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11th-Jun-2012 07:52 am - blog posts never die
poker
Way back in 2005, I wrote a brief post on the minimum wage. (My views on the topic have evolved since then, though actually not by all that much.)

Unsurprisingly, some of the links have rotted. One study recently found that 28% of links are broken after 3 years.

What is surprising, is that someone at the Cato Institute actually bothered to email me to ask me to fix the broken link. Ok, sure. While I'm not sure this is the best use of their time, since approximately nobody is going to read a 7 year old entry on this blog, I'm happy to update it. Or, perhaps I'm wrong, and they are seeing people come in via that entry in their logs? Hard to believe.

Anyway, new link added. Consider this a correction of sorts. We regret the error.
21st-May-2012 12:15 pm(no subject)
poker
Background hand: there's a very good, very aggressive player we'll call Cranksick. He plays tons of hands in position, likes to play big pots, and generally likes to put people to tough decisions. He also plays very deep, with at least $20k on the table.

I'm $2400 deep playing 10-20-40 in the $20 big blind (the table is all straddling, hence the $40). Cranksick opens for 100 from the cutoff, and I have AQ. I raise to 400 (I've actually raised him several times this session from the blinds and he's folded them all), straddle folds, he shoves, I call quickly. He has A9 and gets there. Rebuy, $2000!

Now the hand. The very next orbit, he again opens for 100 in the cutoff, I again have AQ (this time s00ted!) in the bb, and I raise to 400 again. The bb folds, and his cards turn face up: Q8. Now Cranksick shoves. Same hand, very similar situation... but there's history and a dead Q.

Call or fold?

Call. AQ is good enough even with the dead Q.
11(73.3%)
Fold.
4(26.7%)

How much does the dead Q change things?

Doesn't matter that much.
0(0.0%)
It matters some, but not enough to change the action here.
12(80.0%)
It matters quite a bit -- it turned a call into a fold here.
3(20.0%)


analysis, such as it isCollapse )
16th-May-2012 12:52 pm - a few parenting rules
poker
We're interviewing nannies (again, sigh) and have had a number of interesting conversations about our parenting philosophy. Here are a set of rules we have for interacting with the kids that I gather are rather unusual... in fact, frequently outlandish.
  • Try never to lie. If they ask a question and they aren't ready to hear the answer, just tell them that. This doesn't mean you have to go into every gruesome detail, it's fine to couch your answer at the level you think they'll understand and that you have time for, but they're smarter than you probably think.

    This does extend to things like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. We've told them those stories with the attempt to treat them just like any other fictional story. When Jackson point blank asked if Santa was real, I told him, "No, but it's a fun story and fun to pretend."

    There's a common pattern with kids to tell them things that are untrue but scary as a joke, like "Be careful not to slip down the drain!" Don't do that. Kids have trouble distinguishing fake warnings from real ones.

    However, saying untrue things as a joke is fine in the right context. "Elephant toes" is a fine answer to a question about what's for dinner. (As long as it's not true.) People say untrue things all the time, and taking the time to evaluate whether an adult is telling the truth is a useful skill. But until the kids are good at it, the untruths should be completely implausible, then can get more plausible as they get more on to you. Fun game, actually.

    The most difficult time for this one is when they want something that you don't want to give them. Like if mommy is downstairs and I'm doing bedtime, it's very tempting to claim that Katy is busy doing sometime important that can't be interrupted rather than just admitting she needs a break, or it's my turn to answer the late night call.


  • Remember that every interaction is a repeated game, and your goal is not to win this one iteration, but to win the series. So if a child is crying because she wants something, even though it feels like a win to give in now (she stops crying which is better for everyone, you haven't really given up much), it's disastrous in the repeated game because she learns that you can get what you want by crying.

    The flipside of that is that you have to let them get what they want in other ways. If you say no and they have good reasons why you should give in, or even an attempt at good reasons, sometimes you have to give in. You want them to be thinking critically and trying to persuade you.

    Here's an example. Katy put down a couple of dollars on the counter, which Jackson took, leading to the following conversation:

    Katy: Jackson, please leave those there.
    Jackson: But this one is mine.
    Katy: No it's not, I just put it there.
    Jackson: It looks just like the one I got last week!
    Katy: It's not the same one, I just put it there like 30 seconds ago!
    Jackson: But money is spongeable.
    Katy: ...
    Katy: Ok, you can have it.

    Because money being fungible is a great reason, even if it's not completely persuasive in this particular instance, and "spongeable" is awesome. If he'd started crying, the answer would have been a much more solid, no-more-negotiation "no."


  • Almost never bluff. This is related to the first two points, but is really more like the second. If you threaten a consequence and don't follow through, they'll figure that out really quickly. Which leads to the following rule: be very careful with threats. If you make them, carry them out; if you don't want to carry out the threat, don't make it.

    Sometimes we violate that. The most common case is when the kid is obviously bluffing. So when we're leaving somewhere and Lucile declares she isn't coming, I raise by telling her goodbye and starting to walk away. So far she's folded every time. Note: I wouldn't do that if it upset her, she gets that I'm not really going to leave her.


  • Praise. This is hard to explain, or maybe I just need to find a better way, but we're pretty particular in how we praise our kids. We try to use process praise ("I like the way you made up a story about all the parts of your drawing"), some amount of results praise ("That block tower is amazing! It's so tall!"), and virtually zero person praise ("You're a good artist/architect.")

    This is because process praise is motivating and helpful, and person praise is demotivating. Here's an article on the praise research, or you could go look at it yourself.

    Also try to avoid general praise ("nice job") in favor of specifics, though in practice that's sometimes pretty hard.

    The uncontroversial flipside is that criticism works the same way. Process criticism ("Your elbow is too low when you swing, raise it up higher") is good, limited amounts of results criticism is ok ("I've seen you do better, let's try it again"), person criticism is right out ("You're a bad baseball player").


  • Answer questions with as much detail as they want. I've had conversations with the kids about civil rights, affirmative action, religion, communism versus capitalism, consequences for breaking laws, race, sexuality, and so on. Not because I've set out to teach them that stuff, but because they ask lots of questions and I try to answer them. Kids are mostly concerned with concrete, day-to-day stuff -- but some of the best interactions come when they are in the right questioning mood, and you definitely want to take advantage of it.

    You have to be age appropriate -- when talking about where babies come from, I don't talk about penises in vaginas -- but they can handle a lot more than most adults give them credit for.


It's amazing to me how often we get strange looks or pushback from other parents about these. People thought we were ax murderers for not teaching our kids that Santa is real, and of course we were all brought up in a time chock full of person praise -- kids then and now are told all the time that they're smart, beautiful, and good at everything they do.
27th-Apr-2012 02:58 pm(no subject)
poker
Here are a pair of river situations:

Playing 10-20 with $3k stacks. I have AsKs in the cutoff and open for 60. The button and big blind call. The flop is KJ5hhs. The blind checks, I fire 120, and Barry, a loose player, calls. Barry plays kind of erratically depending on his mood, but he just sat down so I'm not sure what mode he's in. Sometimes he's in passive calldown mode, and sometimes he's bluffy. The blind goes away.

The turn is the 9s, giving me the nut flush draw to go with my top pair. I bet again, 280, and Barry raises to 900. I call. The river is an offsuit 8, I check, he quickly puts out $1200.

What now?

Fold. He's showing a ton of strength.
8(50.0%)
Call. We got here, it's only one more bet.
8(50.0%)
Jam! Top pair, baby!
0(0.0%)
Fold the turn instead so you don't get into these spots.
0(0.0%)


Another day, another 10-20 hand. I get called for the must move, but I'm playing my last hand on the button. I tell the blinds that since it's my last hand I'm only folding the bottom 10% of my hands. It folds to me, and I have K3, obviously in the top 90%. I raise! to 50.

The bb, who I haven't played with much, is a middle-aged white guy who sometimes plays well and sometimes is maybe a bit overly fancy. Definitely tricky. Anyway, he calls.

The flop is 932r, second pair, baby! He checks, I bet 70, he calls. The turn is another 9, putting the second heart on the board (I have no heart [this is a problem for a poker player {or a lion}]). Now he bets out for 130. I have no idea what to make of this, but I call. The river is a Q, and he bets 400.

Hmmmmmmm.

Fold. We can't beat anything.
7(43.8%)
Call, he's bluffing enough.
9(56.2%)
Raise. He has something, but we can get him off it.
0(0.0%)


analysis, or when to zig and when to zagCollapse )
8th-Mar-2012 12:37 pm - shooting stars trip report
poker
I played this week. It's a really fun tournament: for those who don't know, it's a 10k buyin WPT event in which every table has a poker "star". If you bust them, you get a $5000 bounty. Bay 101 does a good job of running a ton of satellites, so the field is at least half people who have won entries, which makes for a lot of questionable play.

The event starts with a breakfast buffet for the players, which was surprisingly non-horrible. I broke fast with Mike McClain, which is now a mini-tradition when I play the tournament (which is unfortunately rare, in that I have a board meeting every year which usually conflicts, though happily didn't this year).

Tiny buyin story: I walk up to the cage with $5k in cash, bundled and labeled, and 5 $1k chips. I dig in my pocket for the chips and pull out 5 $1 chips instead. Yeah, that won't cut it. I hand over the big chips and the cash, and they don't even bother to count the cash! That's one trusting casino.

My table was good. Our star was Phil Hellmuth, who, as usual, didn't show for a couple of hours. On the third hand, in the bb, I have AK, raise, flop a K, and get two streets of value. A good start, which turned into a great start on the next hand:

A player folds J9o and accidentally flips it up. Then the cutoff raises the $100 bb to 350 and the button calls. I have AA and a little over my starting $30k, and raise it to $1200. The cutoff considers, then reraises to $3400. I like how this is going. I raise to $9,500, and he promptly ships for his $28. I call. He has JJ, which is obviously suicidal, but even more so because of the dead J. He rivers the case J, but he was dead because of the flopped A. Double up on the fourth hand!

I spend a few thousand seeing if the table will let me take over, nope, so I go back to my regular game. Phil's seat is filled by another player, and the TD says that in the unlikely event that Phil shows before we lose another player, we'll have to play 10-handed for a while. This is actually fine because I know the player who we just got, and really want him at the table; plus he'd won a seat in a super that started at midnight, and so hadn't slept the night before. This is a good spot.

I chip up slightly over the rest of the level and the next, entering the break with $65k.

Hellmuth shows up during the next level and we do in fact go to 10 handed. He promptly gets it in against a short stack ($14k) with AK versus AT, and the shorty sucks out. Sadly no explosion.

This leads to an interesting opportunity. Busting Hellmuth is worth $5000 in actual money, or roughly $15000 in tournament chips. Given that he has $15k, it's like getting 2:1 on his whole stack before the rest of the pot is counted. So I should be pretty willing to go after him.

I get my opportunity a little later. Two limpers for $200, I call with KQo, another caller, and Hellmuth in the sb makes a speech about taking a little stab at the limpers and raises $1000 more. One player calls. Is KQ strong enough here? Getting in against AK is actually ok here, though AA and KK are still pretty bad. Lower pairs are obviously great, since the flip has a nice bounty overlay. I might also just take the pot now which is good as well. I raise to $16k, Phil calls, the other guy goes away... but Phil has AA. Oops. I flop a Q but brick out after that. Hellmuth complains that he always has to fade something, he never gets to relax. I tell him he's not allowed to complain when someone puts him in with KQ.

In retrospect... I'm not sure about that hand. Phil certainly has something raising from the small blind. If he has TT/AK and calls with all of it, I only have 28% equity, which is actually not enough. If he folds the TT and JJ, which he might, now I have 20% when I get called, and am not picking up nearly enough when he folds to make up for that.

So jamming was a mistake. I'm not sure how I would have played the flop once I hit the Q, but it wouldn't have involved getting all in.

Luckily the next level I pick off two river bluffs, and am right back up to 62k.

Our table breaks, and there's another short bounty, and I make another questionable play. Again, there are limpers (actually at my first two tables there were tons of limped pots -- did I mention the field was pretty soft?), I call along with AJs for 400, and the bounty right behind me ships for 8k. The first limper tanks for a long time, then calls. The second folds, and I decide this time to call rather than try to push him off -- I had the distinct sense that once he called here he wasn't folding.

The flop was 974r, we check, the turn is a 7, and he checks again. He's certainly not showing any strength, can I get him to fold? I bet $12000, and he quickly calls. Oops. The river is a Q, he checks, I give up. He has 66, which beats the bounty's AK.

To review: limping, fine; calling the bounty all-in, fine; betting the turn: not so good. It's obviously great if he folds and I scoop versus KQs or something, but that's probably a pretty rare holding for the all in, and I can't beat his pairs or good aces.

41.6k at dinner, still above average.

After dinner, a new table complete with a new, short-stacked bounty, Kathy Liebert. She's playing tight and careful, and I don't see any opportunities to go after her. I win chips by being aggressive and tenacious, but also by picking up some hands. I run my stack up to 76.4k by dinner.

Joe Tehan shows up short immediately to my right, sweet. But three hands later he ships, I fold my 83dd, but he gets called by QTdd. Flop Q83, and I'm thinking I coulda, and now he's gone.

At this point I'm tired and a bit headachey. I should pay attention to that, and lock down, but I don't. Blinds are 500-1k-100, and I have 90k, but lose a bunch of hands in a row:

I raise with KJs from the hijack, the button calls. Flop is T-high rags, I bet, he reluctantly calls. Turn is an A, I fire again, he calls quickly. River is a K, we check, he has AQ.

Solid player in the middle opens for 2.2k, I raise to 6k with KTs on the button, he calls easily. Flop is T54r, he checks, I bet 7.5k, he check-raises to 15k with 35k back. Ugh. I don't like any of my options here. He could have a pocket pair near the T (JJ is very likely, maybe QQ, 88, 99), or just a resteal. I decide to call. The turn is a 9 and he ships. Ugh again. I eventually fold.

Reraising with KTs and similar won me a bunch of money during the day, and maybe I just was getting lucky, or got unlucky when he had a hand, but the last two hands are spots where I could have saved a lot of chips by just being tight with my largish but not dominant stack.

I find AKs and raise, Kathy defends. The flop is JT5 giving me a backdoor flush draw. She checks, and I check it back, really not wanting to get raised on a flop that hits a ton of her range. The turn is small, we check again. The river pairs the 5 and she fires. I fold, and she gives a speech about getting it in on the flop and why did I check. That could mean top two, or it could mean KQ. I tell her I'd have happily gotten it in preflop.

Not I'm well below average, down to 36k. A loose player opens for 2000, and the next guy cold calls. I have a solid read on the opener and think he's weak this time. I have AJs, and make it 7000... which the button cold calls, uh oh. The opener folds as predicted as does his follower.

The flop is A32 all spades. The pot is 20k, I have 29k. Can I do anything but ship? I hope he cold called with QQ or TT and not AK. I push in, he has AK and calls, and I fail to hit my paltry outs.

Review of my play: I think I played well. I was too aggressive going after the bounties, I think, but I made lots of good calls, a decent fold or two, and took a lot of pots my cards didn't entitle me to.

But I really wish I'd tightened up at the end. I often find I end up bluffing off too many chips at the end of the day, when my sense of whether to bob or weave is blunted. I really need to recognize better that there's a time to play fast and go after people, and there's a time to be patient, and switch gears at the end.

Happily, Mike made it through day 1 with a big stack, and day 2 with an average stack and a bounty, and is in the money with 20 people left. Go Mike!
15th-Feb-2012 05:19 pm - HotW #3
poker
Jim is a tight/aggressive, fairly conservative player who is capable of bluffing in normal places. He's very friendly, I like him quite a bit.

He opens in the cutoff for 120 (the straddle is on, so we're playing 10-20-40), I have black TT on the button, and I three bet to 360. Effective stack sizes are just under $5k. He reraises to 960. I think and call.

The flop is J64ss, and he surprisingly checks. I decide to see if he's checking for value and bet 860. He calls. The turn is another J, he checks, and I check behind. The river is an offsuit 8, and now he bets 860.

Call, fold, or bluff?

Call. TT is too high in my range to fold, or Jim might be bluffing. Anyway the bet is tiny.
8(72.7%)
Fold. He's obviously value betting a high pair.
2(18.2%)
Jam. I'm behind his overpair, time to turn my pair into a bluff.
1(9.1%)

Where did I screw up?

Preflop. His range is looking really strong, I should fold.
1(8.3%)
Preflop is obviously a jam for value.
0(0.0%)
Check behind on the flop. He's showing too much strength to value bet there.
3(25.0%)
Bet again on the turn. His overpair should be very concerned about those jacks.
1(8.3%)
I played it fine.
7(58.3%)


Cut for discussion and resultsCollapse )
4th-Feb-2012 09:28 pm - hand of the week 2
poker
I hope nobody notices that this isn't the second week of the year.

The game is 10-20 with a $40 straddle every hand. I'm in the bb, a loose player opens for 100, the button calls, Mel (very tight) in the sb calls, I call in the bb with 9s9h and $4500, and the straddle calls.

The flop is 8d6d3s, and Mel bets out for 400. I think and call, everyone else folds. The turn is a 4, and Mel bets 1100. He has me covered.

Mel is, as noted, very tight, but certainly can bluff and when he does he's willing to fire multiple streets. He doesn't bet draws very often when the stacks are deep, as they are here... though the stacks are not really all that deep given the $40 straddle. Deepish.

So, what do I do?

Fold
9(75.0%)
Call, planning to call a blank river
0(0.0%)
Call, planning to fold the river if he bets
2(16.7%)
Call, with some other plan (float, represent the flush draw, or similar)
0(0.0%)
Raise, he's obviously stealing
1(8.3%)

Where did I screw up?

You should have raised the flop to define your hand and the situation more clearly.
2(25.0%)
Fold the flop, you maroon.
3(37.5%)
Something else, which will be revealed by astute commentary below.
2(25.0%)
Your mistake was buying in in the first place.
1(12.5%)


Analysis and resultsCollapse )
23rd-Jan-2012 02:21 pm - whine: computer problems
poker
My laptop has been having issues. A year and a half ago, I decided I wanted a high-end laptop, something good enough to play games and develop on. It turns out the options were fairly limited: alienware, dell's alienware, and HP's envy. For some reason, the alienware machines were insanely heavy for good performance. Looking at their website now I see they'e fixed that. But while I didn't need an ultralight laptop, >10 lbs was too much. So I bought the envy.

Which has been great, performance-wise. But it's had several problems. Most recently I updated the video drivers, and started getting blue screens of death and various other issues. HP doesn't have on-site repair, so I shipped it off last week. Today I got it back. They'd replaced the motherboard and the keyboard (which was also having unrelated issues).

Ok, time to reinstall software... wait. That doesn't look right.



Here's what that same screen looks like on the external monitor:



So yeah. Back in the box, back to HP's repair center for a new LCD. At the end of this they will have replaced almost every part of the damn thing.

Addendum: in an annoying coda, the machine has 115 windows 7 updates to install, which it's doing now when I asked it to shut down. It's saying not to turn off or unplug it until it's done, so I guess I have to wait before I pack it up.
17th-Jan-2012 04:52 pm - Hand a week #1
poker
I've decided to blog more hands this year in an effort to think more about my game. But I'm going to change the format a bit: I'll blog one hand from each session, the hand I feel like I played the worst, or had the most questions about. I'll include a poll with each one so you can let me know how much of an idiot I am.

It's actually surprisingly psychologically hard to blog only the hands that you played wrong. I imagine perception of my skillz will decline. On the other hand, maybe knowing I'll post the worst ones will help me play better.

Ok, bad hand the first. I have about 5k in front of me, having doubled up early. The big game used to be 10-10-20 at lucky chances, but now it's 10-20, and the main game frequently has a mandatory straddle. The straddle is on for this session.

I open for 160 utg with 9c9s, and M.Y. cold calls right behind me. We take the flop heads up, which comes Td8c5h. I bet 220, and he calls. The turn is the 7c, I check, and then call his 340 bet. The river is the 6c, completing a backdoor flush, and of course the 4 card straight. I bet 820, and he puts me in for almost $4000 more.

What do I do?

Call
5(31.2%)
Fold
11(68.8%)

Did I screw up somewhere?

Betting the river was dumb, now you're in a terrible situation. Check next time.
3(18.8%)
You gave up initiative on the turn, and look where it got you. Bet there, or check-raise.
4(25.0%)
I think you played it ok so far.
7(43.8%)
You screwed up somewhere else, which I will elucidate in the comments.
2(12.5%)


Discussion and resultsCollapse )
6th-Jan-2012 10:52 am - 2011 cash game results
poker
2011 was one of my worst cash game years ever. I got way behind early, and never really got it going.

This was basically drive by game size. For a while there was a 25-50 game that played big, and my results in those sessions were just horrific, with two very big losses in dollar terms -- though not really in big blind terms -- and no big wins. Meanwhile I did fine in the smaller games.

So was the problem adverse game selection, worse play on my part, or short term luck? Well, the game featured all the regs who are in the 10-20 games, and while that's not a great lineup if the game is all regs, I've held my own in that game. It's possible that the non-reg makeup was different though. Certainly there are one or two losing players who regularly played the 25-50 game but lobbied a ton and played much tighter than they did in smaller games, so maybe the game was worse. But it can't be *that* much worse -- I can't imagine I go from a winning player to a massively losing one.

Short term luck can't be ruled out. I played 9 sessions of 25-50 totaling about 64 hours, which is maybe a bit under 2000 hands. It's easy to have a short-term gain or loss over that time regardless of your skill level.

Finally, play. I'd made the intentional decision to play more hands and play them more aggressively this year, and certainly there were some kinks to be worked out. I should probably go back to blogging hands when I'm experimenting with new styles. I've also noticed that my concern that my formerly more tight/predictable style was exploitable might be unwarranted given that other tight players seem to have no trouble getting action. I wonder if it's worth tightening up against the less aware players while still trying to keep a broad range against the aware ones.

Here's a graph of my results. Note the divergence in blinds won versus dollars won, which shows pretty clearly that you can do well in winning blinds but not at all well in winning dollars.



I guess my major takeaway from that graph is: it could have been a lot worse. If I'd had those two big losses with no big win at all instead of one, I would have ended up being very sad.
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