Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Check-raising, predestination, human behavior

This will be one of those rambling, random posts with some scattered ideas ...

First, check-raising. It's great. It really freaks players out, and it traps them into making a difficult decision unless they hold the nuts. Otherwise, the player must make a touch choice about whether to fold, call or raise.

Easy enough. But what does check-raising really do? Is it for value, or is it to protect your hand? My thinking is that it's a bit of both. It usually is enough to get the hand heads-up, but you're also investing an extra bet into the pot on that gamble. Of course, the hope is that you have the best hand at the time and your move adds value to the pot while you hold a hand that you know is likely ahead.

Then again, check-raising is also appropriate when you have a potential underdog hand as low as second or third pair. My understanding is that this play works when you are against an aggressive player who you have beat, when the pot is large and the check-raise is worth it in the hopes you will win, or when you get lucky and improve your hand on the turn or river.

I believe in check-raising liberally. It's consequences, though, are sometimes contradictory because you're at times hoping to win with a hand that isn't currently best while also adding value to the pot. Unless you hold a strong hand and the check-raise is purely for value, it seems like this move is at its core a semi-bluff. It works best when you're bluffing with the best hand, but it's also valuable many other times.


This is fun. Try it. It's even poker-related: IP Spotting


I was impressed by some of the quotes of Gary Carson, which I will repeat here from Iggy's blog which were taken from a poker forum.

On stop-loss strategies:

"Protecting your win is something that people do to satisfy a deviant emotional need. It has nothing to do with a stop loss."

On irrational behavior:

"Irrational is not stupid. It's actually normal human behavior. Don't they teach you anything in that business school?"

I think that one is important because it goes to the heart of every fish's behavior. Why do smart people play bad poker? Why do people who know better make bad moves? The reason is that humans are far from purely rational beings. There are outside impulses and contradictory logic at play, and rarely is that so obvious than in poker. People play poorly because they have a hunch, because they are experimenting, because they are on tilt.

"People who are grown up realize that sometimes they aren't doing things perfectly and sometimes they aren't doing things perfectly and they don't have perfect judgment about that. Only children harbor the illusion that they are indestructible."

Children ... and crazy people ... and fish ... and Superman.

I think I want to write a comic book based on the premise that Superman is an immature bastard because he actually is indestructible, while Batman is a pervert who satisfies his sexual fantasies by wearing a mask and beating up criminals. Same characters, just more honest motives.


I always have difficulties coming to terms with shitty players and variance. How should I objectively feel about the nature of poker? Should I be happy when I lose to a longshot draw, knowing that that's what keeps the donkeys playing? Is that even realistic?

Recently I've tried to have it both ways. It's unreasonable to be satisfied with losses while they're happening, whether or not you know they're for the "greater good" of the poker economy in the long run. It doesn't make sense for me to be happy about losing in the short term even if I know I've made money in the theoretical sense.

But it's much easier for me to take the philosophical perspective while I'm away from the tables.

I try to hold both thoughts in mind: hate the way the fish play, but love them for it.

I call it tough love. Or killing them with kindness.


In any type of poker, there are hands that are predestined losers. An easy example is if one person has AA and the other player has KK on a flop of AK2 rainbow. Most of the time, it's nearly impossible for the person with the set of Kings to get away from his hand.

And it won't be cheap.

That's poker. That's fine.

Anyone can play these hands -- anyone can win or lose with them. The difference between winning and losing is in the long run. Rarely are there opportunities to win enormous pots based entirely on savvy. You usually need some cards to back up the big pots.

What's just as important is picking up the one or two scattered bets here and there. There's a lot of dead money on the tables, and it's important to make value bets on the river, check-raises when the situation is right, and folds when you know you're beat. These are the bets that add up in the long run.

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