Archive for January, 2010

Vegas Trip Report – Part II

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

You can find Part I of this Vegas Trip Report here.

I forgot to mention in the previous entry that one of the activities I got to do while at work functions was to take a tour of the Red Rock Canyon. I highly recommend doing that if you have an extra few hours to spend. Our tour guide looked just like that PBS painter Bob Ross, he was a bit more up beat about it and had lots to say about the vegetation and elevations and stuff. The views were just incredible. Being somewhat of a gin drinker, I was surprised to see juniper bushes. Some say the berries smell like Christmas, I disagree, I think they smell like gin.

My point for bringing this up is that at the TI tournament that I entered, I arrived a bit early and saw a different guy who also looked kind of like Bob Ross. Same hair and everything. He seemed like a nice enough guy who was local and was saying how very few of the local casinos have bounty tournaments these days. Based on our discussion, he seemed to be a profitable player who likes to play the occasional bounty tournament to mix it up. When the tournament started, it was two full tables, he happened to be at my table sitting just to my left. Being that he seemed pretty competent, I was hoping he’d be to my right. Oh well, at least I had somewhat of a read on him before even starting. The guy to my right looked like Leslie Nielsen, only a little bit older. For a while I was convinced it actually was, except that his voice was almost a spot on Paul Newman.

Structure for this tournament is pretty decent for a $125 tournament. There are 30 minute blind levels and 6000 starting chips. The first blind level is 25-50. As usual I started out pretty tight to see how everyone plays. The guy who looked like Bob Ross seemed like a pretty typical TAG player. When he hit, he would probably bet a bit too much, probably because in live poker everyone loves to chase. As for the guy who looked like Leslie Nielsen he basically just knew the rules, but had a tough time figuring out the value of his hand relative to what was on the board. So if he had a flush on a 4 to a flush board and he only had a 2 in his hand, he’d bet it hard. I was happy to have him to my right. It was kind of annoying when the antes kicked in though because he had to be constantly told to ante up. He did mention that he was more of a blackjack player anyway – it sounded like he was fairly proficient at counting, but didn’t make it a habit so he could continue playing.

At one point I was dealt QQ, raised it up, and got a couple of callers. The board was dry, I continuation-bet, got one caller, bet on the dry turn and it was folded, so I chipped up a bit. Not a whole lot happened after that. I drew to a flush at one point. The Bob Ross guy continued playing straight forward. The Leslie Nielsen guy kept playing very odd and calling light, occasionally sucking out to stay alive.

After the first hour, there was a break, I was up to around 9000 and it was still two tables with 18 players or so. The next couple of hours were really quite uneventful, I don’t even remember much of the hands, I did hit trips at one point which kept me going as the blinds crept up. The Bob Ross guy got moved to the other table (which seemed to be playing much more aggressively since more people were being knocked out there). The Leslie Nielsen guy eventually got knocked out after calling some dumb bets. I managed to chip up to around 10,000 when we finally combined into one table.

At the final table, the Bob Ross guy had by far the chip lead. I guess he is pretty competent or just super lucky. Blinds were really starting to creep up at this point. I was losing chips from blinds and the antes. Finally I looked down and see AK with a raise in front of me. I pushed all-in, and had one guy behind me hemming and hawing about what to do. Eventually he pushes too. We all flip over our cards. The original raiser shows KJ – excellent lets skip the jacks okay? The guy behind me flips over pocket sixes – crap, lets see an ace or a king. Flop gives me an Ace and I triple up knocking out the guy with KJ and get a bounty. At this point, I know have a stack where I can actually do some damage. One guy sitting across from me was somewhat annoying complaining about how much the blinds keep going up. He seemed like a competent player, just one of those stereotypical whiny players who always has a bad beat story to top somebody else’s.

Not too much happened after that other than blinds creeping up some more and an occasional short stack pushing and not getting any action. Eventually we got down to 4 players and everyone was essentially even except the Bob Ross guy who had almost twice what everyone else had. The annoying guy mentioned a 4 way chop. I was fine with that, so was everyone else. I was expecting to give the Bob Ross guy a bit extra since he had more, but surprisingly he was really cool about it and didn’t want any extra. He had about 6 bounties in addition to the chop, so he still came out with the most. We all tipped the dealers $15 and with the bounty I got plus my own bounty, I ended up with about $325, so a profit of about $200 or so. While we were getting paid, I shook Bob Ross’s hand and told him that he did not have to settle for a four way chop. He said that it was pretty much a crap shoot anyway and he didn’t want to be rude. Even still, if it were me, I would have wanted some more. Maybe I’m just a rude.

After the tournament, I played the 1-3 game and made another $100 or so and went to bed. One guy was drunk pretty bad and could barely play, I only got about $50 from him before he gave up. Other than that, not much else worthy of talking about.

The next day, I woke up pretty late and always wanted to try In N’ Out Burger. So I needed some fresh air and just some quiet time to myself not to mention some exercise, so I walked about three miles to the closest one to TI. When I got there, it was super crowded and there weren’t any seats. I got the double double (I didn’t get lucky like Homer Simpson when he was working for Mayor Quimby and ordered the double double, but got the “Double Double, Double Double” instead). It was pretty good. It’s no Five Guys good, but still better than average. I was feeling too lazy to walk all the way back, so I walked over to the Palace Station casino and hailed a cab back to TI.

Later that day, I sat back down at the 1-3 table at TI and played for a bit with not much happening. Then one of the more bizarre hands I’ve had came up. I was dealt AJs while UTG. I raised to 10, there was a call and a reraise to 25, I call and the other guy calls. Flop comes AQT. I lead out thinking I have AT and I flopped two pair. It gets raised, and I call and the third guy calls. The turn is a king. I check, still thinking I have AT. Guy to my left bets small, it gets raised again. I look back at my cards and think “Oh wait, I has a straight” I raise again, and both players call. River was a blank, and I push AI and the other two fold.

So I made about $300 or so that hand. I chip up some more and end up about $500. Then it goes down hill.

I’m dealt KK while in the big blind. A limper or two, dealer raises, I reraise, dealer calls. Flop is 247, I bet. Dealer puts in a big raise. I put him on a mid over pair, but not 7′s he seemed like the type to slow play that. I push him all in. He calls and flips over 24. Nice hand sir, wasn’t expecting that. Next two cards brick. I couldn’t even get the non 2,4 cards to pair. Then after that I just kept slowly bleeding from being card dead, suck outs and second best hands. One lady at the table was starting to get her drink on and was kind of boisterous and funny. She eventually leaves. I continue on for hours essentially back to even.

On one of the other tables was that same lady, only now she’s super drunk and was playing limit. She was fairly loud, which wasn’t too big of a deal, except apparently she would shove all in, despite it being a limit game. Eventually the other players got fed up with her and management kicked her out. She made a huge stink about it and lots of passers by stopped to see what was going on. She was swearing and swinging and security had to escort her out.

Anyway, I ended up leaving being up only five bucks for all that time. That damn 2,4 hand just changed my momentum. The next day I only had an hour or two to play before my flight home. I sat down just as the first table was starting, it was just 2-4 limit. My first five hands were all premium, AA AK AJ KK AQ. Crazy, being that it’s only limit, I didn’t make a whole lot. After a bit, the NL table opened and I was pretty much card dead and left with what I started with.

So overall for the trip, I ended up $570 and after the hotel portion I had to pay for, it was closer to $300. I was hoping for four figures, but hey, at least I was up!

- Darryl

How To Not Be A Fish At Sports Betting

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Many poker players bet on sports as well. Some do this as a hobby, while others take the matter quite seriously and hope to grind out a profit over time.

While sports betting is theoretically a beatable game, it’s a much more difficult game to beat than poker. With sports betting, you can’t drop down levels and find ‘fish’ like you can do at poker. Of course, with poker, if you don’t practice proper game selection and overestimate your abilities, you can be that fish and has a hugely negative ROI/hourly rate, so it works both ways.

On the bright side with sports betting, it’s much easier to bet with confidence knowing that the edge on your bets is at most 2-3% in either direction. In other words, you can have fun flipping coins. So while you will not be able to find the huge edges with poker, it is much easier to avoid being on the bad side of a huge edge.

Sharp sports betting is not so much knowing the sport as much as knowing the market. Most people who lose a lot of money at sports betting think they know a lot about a team, but really just piss off money making dumb bets.

Here are the top 3 ways to make money at sports betting and avoid being a fish (or in sports betting lingo, a ‘square’)

1. Always know the vigorish charged and minimize it

This is pretty straightforward. Standard bookmaker commissions on matches between two teams is generally 4.5%. In bookie lingo, they make you lay 110 to win 100 (or in terms of decimal odds, a $1 bet results in a payback of $1.91 with a win).

Commissions on football (soccer) are often higher. The bookies can get away with this since they offer a bet on each team as well as a draw, and most bettors don’t take the time to calculate what the vigorish is.

To reduce the vigorish, you should have multiple accounts with a few bookmakers. This way, you can shop for the best line. If the total theoretical vigorish is 6% or more, you probably should just avoid the bet to begin with, since even if you found a good line, it is still probably still quite -EV.

Also, having an account with a betting exchange is a must. For example, at Betfair, you match other people’s bets and Betfair just charges the winner 5% on the net win. This results in a vigorish of 2.5%, which is considerably lower than a standard bookie.

2. Take the side against the popular bet

Often in sports, the most bet on games feature a popular team versus an unpopular team. In American basketball, this may be a game between the LA Lakers (popular team) versus the Washington Wizards (unpopular team). Whatever the point spread may be, it will likely be a point or two higher than it should be because the vast majority of people will bet on the LA Lakers. Since everyone is betting on the LA Lakers, the bookies will want the Wizards to win against the spread (since they are essentially betting on the Wizards). By shaving a point or two, they can increase their chances of holding the bettors money instead of paying out.

Also, by moving it a point or two, the bookies can attract more money on the Wizards and have more even action. This will allow the bookmakers to just collect the vigorish on the game and not have as much of their own money at risk. In reality though, even after moving the line a point or two, most of the money will still be on the Lakers, so the point or two line movement represents the bookies increasing their chances of a favorable betting outcome for them. So in this case, bet with the bookies by betting on Washington.

With basketball and American football, generally the better bets are taking the points with an unpopular underdog against a popular favorite and sometimes a bet on the under. In European football (soccer), the better bets are generally the draw and betting against the favorite. With a lot of bookmakers, you can only bet on the favorite, bet on the draw, or bet on the underdog. However, at betting exchanges, you can generally lay the favorite (so you are betting on the draw or the underdog) and this is the best bet when the favorite is a popular team and the underdog is an unpopular team. Most bettors will bet on the favorite to win, which will push the odds in to a more favorable direction for those betting against the favorite. So in a game between say Manchester United and Everton, the squares will be all over Manchester United and if you like money, you should probably lay Manchester to win (or bet on the draw).

3. Don’t think you are some sports guru

The biggest reason people lose a lot of money at sports is the same reason people lose a lot of money at poker; they think they know a lot more than they do. At sports betting, most people think they know the teams and can analyze the games. The truth is the bookies do a much better job. It’s a lot easier to analyze the betting markets and find opportunities for bets that are minorly +EV (or about neutral) than attempting to handicap the lines yourself and finding opportunities where you think the bookies set the line incorrectly.

Most people who think they know a lot about sports just end up doing what most of the betting public does: they bet on the favorite team. Most people get caught up in a superstar player thinking “he can never lose” or whatnot.
Sharp sports betting is just value hunting. Find places that have low vigorish and good lines and make bets against the popular teams. That’s all there really is to it.

T.J. Cloutier Pawns WSOP Bracelet for Cash?

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

This is really funny, but I think the reason I’m not laughing is that it’s even more sad: it seems that T.J. Cloutier sold a WSOP bracelet to a pawn shop who is now listing the item on eBay. The Plano Pawn Shop (located ten minutes from Cloutier’s Texas residence) has a minimum bid of $2999 on the bracelet won by the poker pro in 2005.

What makes this story potentially sad is Cloutier’s notorious reputation for poor money management and insatiable addiction to craps. It is possible that he had good reasons for selling this bracelet. Maybe he needed money for a family medical problem or something, but knowing his reputation as a pit game connoisseur makes it tough not to fear the worst. If he sold the bracelet to satisfy a craps urge, it would certainly be a new low. I mean… selling a WSOP bracelet? C’mon man! I really hope he had a good reason to do this.

If he were addicted drugs or strippers, you could sort of understand. There are tons of poker players with brilliant gambling minds who are pretty big screw-ups in most other areas of their life. Cloutier, however, is not known for these other types of vices.  If a pit-games addiction was a leading factor in him hawking a gold WSOP bracelet, that would just be really sad. I really hope it comes to light that this was not the case.

Did Internet Gambling Kill Jon Kyl’s Dog?

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Over three years ago, the UIGEA was passed, the brainchild of right-wing senator Jon Kyl.

Since it was an unfunded mandate (imagine telling struggling banks they need to spend millions to block $100 transactions so people can’t play $.50-$1 holdem games), enforcement has been perpetually delayed.

Apparently, almost a year after Obama took office, Kyl is blocking nominations in the treasury department due to the lack of enforcement of the law.

I personally think I’ve heard the lame ‘click the mouse, lose your house’ about hundred times now. It was cute to say that back in 2006. Turned out they really should have focused on “sign a subprime loan, lose your house” or “lose your job, lose your house.”

For someone to care this much about limiting internet gambling suggests some personal vendetta. I’m guessing internet gambling somehow killed Jon Kyl’s pet Chihuahua. Perhaps Kyl himself was playing internet poker one day and had a bad beat, which prompted him to chuck his favorite pet chihuahua Olympics-Discus style and it suffered fatal injuries.

Online Poker Programs

Monday, January 11th, 2010

There are many programs out there to help online poker players increase their winrate. Some consider using these to be cheating, which is understandable, but as long as poker rooms allow them, it is by definition not cheating. Not taking advantage of these programs, if you think they can help you, is just unwise. No one is going to throw you a parade for taking an idealist, ethical high road, by not using any programs to help improve your online poker winrate. Of course, programs that are unethical and blatantly illegal should not be used. But we’re not talking about those. We’re talking about programs that everyone uses, such as PokerTracker. If you’re not using these programs, you’re starting at a disadvantage with each hand of online poker you play.

One of the most important type of programs you need is a program that registers your results. Sure you can do this on your own using a spreadsheet, or more practically you could use our free Check Your Bets software, but the best programs are PokerTracker 3 (PT3) and Holdem Manager (HEM) if you are willing to spend some dollars. Which is better? The majority seems to say HEM is the best, but the difference is not big.

What makes these two programs better than the free options is three-fold:
1) They can be set to record information automatically.
2) They record a lot more information, which to a greater extent helps you find leaks in your game.
3) They can show any information they have recorded about players around your table on a display on the screen. So if you are on a table with someone you have played against in the past, you will know amongst other things if he is loose or tight and if he is passive or aggressive. It is even helpful against players you have never met before, as it will also show statistics of how these players have played while you were at the table. This makes it much easier to get reads.

Another helpful program is Pokerstove. It simulates how different hands or hand-ranges perform against each other on showdown. You can plot in hands or hand-ranges for several players, plot in any cards on the board and Pokerstove will find out how often each player would win on a showdown. For example, you can find out how Ten-Nine suited performs against a range of hands that includes any Ace, any pocket pair and any suited broadway hand to the exact percentage. This helps decision-making with pot-odds related calls you face at the poker table.

If you are a Single-Table Tournament player, you will also need an STT-tool. Unlike in cash-games, the value of a chip in a tournament changes depending on the circumstances. There is a mathematical model of estimating the dollar value of your stack called ICM (Independent Chip Model). There are many free ICM-calculators online, which work for situations where there are less than 10 players left in the tournament.

In late stages of tournaments, especially in turbo STTs, you reach a point where the optimal strategy is to either push or fold preflop. STT-tools are great for helping you improve your play in these situations. They combine the technology of Pokerstove and ICM calculators to do this. The most known STT-tools are SNGwiz and SNGPT. Last time I checked,SNGwiz was superior, but also a little more expensive.

If you want to post a video of your play, so people can help you identifying leaks in your play, or if you want to make a poker strategy video like the ones in our free poker strategy videos section, I recommend Camstudio. It is the best video recording software and they offer a free trial.