April 24, 2013

The new snake oil

Poker coaching is a tough area for me to be objective on given that I coach poker. However, what it also does is allow me to see events and trends unfold from the other side of the dynamic. I've always been upfront about what I personally believe should exist between coach and student. I don't believe a coach should charge more than their winrate - in fact they should charge less. I don't believe coaches should flog ebooks and mass coaching sessions. That is my opinion, and it might be the wrong one. I'm willing to entertain the idea that I might be wrong about almost anything and that is something the wrong kind of coach won't do. Lets look at the reasons why:

A good coach:
Makes money from coaching
Is interested in the progress of the client
Charges less than their winrate
Enables a flow of information to and from the student
Doesn't have an ebook
Doesn't do group coaching
Doesn't advertise

A bad coach:
Makes money from coaching
Is interested in making as much money as possible from a client
Charges more than their winrate
Information flows in one direction only
Has an ebook (and is always writing another)
Sells group coaching
Employs adverts, listings and shills

What's the point of pointing all of this out? It's so I can go, shit Tim, you don't do any of those bad things, god dammit you're the best darn coach there is, obviously.

In reality it's because bad coaches reflect badly on all coaches and it generally pains me to see how much of this nefarious activity is going on in all corners of the pokerverse. If the Council of Poker* turned to me and said "Tim, you suck, and we'd appreciate if you didn't coach any more". That would be a bummer but it would be fine. Coaching is not a crutch or a revenue stream. If you take coaching away from a bad coach it's like chopping a head off a hydra. First they would writhe around in pain and a pile of vile goo and then another head would re-grow, different and yet the same to the last.

In my inbox this morning I received an email with the following subject line: "X Releases How To Crush Online Poker in 2013". Only $59! This is the epitome of bullshit. This is the problem writ large. It's designed to attack a very specific market and it's using crude methodology to achieve its aims. It's using the words "crush" and "2013" to make it appear as though the reader will "crush" (what does that even mean? I'm not sure, but it sounds awesome, right?) and "2013" to make it seem like this is a tome of new important poker infos that only and crucially applies to the right now! So buy! Buy! Buy! Buy! But wait, hold on. If this bible of excrement can enable us to "crush" online poker, shouldn't it cost a lot more than $59? Doesn't that mean everyone with $59 will be able to crush and how can we all crush simultaneously?

Earlier in the week I happened upon a discussion where an NL2 player was trying to construct near GTO ranges for his play. At NL2. This is another part of the problem brought on by the emergence of GTO as a buzz-acronym. Lets image we're new to poker and we want to do things right (if we assume "right" means, make some money from poker). Learning near GTO strategies off the bat is not going to help you**.

Eventually poker players should come to the rational realisation that there are only two books they need to invest in (by invest I don't just mean monetarily). The Mathematics of Poker, by Chen and Ankenman and Elements of Poker, by Tommy Angelo. If you've played enough poker to be successful, you will able to extrapolate from those two sources everything that you need. There's nothing wrong with getting help along the way, whether it's from friends or coaches, but have the awareness that no one can sell you a magic poker pill.

If you want some of the content of Mathematics broken down into more manageable chunks, that material exists, in a couple of accessible places. You should be able to start intuitively creating your own CREV sims and your own equations to solve for different scenarios. I too have been guilty of just waiting to be told this kind of information. Definitely use helpful video series and talk to helpful people to further your understanding of how to do it, but you can do it all yourself.

What we can see in the wild now however is coaches piggybacking the GTO surge and this is bad because it enables them to use the general confusion surrounding GTO to further their own ends. GTO is a thing. It should be admired, respected and studied. But  GTO lingo can used as smoke and mirrors. They can use GTO as an excuse to not enter into a proper dialogue so that what you end up with is this, over and over:

There are of course exceptions to the rule. If and when Sauce releases an ebook, I will snap it up. I will shove my dollars into his open maw. There are always exceptions to the rule. If you want to be the exception, you had better make damn sure that you are exceptional.

As it is we don't know what true GTO play looks like. Something like this, perhaps.

* I don't know who would be on the Council of Poker. In my mind it's Ivey, Sauce, Tommy Angelo and Jim Bergerac. Your council may vary.
** Unless you are extremely mathematically gifted. In which case just create a toy game for whatever you want to solve rather than faffing around at NL2.

 / So, shut up and
   buy my new book
   send more money /

Posted By inavacuum at 08:51 AM


December 06, 2012

Content is coming

Assuming the DC bosses greenlight it, that is.

I've teamed up with a couple of great poker minds far beyond my own humble capabilities to bring you video festivity. One is a valued DC regular, the other isn't but has a cool accent to make up for it.

There will be 2/5 Zoom. There will be 5/10 6max.

I will make this face a lot.

User Uploaded Image


Posted By inavacuum at 11:35 PM


Tags: saywhat

July 23, 2012

How we do

Forgetting the reams of shit I've posted over the months (years), you all just really want graphs, right? 2012 seems like a good place to start.

User Uploaded Image



Posted By inavacuum at 07:13 PM


Tags: michael bolton

July 04, 2012

Curse of the pokerbros

zooroaster asks "... but seriously how much do you put into table selection, especially post BF?"

Table selection is something that has been talked to death and something everyone has a slightly different take on. I think it comes down to a few simple points:

Having position on weaker players
Not being out of position to good aggressive players
Avoiding short stacks

But I've not answered the question, how much emphasis should we put on table selection? The answer, as with so many things in poker, is that it depends. You see, we can't enter the arena of table selection without also entering the murkier arena of bumhunting. It's a concept I have a bit of a problem with because everyone does it.

Ever turned down HU action? You're a bumhunter.
Ever left, or worse, sat out when the fish leaves? You're a bumhunter.
Just signed up to this awesome Italian/French/Intergalactic poker site that has no regs? You're a bumhunter.
Every played vs someone worse than you on purpose? You're a bumhunter.

The list goes on. And it doesn't matter. Lets look at why the term is so often used: Pokerbros. Firstly, who is the pokerbro? The pokerbro lives in one of four places:

With parents
With other pokerbros
In a dorm

And why do they call people bumhunters so much? The most important reason is because it makes them feel better about themselves. Every time you call someone a bumhunter maliciously, you're trying to feel better about your own game/life. Secondly, it's because table selection matters less to them because the majority of them are on staking deals where they care less about game selecting and the rest are on 60%+ rakeback deals where it's more important to get in volume than to game select aggressively. Above and beyond these points the money matters less to them because they have virtually no outgoings. It's free to live at home, it's cheap to live in a dorm and it's even cheap to rent when you're splitting the bill with two other pokerbros.

Lets get back to the original question, how much emphasis should be put on game selection? As much as you feel you want to. If you're happy with your game then just play the best tables available to you without going over the number at which your winrate starts to falter. It should be fairly self-explanatory how you work this out. If you're not happy with your game it means getting a coach and working on what you're unhappy with. This is going to mean purposefully playing vs better regs from time to time.

Wait, so that means I can just go and sit with all the fish and take all their monies and leave and everything is ok? Well, yes and no. I think if we use common sense we can determine what is acceptable and what isn't. Lets say the fish leaves the table and it's just you and the remaining regs who didn't sit out already. I think it's perfectly acceptable to just leave the table if you wish. If you feel comfortable continuing because you think it's +EV, then that's fine too. Just sitting out until another fish comes or the table closes is not ok. Lets say the fish at the table sits out, just keep playing. If you really can't cope with it, then just leave. Don't sit out in rhythm with the fish because they know what is happening and it makes it less fun for them. For the same reason you shouldn't leave your established seat to sit right back down with position on the fish. I try and behave with a little courtesy to the other regs (if they deserve it). If we're playing three handed and the weaker player leaves and I don't want HU with the remaining reg but we've posted blinds, I will just fold every hand and leave. That means folding 32o and leaving as well as folding AA and leaving.

All of this of course is just my opinion and the beauty of reality is that you're completely entitled to not give a shit about it. The problem is that those who don't give a shit about it usually feel that their own opinion (that everyone apart from them is a bumhunter) somehow has some merit. Well pokerbro, you may be a balla NLX00 HU crusher on Sky poker or whatever, but you also live with your mum.

Posted By inavacuum at 12:15 PM


June 02, 2012

Waiting for the rapture

Something I've seen a lot of lately is other regs complaining about how the games are dead. Those "everyone's solid" jokes are, for some, starting to feel a little less amusing. Many of these people are eagerly anticipating the "re-boom" of poker. I think these people are in for a long wait. Poker will certainly rebound again and again but there's no way we are going back to 2005. No matter what happens with the popularity and perhaps more importantly availability of poker, there will still be a saturation of trained regs and there are will be many more returning from exile when the water feels warmer. What we have to realise is that it's no longer possible to use the equation: videos+bit of coaching+sit down=profit as a viable long-term solution. All of those elements are and will remain very important, but it's going to get harder. The long list of professionals actually have to become professionals. That means more preparation, more study, more live play, learning more games, better mental attitude, better game selection, better quitting, better everything.

I feel as though many who rose during the boom period shouldn't even really use the term professional. It's more like we were all exploiting a hole in the software and that hole is being closed quickly. If we look at the rough time span of 2005-2011 you could say that you didn't have to be in any way smart or dedicated to make a lot of money playing poker and this is part of the problem we are seeing now. Poker players are inherently very lazy and being forced to adapt brings much screeching and wailing. This of course doesn't apply to everyone, the top 1% of players are definitely very smart, hard-working individuals. That's why they are where they are. I'm not talking about them. I'm talking about you and me.

What I feel many of the 99% fail to realise, however, is that despite the fact that we could all do with utilising more dedication and motivation life isn't over now that the boom is. You don't have to be incredibly smart and dedicated to succeed, just look at the current generation of actors, TV personalities and screenwriters as proof of that. I sports bet professionally for years as my only source of income before playing poker and without any kind of training site cheat sheet and I'm in no way super smart or naturally brilliant. Anyone else could do the same theoretically. Many won't, because tilt and BRM and confidence will get in the way and there's no support network to fall back on as there is with poker. But they could, if they really wanted to. They could also do almost anything else, if they really wanted to.

Poker isn't going anywhere but it isn't going to get any easier. That doesn't mean the dream has to end, but it does mean you should stop waiting for the rapture.


Posted By inavacuum at 11:06 AM


April 06, 2012

Mike McDermott is an idiot

There is an inherent problem with poker that I will call The Mike McDermott Problem. It's a problem of a few parts.

1. People tend to respect players who have earned buckets of money by being an incredible super awesome lag super hero, or are perceived to be, and have no respect for players who have earned buckets of money by not being an incredible super awesome lag super hero. Lets look at some, granted very extreme, examples: Isildur1. The archetypal incredible super awesome lag super hero. leatherass: The archetypal "terrible regfish who kills the games and only made any money because he was a huge luckbox nit, right?"

2. Imagine how much money a training site would make if they could sign Isildur1 to make videos. The owners would probably never need to work again. Would the people watching the videos actually improve? No, they wouldn't. This brings us to the core of the second part of the problem: Just because player X crushes does not mean you are going to improve by watching his or her videos. You might improve if you use the video as a small part of your overall plan for improvement, but more often the video watcher ends up trying to emulate the video maker and that never works. Now lets imagine leatherass is making videos*. Most people won't watch them because he's a "terrible regfish who kills the games and only made any money because he was a huge luckbox nit, right?"

* He might be somewhere, I have no idea. I don't know leatherass at all, he's just good for this example.

3. Which brings us to the third part of the problem. Most people have the wrong goal. They want to be Player X crushing high/nosebleed stakes [game of choice] on [site of the moment] without realising that 1) It's a lot, lot harder to be that person now and it will probably get harder, 2) You won't get there by watching videos, no matter who the author is. You might get there if you work incredibly hard, have no social pressures, are smart enough to fill in the gaps yourself and have a group of great players to talk poker with. If it's been 2 years+ and you're still playing 1/2 NHLE, it's not going to happen.

It was a lot easier to be Mike McDermott in 2007. Those days are gone. If all the people who had tried and failed to become a superstar had followed a different route they would probably have a lot more money if only they adjusted their goals slightly and their attitudes greatly. But then they would have to live with themselves for not being a total balla. I guess the extra money just isn't worth the sacrifice of that dream. Does the dream matter? For some people it always will, but last time I checked leatherass was still a millionaire.


User Uploaded Image


Not idiot:

User Uploaded Image


Even Joey Knish gets tilted sometimes. For those times, I recommend you bookmark the following (NSFW bla bla bla)


Posted By inavacuum at 08:34 AM


March 02, 2012

I.. can't figure out what I was doing in Utah this morning

As you all know that is a quote from the undisputed best movie ever made: Fletch.

Which brings us to the topic of movies in general. Yes, I use the term movie, even though I am English and English people say film. I have severe aversion to the term film ever since knowing a Northern Irish gentlemen who would pronounce it "fillum" and put me on insta life-tilt. I'll stick with movie.

I don't like to think of myself as a movie snob, I love The 39 Steps but I also love Starship Troopers. It's a wide gamut. I have always had an interest in creative writing, especially in relation to the big and small screen and I obtained a Master's in the subject so even if I were an incredible dunce I do have a rudimentary understanding of what makes good and bad creative writing. Having two small children you find that you lose the time to keep up with new movies, finding time to go to the cinema is especially difficult. Having the rare opportunity to do this however I was a little depressed with the fare on offer and, I guess, the general state of the industry. Lets take a look at the non-kid movies showing at my local Odeon:

Footloose: Someone remade Footloose? What the fuck?
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance: If you ever get the opportunity, check out Nick Cage's cockney accent in National Treasure. It makes the entire thing worthwhile.
This Means War: What to say about Tom Hardy? I first saw him in Cape Wrath (one of the worst things ever created) playing an idiot, like an idiot. Surely there's no future for an actor that bad, right? Wrong. This is down to what we can call the "300 effect" where-by due to the laws of physics it's impossible for Gerard Butler to be making more than three or four terrible movies at any one time and superior or lesser clones are required to fill the void in time and space. Also, I had no idea Andrew Robl was big in Hollywood.
The Woman In Black: I have no problem with Daniel Radcliffe. The child superstar thing can't be easy and the vestiges of history are filled with warnings: Haim. Feldman. Phoenix. He seems to be fine, however. Which is cool. No, Radcliffe is not the problem with this film. The problem is that it has Jane Goldman's slightly desperate fingerprints all over it. You know when you bite into a sandwich that looks perfectly good and for a while it is good and then you cough, splutter and gag as you realise with dread and horror that someone has put pesto in the sandwich? Jane Goldman is that pesto.
Project X: I don't understand why this movie was even made. Who is the target audience? Children? Idiots? Given the 18 cert not that many children are going to see it any time soon.
The Vow: This one I get. Ladies want to see some vegetable with his shirt off and feel some romance. Cool. That can't be hard to mess up, right? My wife saw this and couldn't shut up about how terrible it was.

I guess the trip to the movies can be postponed for a while.

Lets talk about some underrated movies of time gone by:

Match Point: Possibly the worst titled film ever, not least because it risks being mistaken for Wimbledon (actually the worst film ever). As far as I know this was pretty much panned but it's really a little gem. It has problems, big problems, problems that prevent it from being a classic, but it really is a good, solid film in the Hitchcock mold. You can tell someone has got something right when there is no discernible likeable protagonist, but there do exist well-formed characters that we can follow with interest.

The Ninth Gate: This one has a few more problems with the script but if you can forgive it that and embrace the errors as merely camp then it all works. What is special here is the cinematography and music. It's shot in a way a noir should be shot and that type of cinematography is almost entirely absent at present. Another good example of this type of filming would be Kenneth Branagh's Wallander.

Posted By inavacuum at 06:51 PM


February 29, 2012

Are you the regfish?

Playing live some months ago I witnessed the following exchange. A reg, lets call him Bob, is no doubt a winner but certainly has a lot of problems with his game. I've seen him make some fairly big mistakes and take some fairly horrendous beats, but I've never seen him complain or visibly tilt. Another reg, lets call him hoodie+headphones, got into a hand with Bob. Bob won and hoodie+headphones didn't like how Bob played it and decided in no uncertain terms that he would let Bob know about how bad his play was. "Oh, you didn't like that?" replied Bob, before calmly adding "Well, I'll make sure I never do that again then." I thought it was a very effective way of making a good point. If his play was so bad, why was hoodie+headphones going out of his way to draw Bob's attention to the fact? The only reason for his behaviour is tilt. While I think hoodie+headphones is technically a better player, if I were able to prop bet on the lifetime results of either I'd take Bob to be ahead and I'd back him big on it.

This got me thinking about some of the things regs do that are forms of tilt and that, ultimately, will be harming their earning. Lets take a look at the list:

-Do you berate fish live or online?
-Do you berate regs live or online?
-Is your immediate happiness directly related to your session results?
-Do you feel like you have played well after a winning session and bad after a losing session?
-Have you ever lied about your winrate "because that's what it would be if you didn't run so bad"?
-Do you frequently comment about how terrible certain regs are to your blog/Twitter/Skype group because it makes you feel better about your own game?
-Do you grim or slowroll people who don't deserve it? (Who deserves it? Shortstackers and people who have done it to you.)
-Do you sit out/change seats instantly in rhythm with the fish?
-Do you refuse to play HU with any other player who isn't a certified bloater "because of variance"?
-Are you obsessed with yourself or others running behind or ahead of EV?
-Do you feel that you should have won pots that you did not win?
-Do you feel that the work you have done entitles you to a living from poker?
-Do you feel that you definitely deserve to earn more than Bob because Bob is a total fish, man.
-Do you often mock mass tablers with low winrates and massive earnings because every time you've tried to mass table you've failed miserably?
-Do you classify yourself as a certain type of player? (It's a LAG isn't it?)
-Do you insta tag certain players as nits/regfish/donks/tards/bumhunters when they may not be?
-Did you watch every video on the internet (once without pausing, and skimming the mathematical ones), all the ebooks (none of which you paid for) and hired a coach that you didn't listen to and spoke over every time he tried to help you?
-Are all your poker friends exactly the same as you?

From my experience many regs utilise some combination of the above. Eventually some of them will bink a big tournament and move on to being even greater douche bags but for most it will be the same life forever. And what kind of life is that?

Posted By inavacuum at 12:17 PM


February 24, 2012

Coaching results

I've been working with this student for a short time. He's a smart, likeable guy - which makes coaching a lot easier. Here are his 100k hands post-coaching:

User Uploaded Image


And that concludes my yearly coaching advert. Unlike some people I'm not great with self-promotion and advertising. Just posting what I did above makes me feel a little slimy.

Clearing out some things the other day I found something from the deep recesses of the abyss. I was punched by a wave of disgust:

User Uploaded Image



Posted By inavacuum at 07:48 PM


February 07, 2012

I still can't chip riffle

This post is not content heavy. A few people asked me for a life update and I shall give one, uninteresting as it is. Expect a much more entertaining post soon on the topic of [real] football.

Poker is in a pretty strange place right now. Europe is having regulation fits and the US seems teetering on the brink of re-entering the market yet it all seems somehow underwhelming. I've stepped away from online poker somewhat. I still play, mostly at ongame which has some pretty great games much of the time, but have focused a lot on live play for the past few months. Live poker is encased within its own protective bubble and while the standard of play may rise across the board as time goes on those effects are felt far less in the live environment. It's also something I happy to enjoy, not seeming to reach that boredom line that online players hit when they're only playing a fraction of the hands/hour they're used to. I've been playing £2/£5, playing in the £5/£10 when it runs which has been sparse lately. One of the most enjoyable factors of live play is how deep the stacks generally are. The £2/£5 has a £2500 buy-in cap and the £5/£10 has no buy-in cap. So you just find the weaker spots and cover their stacks, if possible. This also allows for getting into some really interesting spots that rarely come up online with stacks so infrequently going above 200bb effective.

While I've been enjoying going to play live a couple of times a week, the rest of the time I've been enjoying spending time with my family. I can't express enough how I feel having a wife and kids has helped structure my life for the better. What would I be doing if I were still single and childless? Living in Thailand? Vegas? On the circuit around Europe? Spending my £ on retarded watches? Like it or not, I feel it's almost impossible for any single young(ish) male poker player not to fall into that life. I'm glad I escaped. My wife has been playing far more online than I have, she grinds out 6 tables at PKR and does really well. She seems to find the slower pace there a lot easier to cope with when playing multiple tables - the hand/hour rate is still pretty slow with 6 tables compared to any other site. It's an interesting site, I grinded there a little to obtain some hands for the previous Yin and Yang series but it has seriously limited potential. They recently capped to having 5/10 as the biggest game and this rarely runs. The 2/4 barely runs. I did play in those games a little and had a lot of fun, but only played <5000 hands and it's not somewhere any serious regular could consider as their mainstay. My wife loves it however, so I'm happy to play house husband while she plays there - it's like having a second income!

Posted By inavacuum at 11:40 AM


About Me