw Ac 10s 7h. An ace high flop without a flush draw. The loose player checked to me, and I checked as well since the board was fairly safe. Tom bet $30 into the $45 pot and got called from the loose player, I raised the bet another $70 when it was my turn, to make it an even $100. Tom shoved all in for the rest of his stack, which was another $150 over my bet. The loose player folded. I felt obligated to call give the strength of my hand and the fact that I was now getting pod odds of $150 to $450 or three to 1. As it turns out, Tom had flopped bottom set.

I get sucked into the pot odds and the strength of the hand, but Tom is a donkey and I should not have paid it off. I’ve played with enough donkey’s to have mastered certain axioms of have they play. For one thing, a donkey may make a bet with nothing to steal the pot, but I’ve never seen one raise with nothing after the flop. A donkey can see the ace on the board, and figure that my check raise (particularly combined with my preflop raise) equated to a big ace. If they are still giving you action, you’re in trouble. I should have just laid it down there.

The other hand I played was against the loose player. He tended to play most every hand, and sometimes come in for a big raise preflop. He raised it to $30 preflop and I called him with Ah Js. It was a loose call, but he was a loose player and I had position on him. The flop came Ks 10h 8h. He checked to me, and I bet $30 which he called. The turn can with another rag heart. I checked it to me and I bet $50, he check raise me $100. Going back to the first rule of donkey poker, if they are raising you after the flop, they have a hand. That much I knew, but I also knew that I had the Ace of hearts, so he couldn’t have the nut flush, so I had some outs. It was possible that he could have had a flush, but since I had the Ace of hearts I couldn’t imagine that many suited hands he would make it $30 with before the flop, so I figured my straight draw was good too. Nine hearts in the deck, plus the 3 extra queens is giving me 12 outs. I wasn’t sure if my hand would have been good if an Ace hit, but I did figure that those extra ace outs had to figure for something. I decided that the hand was good enough to continue, and the pot odds offered on the call were three to one on odds of roughly three to one. But I figured, mistakenly, that this might be a good opportunity for a semibluff. So I shoved all in for the rest of my stack, a raise of another $250 which he called.

He had a set of 10s and I get no help on the record. This has led me to not the second rule of donkey poker: if a donkey could make a good laydown, he wouldn’t be a donkey. It’s OK to make a bet as a semibluff because they might not have much of a hand, but if they are raising you they not only have a hand, they have a hand that they are not going to let go of. Do not attempt any fancy plays from that point on. If the odds are there to try to draw out on them do so knowing that you have the implied odds of the rest of their entire stack because the simply can’t let go of the hand at that point.

Anyway, what a rotten run of cards. Still, it is nice to play a game that demands my attention. A worthy investment of my time.