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Sunday, August 27, 2006

A Lesson and Some Non-Poker Books

I really should follow my own advice. Played a little PLO last night and dropped 1.25 buyins or so. But I experienced an interesting hand which I'll recount because this is a substandard 'poker blog' and I call the shots:

I'm in middle position and flop a monster. I have T987 single or double suited (I forget), the board comes 654 no suits. One of the blinds leads out for about the pot, I just call looking to manage the pot size while seeing what the turn brings, LP calls and the button calls.

The turn is a 3 and completes the rainbow. EP bets $2, which is no more than 1/4 pot. I call (Note: This is a HUGE error). LP calls.

The button minraises to $4. All call. (Again, a mistake, I know).

The river card is a 5, pairing the board. I hate that card, of course, and it's checked around to the button, who bets a bit more than 1/2 the pot.

What information do I have about the button? A flop call and a turn minraise. I haven't been sitting long and don't recognize the player from previous games, so no help there.

I decide that the turn minraise meant that he liked his hand, but not that much. Smells like a straight, trying to buy the pot. I decide to call, thinking split. Button shows 6532 for a crappy straight that turned into a full boat on the river. The other player behind me overcalled, presumably also with the nut straight, so I wasn't alone in my read.**

** Yeah, I know that there was a danger of LP reraising, in which case I would have had to dump my hand, but I don't think many players slowplay the nuts with only one player to act behind them, especially when that player minraised the turn.

I'm not saying that a minraise is the optimum bet size, but I'm intrigued by the idea of the raise, in general, in that position. Nobody's showing strength, you've got a vulnerable hand with vulnerable outs, why not try and thin the field? It was also brilliantly effective at disguising button's hand, which is something you don't see all that much of in low limit PLO games.

Sometimes I even learn something when I horribly misplay a hand on every street.

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Other than that aborted attempt, I've avoided poker and spent the rest of the weekend reading. Yesterday was spent immersed in Jeffrey Steingarten's The Man Who Ate Everything (Vintage Books, 1997). This was a random selection while looking for something, anything, different to read at the library. I'm glad I found it and highly recommend it. Steingarten is a recovering attorney who changed careers to become the food critic for Vogue magazine. The book is a combination of his columns, travel notes and thoughts on other food-related subjects. It's well written and wickedly funny -- there's even a chapter entitled "Salad the Silent Killer".

Today's read, which I haven't quite finished, is William Poundstone's Fortune's Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat The Casinos and Wall Street (Hill and Wang, 2005). It's a dense, chewy read that traces the development of and the personalities behind some of the theoretical mathematics behind both gambling and investing. It's both fascinating -- I had no idea that Edward Tharp, the guy who 'cracked' blackjack and wrote Beat the Dealer was also a groundbreaking financial theorist who made a bunch of money in the 70s and 80s -- and frustrating, since the author is trying to explain some pretty heavy theoretical concepts. It's been worth the time, though, because of the tie-ins of a lot of interesting people -- various mafiosi, Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken, Rudy Giuliani.

More than anything, though, I've been enjoying it because it makes me think. Not about anything typical or useful -- just exercising the brain trying to understand something new. I find that I don't have much time to just think anymore, given the amount of time spent trying to scratch out a living and deal with the day to day crap. It's a nice feeling.

Too bad any good feelings will be completely extinguished within a matter of hours, when the usual weekday grind recommences.

1 comment:

Klopzi said...

I've read The Man Who Ate Everything - it was pretty good and funny at parts.

I like the chapter about blue food.

As for poker, I'm finally coming off tilt myself and I gotta say - tilt sucks.

In a game where you push small edges on a regular basis, it's not hard to run incredibly bad.

Take a break or keep at it: either way, never forget that poker sucks and it will always find a number of ways to kick you square in the marble sack.

Still, the game does have its merits...