February 08, 2011

More online poker this time

2011 has been a great year in poker for me so far. The fact that I had tilted away a lot of money away at FTP, meant that it was a rebuilding period again at FTP, so I dropped down to 1/2 and just grinded. It has been going phenomenal and I'm back at 2/4 thanks to the Ironman Year End bonus that brought me back to 2/4 bankroll easily, so I'll be slowly transitioning to that during this week. As the other producers at DC would say: "Games are good!"

But above all, it was so relaxing. I did work a lot in January. Along the way my daughter had her birthday (with all the related festivities), I traveled and I started working on DC related stuff (coaching, videos, etc.). Yet somehow I managed to grind 10k hands. While winning, of course you have a great time. But it was also the sort of serious approach I took to the whole thing. No more waffling/playing on the Mac side of the computer without the HUD. My Windows side is also entirely bare-bones with nothing open during the poker sessions except the poker client and my browser.

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This also has allowed me to just relax, listen to trance music and grind. I can definitely recommend trance, almost like ambient music. I unfortunately can't listen to music with lyrics on them, as they distract me and a lot of instrumental music is just too slow for me when playing poker. But the fast beats of trance keep me focused, the sort of pace where you are chilled out, but still in rhythm with everything. Was really glad I took it up again in 2011. I sort of had neglecting that the last few months with my frantic "squeezing in a few hands in between" attitude on my Mac.

Also, you might be wondering why I had been playing on FTP a lot, a lot of my 3/6 bankroll is at Stars, after all. Well, first it's nice to build it up and work off the bonus and all. But also I decided to "boycott" - nah, that's probably not the right word - Pokerstars for the first two weeks in February. Let's face it, I can't boycott forever, the games are just too frequent and good to let the biggest room just go. But it is my own little protest for the fact that they decided against having Jared Huggins on the Big Game. The decision is being revised, but hasn't been overturned. And it's not like I'm itching to play in the Women's League :P (10c tourneys, here I come!)... I am very happy with Pokerstars software and especially the customer service, I understand that the industry is fluid and everything, but it still makes me a bit sad when good people like Gavin Griffin or Greg Raymer are no longer part of the team. Anyway, the whole thing is like 300-400$ in MGR which go to FTP instead of PS, so no huge deal, but it's my own little protest, hehe.

Posted By bellatrix at 09:05 AM


Tags: moving up online

February 01, 2011

One year blogging

On February 1st 2010, I came off my worst downswing of my poker career. I decided that I needed some long introspection and what better way to take a deep look into myself than to write and to put it out there. Along the way, I had some amazing experiences in poker in the last year and I hope you guys reading it also enjoyed the ride a bit.

This post is just gonna be a bit of live poker, first from the beginning of the month in Vegas, later for the LHE tourney at LAPC.

So CES was going on. And we got free suites, because hubby's work is paying! Yay, Vegas, here we come. I wish, I could tell you a lot of great stuff about Vegas this time, but for every great thing, there sort of was a bad beat. For example, we went to "Smith and Wollensky's" for dinner the Saturday, but then it was too overpriced for what it was (1000$ check for 6 adults and my daughter), imo. Top it all off, I ended up being sick (throwing up) the next day. The whole weekend was filled with little stuff like that. Although we did go hiking in Red Rock Canyon with my daughter - not too far, mommy was weak, but we still had a great time.

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On the poker front, I didn't fare much better. I did have some awesome free drinks at Aria, super yummy, but then I ended up drunk heads-up at a 15/30 table. The opponent wasn't like super bad, but I held my own. It was only after the fish sat down to my right that I proceeded to lose almost every pot to him. -25BB.

Also the next day at the Bellagio, I did not win at the 20/40 game. The only good thing was the rake (5$/half hour), the rest of the lineup was actually fairly tough - 1 mega fish, 2 meh's and 5 good players. It seemed a lot of the old 30/60 regs moved down to 20/40 instead of playing 40/80. Also ended up -25BB. Not a good weekend for the live bankroll. But then again, I had like 7 straight winning live sessions, they now came to an end!

The other live event was the LHE tourney (#2 on LAPC) that I attended. I registered bright and early for that one on the Thursday, when I was meeting some of the guys for lunch at Commerce. Imagine my surprise when I find out with 3 days to go to the tourney, I'm the 4th person to register for it, lol, poker players are such procrastinators.

Anyway, the event was sort of what you expect. The play was lol-bad. The first hour was the whole limit-nolimit conversation, how you can't bet people out of the pot in limit, how you can't bluff. The whole chess/checkers debate. *groooaaan*. Finally the guy to my right started talking about poker gossip, about those damn online kiddies, that there was this kid, that took on anybody online and that they finally revealed him and he was danish, like islidor (sic!) or something. *lolgroan*.

I did fold out like a Q3o when it was limped 5ways to me on the button, but when I had 94s, I just couldn't help myself and I overlimped - good thing because I hit two pair on the turn and won a huge pot. heh! I reached like the 3rd hour with imparting bad betas and receiving them about evenly and was above average in chips, when two hands happened. On one, this suped duper fat guy in a wheelchair goes all-in against me. This guy was so fat, he couldn't even move his hands enough to handle his chips properly, he just sort of flicked them in. People were helping him with the hands and with the action. You'd think he'd be thankful for that or at least hold some conversation, but no, he was a douche plus pretty fishy. Why do I tell you this? Because his A7 managed to suck out on my AJ when he was all-in - he went on to win the tourney. I couldn't get rid of the eventual winner a grumpy fat guy, sorry guys!

The other hand was a pretty weird hand.
Aggro ok player opens UTG+1, 4 callers, including the small blind to me in the BB and I have 8 :diamond: 5 :diamond:. Of course I defend.
Flop (12 SB, 6 players): 4:club:5:spade:6:diamond:
Good flop for my hand imo, my equity should be pretty big. However I am out of position and have to see how the field will react to this flop.
SB Checks, I check, UTG+1 cbets, 1 call, 2 folds, SB calls
I sit there debating whether I should pump this and then decide to just call.
Turn (8BB, 4 players): J:diamond:
Well, not much has changed actually. I got one less card to improve my 3rd pair, but more outs now with the backdoor appearing. Less players, I should have about the same equity advantage as on the flop, yet I still am a bit shy if to pump it or not.
SB checks, I check, UTG+1 bets, 1 call, SB folds, I call.
River (11BB, 3 players): 4:diamond:
I must be a huge tell box, because in my mind I was celebrating.
I bet, UTG+1 calls, 1 fold.
I get shown A:diamond:7:diamond: and lose the hand. Even though the guy didn't slowroll, he waited until I showed, then quickly showed his hand, it felt like a slowroll from the poker gods by me. I almost had my arms stretched out to grab the chips, when he just called. Heh! Well, at least I lost the minimum.

After that not much went right. I ran QQ into KK and lost some chips and then suddenly went super card dead. Like for one orbit the best hand I say was A6o and it was 3bet when it came to me. 73o, 84o, 92o... Blinds up! Bellatrix, it's your BB. Oh no! I've got 2000 chips, limits are 800/1600 (400/800 blinds). I look down at Q2o. CO opens, he's fairly tight and it's folded to me. I'm really embarrassed to say it took me forever to calculate it was 2.67 to 1 on an all-in and wtf was I thinking so long, of course I go all-in. And I am live! Against A9s! Until the river I am live! But Ahigh takes it and I am out. Was super fun, though I would've liked to placed higher, sigh!

And that was it - Bellatrix losing her hard earned online money live. Ah well, you never know, one day I'll bink a tourney, one day maybe I'll be special!

Posted By bellatrix at 09:46 AM


Tags: live play tourneys

January 25, 2011

Joining DC!

ow, long time no write. And all while so much was happening in my poker life. Pretty strange that the period where I should be writing the most, where my most life changes are happening is the period where I shut down. I don't know, part of it is that I want to talk like it's a finished product, like if I have some ending to the process my writing will seem neater. But our journey is never actually finished, so I should take the blog for what it is - a work in progress. Anyway, on to the stuff in my life. I will only write about the DC coaching gig in this blog post. Will try to post more about live poker, "embracing the variance" and other happenings during the week...

*grin* I iz a DC coach now!

Wanna be thankful to the crew at DC for the vote of confidence. I have done coaching for friends before, but it was always pretty informal. I took it very seriously, but never actually thought about doing it like a professional. But eventually I just asked myself "why not?". The people have always been pretty happy with my suggestions. They are generally in agreement that I have a semblance of understanding of LHE - even if we all know that I'm stuck at the small stakes, haha. Anyway, if you are in need of LHE coaching at the micros level - I'm your gal!

Plus, I've got some good ideas for videos. Just stay tuned! Presenting has always been my thing. At work, I hate publishing, I have this aversion to writing. Weird, I know, that a person that writes so much on her blog says that, but the blog is actually often a means to get my writer's block away. But what I do love, besides the actual science, is teaching the science. It only takes one student, one person to which I can pass that enthusiasm, maybe even passion that I feel for the subject, then it has not been in vain. Teaching is often a thankless job, but the nice thing about teaching adults - they aren't forced to be there. So if people are there voluntarily, they are much more receptive to the teacher's excitement and then they in turn, reflect that excitement back and in the end it becomes a huge buildup of excitement during which great stuff is learned and produced. Or maybe you just need something for that insomnia after that last session... I do have a quite soothing voice in my videos.

But what really got me were the congratulations by people all over the poker world. People I didn't really know or just had glanced over their posts on 2p2, were sending me PMs, Twitter messages or just congratulating me in threads. Also, for the friends that DO know me, their messages via Skype and Facebook were very nice. I was walking on cloud number 9 for several days after. Even now, I still have to smile when I remember them. Thank you all so much!

Posted By bellatrix at 09:43 AM


Tags: coaching moving up

January 04, 2011

Embracing the Variance - Part 3

I thought, I'd spend this post clearing up some stuff about my last 2 posts and responding to comments I got in the thread, but also from other sources.

First of all, let me say that I was very surprised by one result in the tourney: that if you are the best player in the tourney, in fact have a large edge over the rest of the field, THEN is the time to take marginal EV spots. That playing nitty then will not yield you the most money, while when you are barely a winner, you actually stand to gain to see others go down in flames while tightening up or just playing slow - it seems the EV is just too low to really make a difference to the fast increasing blinds that is a turbo tourney.

A few notes:

a) This is a Rush tourney. Your opponents constantly change. Hence you have an edge "over the field" which is a very wide concept and we can't really know that beyond of what mistakes we see at our table. In a normal tourney, where you are at your table for a long time, it is my feeling that we can increase our theoretical edge over the table by accumulating good reads and that the rest of the field is fairly unimportant to us and our standing in the tourney.

b) I am somewhat worried about the smoothness of my simulation. In the end, poker results are fairly discreet and I am afraid there are some problems at the edge, i.e. when we bust from the tourney. Since it is a limiting case, I don't quite know how to deal with that mathematically.

c) I am not a tourney expert. There are probably miriads of better insights written before this and I know for many people, that I'm reinventing the wheel. Still, I find it interesting and again, I found the turning point quite high as mentioned above, so it was very shocking to me.

The whole series of post was inspired by Jesse, his poker lunch and his post on 2p2. Thanks Jesse! http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/17/small-stakes-limit/no-woman-no-cry-925446/

That post also brought up some questions from thesilverbail, which I will answer here:

" 1. I'm not sure I understand your methodology in part 2. You populate an LHE tourney with players with different winrates. 4 different categories (10, 5, 2, 0, -2). Do these winrates balance out ? Otherwise your conclusions might not be accurate."

No, I play one tourney, where I have a xBB/100 edge over the rest of the field throughout the tourney. Obviously that is a flawed assumption, since your edge over the field doesn't stay the same over the whole tourney. In fact, in the  next post I will run some sims mostly with decreasing edge over the field throughout the tourney, to see how this affects especially later stage risk approach.

"Do you mind sharing the code you wrote for the simulation?"

Oh boy, this is embarrassing, since I'm such a bad programmer (spaguetti code, here I come). I know there are much quicker ways of doing this, like just input a sheet of the tourney structure instead of playing each level out one by one by hand, but for now here it is:

"2. I think assigning each line to hands per hour and labeling the x axis in number of minutes per level is confusing. The difference is really number of hands per tournament level which is what allows the edge of the good players to stand out."

Yeah, it was just a starting point. Remember, the argument started with the discussion if you should play fast or slow in a game where you are constantly overbetting you bankroll and the blinds go up fast, but where you do have quite the edge over the field. After I posted this many people suggested I should start to vary the speeds, maybe proportional to the edge to get a sense of how this would affect it throughout the tourney, but I don't want to tweak to many things at the same time. For now I will do the varying edge thing, plus some slower structures, let the blinds increase less quickly.

"3. It's interesting to me that the avg #BB /person slopes very gently upwards in all the curves after level 10-13. why would this be so?"

It's just the function of the edge just finally catching up with the increasing blinds. It is dramatized or magnified due to the fact that I left constant edges over the field throughout the entire tourney, which of course doesn't happen

"4. I think you are going to argue based on these results that a player with > 3BB/100 winrate should widen his range to increase his "effective" hands/hr. The problem is that the hands you add at the bottom of your range won't have anywhere near ~3BB/100.
In fact this is almost an argument for tightening up in the tournament ! ( I think albacorela pointed this out). "

Besides the varying edge thing, the next thing I will try out is non-rush poker tourneys. At the end of the day, this is a turbo and an extremely fast structure. My feeling is that with a slower structure, you don't have to be so conservative, and can take more EV shots, but I still have no idea. It was quite eye opening to me that it took so large edges >3BB/100 for the EV to even make a dent and that perhaps playing nitty when having small edges in turbos and passing up some spots, does work, but only if the EV difference is minimal! In NL, this would be akin to passing up 22 vs AK (51:49), but not QQ vs AK (57:43).

On to copoka's comments:

"Bella, don't take it the wrong way, but "absolutely sure of your winrate" is border line silly. The only way to use "absolutely sure" and "winrate" in one sentence would be "one can be absolutely sure that he can never be absolutely sure about his winrate"
WR is nothing more than suggestive and convenient number and should not be used for any kind of "predictions" or forward looking analyses. Any simulation made based on assumed WR is basically useless since the assumption made is HUGE and never accurate."

I see this all the time, that one can never be sure of their winrate, that you have to play 17 million hands to know for sure, etc. Yes, you don't know your absolute winrate for a given limit or something like x number of hands. But you can fairly quickly assess if you are a winner in a certain lineup, estimate your edge and even pin down you approximate winrate based on that after a few hundred hands (loser, breakeven, marginal winner, winner, crusher).

Copoka, you and I have maybe played 20-50 hands total lifetime, yet at the time when you were playing a lot of HUHU, you constantly denied me action. Why did you do that if you didn't know what winrate you had against me and you could never be absolutely sure of it?

Notice how I am not deriving the winrate from past events. Take, for example the stockmarket, everybody will agree that forecasting the success of a company based on its past performance alone is very iffy and should be taken with a grain of salt. However, when you look at the fundamentals of a company, if it is based on a good product and not just hype or a bubble, you will win money. The more information you have about the company, the better you will be able to determine its likelihood to succeed and for you to make money in the long run.

If I see a game where I see constant mistakes and things I can exploit, I will know I can win in that game and I can fairly easy estimate my winrate in that situation. Otherwise you'd be truly lost, wouldn't you?

"So, although number of AA dealt, sets flopped or straights we make on the river can not effect difference in skill for a long time, there is another thing that can, is and will.
There are monies involved."

You are talking about poker being a game of people, that some of us tilt, that nobody can every play their best. Yes, those things all exist, but for the purpose of this calculation, they should not be important. If you sit down at a game, but are tired, you should factor that into your winrate estimation. Of course we can't be 1BB/100 (or whatever number) over long periods of times, there are fluctuations, even with the same lineup, sure. Then again, this is just a benchmark, something to hold on to. Otherwise let's just all throw our hands up in the air and proclaim that nothing can be predicted and it's all chance.

"First, those things are fairly rare comparing to the number of hands dealt so they converge much much slower in "calendar terms" so to speak. Nasty thing is that although they are rare, the effect on your earn is huge."

For every one of those you nasty ones, if you are a winner you will have an even better super-duper high winrate one statistically speaking. Variance goes both ways, not just negative!

"Second, even if we are lucky enough to see them balancing out, deck is still stacked against us due to measures we have to take to survive in this game."

Your argument makes no sense. If your theoretical winrate is the same it is exactly just as likely that you will have coolers at 10/20 as at 5/T. You are running into a huge gambler's fallacy here. Coolers don't even out, every hand is its own in the vacuum. It is just that heaters are a teeny bit more likely to happen than coolers if you are a good winning player.

If you lose money at the stockmarket and lose half your worth, of course you need to double your worth to be exactly at the starting point again, but if you have a positive expectation and bet proportional to your edge,  in the long run you WILL win money and the bets you make will be bigger and bigger proportionally, provided your edge keeps existing. I don't understand what is so hard to graps about that. The only thing that will make you lose more pots at higher stakes is that you might not have the edge there.

"Third. There is so much human and/or social factors involved in giving and getting action in poker, that the argument can be made that bell curve simply cant govern this process for the same reasons it is useless in any other field where human nature runs wild, like stock market, for example.So what convergence are we talking about in a first place? Where would that come from?

You don't believe poker follows the Central Limit Theorem, you believe in fat tails or black swans. Fine. I have never seen any evidence that suggests black swans for poker, but who knows, I have not seen any evidence that denies it either. For a while I tried to prove this by gathering about 1.5 million hands from winning players and describing their deviations from the normal distribution, I didn't see any, but I could not prove that there weren't any either. I don't know 100% what happens at the extreme edges, it might be that your disastrous sessions are even more disastrous. Fat tails is not my territory and it is very disputed, for the discussions in Mathematics of Poker it is safe to assume that the Central Limit Theorem holds, as most results are determined by something that is really truly random and has no psychology - the deck of cards.

"I'd say you are looking at graphs of skilled poker players who where lucky enough positive cooler balance for a long time. The proportion of skills vs luck is unknown. Prove me wrong.

Oh, btw, there is a pretty good HU poker player named Matt Hawrilenko. Have you seen his graph lately?

There is another one. Very talented and very naive. Talented enough to break the game of HULNE down to the science. Naive enough to declare in one of his blogs that "making 300k playing poker is a child's play" His name is is Bryce Paradis. Take a look how much he made over past 12 month."

Both players are playing in games where they don't have clear edges anymore, their winrates, while positive, are not the 4-5BB/100 they were used to when playing in softer games in 2006-08.
AFAIK both Hoss and The_Bryce have been playing a lot of 6max lately and not that much HU. Bryce himself has been going through tough times with his mind being on his real estate losses and his depression. I hardly think that you can be a clear winner during those times.

Both said that they played HUHU LHE at a time where there was no clear theory on how to play it and they had just extreme winrates, just because the skill difference is so big. That is not the case anymore, any 3/6 HUHU reg is much better than the 2006 50/100 players, where these guys made their money off.

What I was mostly referring to, are the bumhunters that refuse action, but to the biggest of fish. They have smooth graphs, no matter how bad they run, because their winrate over the fish smooths any graph. I took those HUHU players as an example, because HUHU is almost the only place where such extreme skill difference is shown and it has a direct impact on your winrate. You might be right though in today's games, where the games are tougher and even HUHU edges are small, so my comparison was for bigger edges :)


Anyway, enough for now, even though I could talk for hours about this, I need to go to sleep.

Posted By bellatrix at 07:37 AM


Tags: theory tourneys

January 01, 2011

Bye 2010!

I'm back from the holidays and will post again on Monday (responding to comments of my first 2 "Embracing the Variance" posts). Just want to say that I'm not gone, just a bit busy with life and stuff. With all the grant stuff and everything, it kinda has become clear that we will be leaving the US in May 2011. I wish I could somehow make it to WSOP 2011, maybe something will come up short term, but right now it doesn't look like it. I will be in Vegas next weekend, though, because of hubby attending CES. If you're there, say hi! :)

2010 was... meh. I won something like 3000$ online, which is pretty much a joke. Games have been very tough these last 2 months, although I still see fish. Maybe it's also just my feeling, because I ended the year on a 1000$ downswing. Ah well, whatchagonna do. Live poker was wonderful with me cashing in the Ladies' Event and me going to 6 20/40 Commerce sessions and not losing a single one. Something like 100$/hour in like 30 hours makes up the same amount of $ as online and I have probably spent 20x as much time online. Considering I play something like 5x the number of hands online, that makes my winrate per hand about 100x higher live than online. Sigh, games are tough online, 'nuff said.

With that, I want to wish you all a happy New Year! Thanks for reading!

Posted By bellatrix at 01:40 AM


December 11, 2010

Embracing the Variance - Part 2

Did you think I was just gonna leave hanging there, did you? Well, buckle up, because this one is going to be long and will have lots of graphs. It's gonna be a whole lotta simulatin' going on.

First initial conditions: I am running basically a Monte-Carlo simulation of 100.000 Rush LHE tourney. As such, the fixed variables are the structure and the variance for FR LHE. Your winrate is going to be varied, but fixed throughout the tourney. The structure of Rush LHE tourneys is really weird. The first 10 levels are 6min, then 8 levels of 8min, then 6 levels of 10min, then 5 levels of 12min, then 4 levels of 15min and finally 20min thereafter. Notice that this is quite fast, it's "Rush" after all, hehe. In the tourney I played money bubble was around level 20 (about 20 minutes after the 2 hours mark). I know the whole tourney took 5h 34min to complete, but I have no idea when the FT bubble was, so the numbers there are approximate.

There are some caveats in calculating your theoretical expectation hand for hand, because of the non-continuous nature of bets in LHE (it's really quite difficult to win 1.332 BBs). Also the limiting case before you die is a bit iffy, since in my simulation you could basically go up to 1.5BB from almost dead at 0.1BB and in real life there's no way you can 15-uple up. But for all intents and purposes this mimics real life.

So without further ado, here are graphs on how the tourney proceeds for the 100.000 people throughout time. Please ignore the wiggles and stuff for the last few levels, the errors get quite huge there, because we're talking small number statistics, be assured that are all well within the errors. I don't show them here, because I'm lazy and this isn't a scientific paper for crying out loud (it would take a long time).

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 Graph 1: 10BB/100 winner

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 Graph 2: 5BB/100 winner

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 Graph 3: 2BB/100 winner

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 Graph 4: Breakeven player

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 Graph 5: 2BB/100 LOSER

As always red is the slow player, blue is the medium player and green is the guy that plays his hands as fast as possible or how I suggested. Every point is a level, just to make you see how long tourneys are when you feel good that you finally reached another level. Notice this funny thing with LHE tourneys that in the first levels nobody dies and then suddenly at Level 10 or in live tourneys I guess it's like at level 3-4 suddenly the players just start frantically dying giving the need for the "player alive" plot to be shown in logarithmic form. The tourney skill doesn't change over the course of the tourney, so you always have that winrate, which is obviously wrong, but good for initial visualization.

The lower graph is the average BBs of players left, you see that after the initial drop, slowly the people dying start equaling out and the blind level for people surviving remains fairly stable. You see that the guy playing fast will always have the most wiggle room with around 15-25BB, but also this is risky, because he will go broke often. It is interesting that the structure, however fast, is actually quite good at the late stages, which is where the money matters, giving you fast and quick play easy and much more fairer chance for skill to develop later (see the average BB of players left to get an idea of that).

However, the graph that we are most interested in is the one with the inflection points. How many people are alive at certain stages of the tourney playing fast, medium, or slow?

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Graph 6: Players alive during certain inflection points in the tourney

Well, that is interesting, isn't it? It means that we shouldn't just blindly take any +EV opportunity and rather play conservative unless we have a big edge. The turning point is around 3BB/100, which is large, but not super duper large in a rakeless environment. But how large is 3BB/100 really? Not that much actually, it's 0.03BB/hand. That affects hands that are very close in EV! Think about that for a moment, I will come back to it next post

Also notice how many people limp into the money by simply folding when they don't have an edge. Wow, this is of course the consequence of this being such a fast structure, but they definitely get weeded out by the time the significant money appears.

I will talk a bit about consequences and caveats more in further posts, especially the transfer to specific hands and cases. I will also to a graph with varying skill, slower structures and will talk a bit about NLHE tourneys. For now, just let me assure you that I'm not claiming anything outrageous, in fact I'm actually reinventing the wheel, but it helps me, look at a post on 2p2 a few years back on that, Graph 6 visualizes that statement: link
But I would add to that, that you could actually not pass up on small edges if you're the best player there, and that playing aggressively will yield you even more than passing up, especially if you're the best player. However, you need to be careful assessing your edge all the time. Are you really a 5BB/100 favorite over the field over the whole tourney? I didn't think so ;-)

Posted By bellatrix at 12:06 AM


Tags: theory tourneys

December 02, 2010

Embracing the Variance - Part 1

Over the next few days I will show a series of posts that deal with variance, mostly in LHE tournaments, especially with a very fast increasing blind structure. The inspiration for these posts was a discussion I had at poker lunch with some LHE dudes about 2 weeks ago (further updates via Jesse: here, here and here). The main idea of the discussion is the willingness to play with a positive expectation, while constantly overbetting your bankroll - embracing the variance, so to say.

I will show via simulations, how in essence you should take the more +EV spot as possible ignoring the variance, save for some extreme limiting cases, like the bubble. In some extreme cases, like with very low winrates or with super fast structures, conservative (low variance/slightly winning) play might limp a few more people into the money than aggressive (high variance/higher winrate) play, but overall the latter will win more tourneys, more money, everything!

Conservative play is an old motto of especially live tourney pros. If I had a nickle I've ever heard some "live pro" say on some podcast or some TV table: "I'm gonna fold in this slightly positive EV situation and wait for a better spot"... In fact, when just returning from the aforementioned poker lunch, I was listening to the "Deuce Plays" podcast with David Baker and he was chastising somebody for calling with AJ against 33 (blinds and antes made it a +EV play). He said, he wouldn't even call with AJ if the guy showed up with KQ (3:2 advantage) in this situation. "better spots, better spots... you're out of the tourney... bla bla bla..." So I'll just say it: If you are properly bankrolled for tourneys, that is, you're not taking a once-in-a-lifetime shot at the Main Event, you should take the +EV spot and don't worry about being out of the tourney. And LOL at David Baker not taking the 3:2 spot! Full disclosure: "I do understand ICM and there are certain points where you should fold, this situation was not even close to on of those inflection points".

As I'm producing the graphs for this blog post I'm listening to a podcast RIGHT now, Daniel Negreanu on Grilled Fish saying "Just because something is +EV doesn't mean it's right!", yet he gives no reasoning for it and has all these caveats why he's not shoving in some spots yet shoving in others. The poor hosts try to ask him two or three times and even say "If something is +EV it shouldn't matter how much time there is left in the level, right?" yet he doesn't bite and you are left with wrong reasoning and an angry Bella, because what he's saying is not technically wrong, but all the listeners hear is: "Oh, I should wait for better spots, I will have a greater edge later on, yadda yadda". WTF, spots don't get easier later on, in fact more sharks remain later on, why would I give myself the worst situation later, when I don't have an edge anymore? Anyway, enough about live pros.

Why do we hate variance so much? Why is variance always thought of as a negative thing? - "I like PLO, it's a really interesting game, what I hate is that the variance is so high!". WTF, all the variance does is the broadening of the distribution. For every high loss, you'll have an even higher win, it's not like suddenly, because the game is higher variance that you'll suddenly become a losing player... I think it's psychological, losing hurts more than winning, when your expectation is positive. This is exasperated by happenings around us, for example, in the stock market, periods of high volatility coincide very nicely with bear markets (for the super highest volatility periods since WWII it was the case for 19/20 (!) times). But again, this has psychological reasons, volatility didn't increase, because the Gaussian grew fatter... no, in fact, those periods of general uncertainty don't follow the normal distribution we are used to. In some sense, you could say the market is tilting :P

So if you are absolutely sure of your winrate, you are sure you are a favorite over the field (don't ask me how you know this, you just do), you shouldn't care about variance that much. Sure, you'll have long droughts, but you'll also have periods where you will run hotter than the sun. Just look at great HUHU players, the variance is through the roof, yet their graphs look so smooth, hardly any wiggles... winrate!

But bella, what about going broke? Aren't there all these statements floating around the internet that if you constantly overbet your bankroll you WILL go broke? Yes, but emphasis on the constantly. Sure, the Kelly criterion proved that if you have a 2% edge in a situation, yet bet 4% of your bankroll over and over again, you WILL go broke eventually, no matter what. But there are some cases that go off (you get lucky) and you bet a fixed amount, suddenly that percentage of your bankroll gets lower and lower and you are not overbetting your bankroll anymore. In fact, in LHE, for people with 1000BB bankrolls and healthy winrates, you are betting as little as 1/6th Kelly, which means the best possible results take 6 times as long to reach (that is understandable, since you don't wanna move up and down the whole time and checking your balance constantly) - peace of mind leads to better play which might maximize profits in its own way.

So let me now turn to the first simulation, which is actually more the case for cash games. Overbetting of bankrolls, no increasing blinds. The simulation is presented for 2 starting stacks, bankrolls if you will and 3 different speeds of play. I chose 50BB because of HULA and 20BB, because as we'll see that is sort of what we're striving for as ideal stack in a LHE tourney. Starting parameters are: 10.000 players, 2BB/100 winrates, 15BB/100 SD.

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Graph 1: Percentage of players alive versus time in a 10.000 player simulation with 50BB (triangles - dashed) and 20BB (squares - solid) starting stacks over 20 hours. The fast player has reached close to theoretical expectation (marked as black lower limit lines), while the slower one is, understandably still getting there.

Bear with me with the speeds of play stuff, it will be important later for the tourney simulations, just notice that the guy playing slower is still reaching the long run, albeit slower, ldo. By the way, these theoretical curves can be calculated analytically, no need to run simulations, those were just the first step for me to start the program and I thought it woul be nice to show results. See also, Mathematics of Poker: Chapter 22.
Risk of Ruin = exp[-2 * winrate * bankroll / SD^2 ]
Case 50BB starting stack approx. 41.1% die
Case 20BB starting stack approx. 70.1% die

Bringing only 20BB to a live game for an evening if you have a 2BB/100 (easy for live) edge seems like suicide. After all, that is only 800$ for a 20/40 game. But if you stay only for an evening, maybe 6 hours, then you will only go broke ~25% of the time (say you get ~30hands an hour, so half the time of slow case). That's pretty good for having a good time - again, not if you're doing this professionally, but great for having an enjoyable evening.

Talking about results, look at the average BB's of the remaining players. Playing fast with an edge you are really setting yourself up to win big overall. Sure, you'll go broke often, but when you don't, you win. And it's only reaching the long run faster, for the fast player at hour 20, the average bankroll has already reached Kelly level long ago...

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Graph 2: Average big bets for remaining players over time. Same parameters as above.

But alas, we're not in cash game regime, we can't play at the same blind level forever in a tourney, it would take too damn long. Next time... first tourney simulation - Rush LHE tourneys, big winrate, fixed skill, fast structures!

Posted By bellatrix at 01:07 AM


Tags: theory tourneys

November 24, 2010

28 month graph

Don't have anything worth saying much this week around. Sometimes you just play and there is nothing existential or life changing happening on the tables. It's good that way, gives it some sense of normalcy :) Anyway, my lifetime BB graph discussion came up in my well and I just posted it there. As they say, a pic is worth a thousand words, so I'll just leave it out there for you to laugh at. My previous PT2 DB is tucked away somewhere and I am too lazy to incorporate it and other DBs, like my Cake hands before PT could import them, but this is maybe 95% of my LHE action since July 2008. 0.77BB/100 later I can say, you can win, but it's damn hard.

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Posted By bellatrix at 03:59 AM


Tags: moving up

November 16, 2010


There's no "theme" to this blog this time. Bunch of stuff happened last week, nothing super exciting, but all worth mentioning.

-> I went to the Pokercast meetup at the NAPT at the Bike on Friday. I did try on 2 occasions to qualify via the satellite to the satellite to the NAPT, but didn't make it. But the 3/6 7game mix was fun. I ran over the table in the draw games (Badugi, 2-7TD), broke even on the O8 (no fold pre) and Pineapple. It took me a while to get the new game 2-11, but now that I know how it works, it's my belief that the only way to correctly play it is for nits and you should not be in there without a 3card hand. I still have no idea how to play 2nd best hold'em and it showed. I ran super bad at flips, still gotta perfect the art of sucking out.

The rest of the night was fairly uneventful, I did have some fun gawking at poker celebrities (like I never realied how small Isaac Haxton is), but it's only so much you can do. My hands were itching a bit to play the 20/40 at the bike, but I decided against it, because I don't think I was in the best state of mind. On my way back to the lot I was looking at the other tourneys being offered by the NAPT and debating with myself if I should enter the 300$ Ladies' Event, when Pokercast Adam and Mat Sklansky walked by asking for a ride.

Pokercast guys getting massage at our 7game mix.

It seems weird when I tell you I'm giving 2 drunk poker players a ride through LA, but it was really fun. I got to hear some interesting stories about some inner workings at 2p2 and a phone call that Adam got, where my jaw just dropped that is the epitomy of being in a family with gamblers. I feel blessed when I can still tell you that the 35$ I lost at the flips are not a lot of money, but still it's something. I probably broke even for the way I was tipping, the dinner and the drinks that the Pokercast guys picked up :D. I am still debating if I wanna reach the threshold where I don't care if I loose >1k$ in a day someday, let alone 10k+... sigh.

I didn't play the Ladies' Event in the end. It was such a beautiful day and I rather went swimming with my daughter and spent some meaningful "Mommy and me" time.

-> I played the FTOP Rush LHE event yesterday. Decided on a whim, when Kangster told me it was about to start. I shouldn't really be playing poker tourneys on work time... But man, it seemed worth it. By start time, only about half of the people had signed up to make the guarantee (it barely made it by 6 players, heh) and the list of red pros with 200$ bounties kept growing longer and longer. I saw some regular LHE fishies, so I jumped in sort of at the last second.

Rush tournies are draining. Like you wanna play as quickly as possible without missing anything, so that you can get full equity advantage. Between taking notes, scrolling through the last hands when I was in the BB and quickfolding through the others, I was pretty mentally drained when it was over. I even think I had a brainfart on one of my last hands, which is not good :(

But cash I did! Finished 30/756, so I had a nice 529$ (-216$ entry) payday. Not bad for less than 3 hours of work. I really wanted to hold on just a tad longer, but out I went with a race 33 > A5, even though I had a shitton of outs on a QJTQ board.

-> I'm intrigued by Badugi, like really, really intrigued. Have continued to keep on playing it and I'm beginning to find the turn the most interesting of all decisions. I mean, preflop is standard, almost mechanical, except that you still need to know what somebody opens with and what somebody 3bets with. Flop is easy, bet when card ahead or if even, then in position. River, evaluate your ranges, how many outs he had and how likely opponent is to call with worse, not rocket science. But the turn... ah... not sure when value checking is correct, not sure if I'm valuetowning myself betting good tris into 2-3 opponents. Just not sure.

As always, when I don't have an answer to some poker problem I get really excited, because I have so much to learn. With LHE most of the time I can spot my mistakes most of the time later when I do session reviews. Sure there are some close spots, but I can argue both sides with logic and can back up what I think are the best decisions. With Badugi, I am often just flummoxed and don't really have the "feel" yet, I have to go on and on with the Troutulator to be surprised at the results often.

And I think that's it. Will try to make it to Poker lunch on Thursday, but there's an interesting VISA lunch talk at my University that day and I do wanna stay in the country for a few more months :P We'll see...

Posted By bellatrix at 10:16 PM


Tags: moving up live play introspection

November 09, 2010

All the people in this room... poker ruined their life!

It's been a fairly quiet week on the online poker front for me. I mean, I was amazed to see that FTP has draw games now and I have been wasting some of my time trying to achieve gold star status at the Badugi tables, but not really grinding, since only about 1 or 2 tables at my stakes ever get going. Also, I'm still fairly new at Badugi, so I can't really multitable as I'm still wondering if I can bet my smooth tri 8 on the turn for value or not :P Anyway, lots to think about Badugi, but no extreme insights yet, except that I think I got predraw down ok and can start to put opponents on ranges there, too.

On another note, I've been having my "well" up at 2p2 (link). I'm really glad, I waited over 3 years posting at 2p2 to be thrown into the well, because now I can have some better insights. First of all on my own play (my God, I have played a lot), but also on other people and their play or posting style. A lot of the questions are fairly innocuous or non-poker related, but some have me scratching my head sometimes on how to answer. I think the biggest myth that I tried somehow to dispel is that the higher you go, the more poker knowledge you suddenly uncovered. Which is weird, because you can still play great poker at low stakes. It's not like every move up, you now suddenly uncover a new weapon you can finally use and couldn't use the level before (a la role-playing game). The other are the misconceptions people have of HUHU, like it's this big mystery where people are constantly leveling themselves.

But the "highlight" of the week was some live play on Saturday again. I wish I could say I played good this time, but I didn't. I mean, I didn't make any amazing mistakes, just a valuebet or valueraise missed here or there. Bluffcatching and iso-raising I did ok with. Anyway, part of it probably was the beats that were put on me a few times (72s > KK on a 943r flop), part of it was that I stayed to long, but a huge part of it was the fact that this time the people were absolutely horrible. It made me embarrassed to be a woman playing poker, because there was not a single woman there that didn't spew venom or was a total bitch (then again, I think I was the only white female there, haha). I mean, really, it was disgusting!

It all started with this new rule that Commerce has that if you miss your blinds more than two times, when the button passes you, a time a 5$/round table fee gets added to the pot. It's sort of like rent for them reserving a spot for you and it keeps the games from suddenly breaking when they go 5 or less handed (no jackpot? no play!). It often goes on that people stand there and the floor has to call players back and nobody gets to play poker.

But naturally there is resistance to the new rule. Part of it is that it is still new and understandable everybody is still adjusting to it: the new buttons, the dealers need to take it into account, the explaining to the new players, etc. But then the other part is just to mock the rule out of spite. Now they sit out a round out of protest, people get yelled at when they don't hurry up, because the next had is gonna have 5$ extra in the pot. The fights these people get into to NOT pay those 5$ is ridiculous. For example, you don't have to pay the 5$ if you eat at the table, you get the full 45 minutes to eat, but this woman finished her dinner in 20 minutes, so she just sat there for 25 minutes to mock the system and "save" maybe 10$. I actually left the casino, because this specimen (I can't call her a woman) actually argued with the floor and then the manager for 10 minutes, because they were going to charge her 2nd missed blind when she was moving 3 seats INTO the blinds. 10 minutes!!!! You're changing seats, just pay the effing blind! I was sitting there, hearing the seconds tick away and I just thought to myself what I was doing there at 4 in the morning listening to some woman that is stuck more than a grand hyperventilating about being treated unfairly, so I just stood up and left. And other people did too and then she got yelled at for breaking up the game - that was the last I heard, I had enough cursing for the night.

I still won that night though :P . Strangely enough, my biggest pots I won were against the best players at the table, but then, it makes sense, since they were also trying to maximize the equity in the pot. This one guy kept following me on my breaks and was very nice, complimenting my play and wanting to know more about me. I don't think he was hitting on me, but who knows. He seemed perplexed when I told him that I play live like maybe once every 2 months. His response: I come here about 300 days a year. I was also friendly with this other Armenian dude that had the best time of his life telling me about his 25 year old girlfriend. He totally knew she was a golddigger, but he was having so much fun buying her stuff, feeling wanted. He wanted to be a better man with her and she kept him healthy, unlike when he came to the casino. He then paused pointed around the whole high limit section (especially at a 30/60 Stud table): "You see all these people here? Poker has ruined their life! And if it hasn't, it hasn't made it better, we all lost here". God, it was like the saddest thing, I've heard in my life, but then he left and the table told me that he was just barred at the Bike for being an asshole and starting fights and they dread that he comes here now. lawl.

I thought hard about what he said, though, I was very sad when I left the casino. People were very angry that night, lots of "fuck you"'s being thrown at each other, everybody on edge. And yep, it seemed poker had ruined their life. :/

Posted By bellatrix at 09:25 AM


Tags: live play introspection

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