Friday, January 27, 2006

Ups and downs

A few months ago, a friend of mine had a party because she was leaving Atlanta. Most of the poker crew was there, and a few people that I hadn't played with in ages. I was trying to keep a poker game from breaking out because that would have upset some of the non-poker people at the party. Got to keep the fish happy.

I ran into Bobby, who couldn't believe that I had been winning in poker since I last saw him about a year before.

"No one ever really wins," he said. "It's all just ups and downs."

Heh. It made me smirk.

But seriously, while good players win and bad players lose, the role of luck in poker is difficult to understand. I feel like I have a decent grasp of what kinds of streaks I can expect, but I couldn't tell you the formula for variance (OK, I looked it up. But it didn't make any sense to me. Something to do with sigma and a cursive o).

A recent post on 2+2 talked about how severe the downswings can be.

Basically, it seems like it's entirely possible for an otherwise winning player to run bad for 100,000 hands or more.

OK, fine.

But 100,000 hands is a lot of hands. That would be trying on my patience if I had a downswing that lasted that long.

Fortunately, the law of averages also applies to winrate (whatever winrate really is). If I can average 1.5 to 2 big bets per 100 hands, that's some decent bank in the long run. And let's not forget about rakeback, which in large part can compensate for bad runs and pad winning streaks. Rakeback is pretty steady earn.

So there.

Right now, I'm trying to come to terms with variance is shorthanded play at $5/$10 limit, which is the game I've been playing for the last month or so. I'm up, but only by a few hundred.

What causes higher variance in shorthanded games? My thinking is that variance is higher because it's correct to play a wider range of hands preflop because there are fewer opponents; therefore, looser play is correct and it's also correct to look these people up at showdown. The wider hand ranges create higher variance. That's my theory.

But here's the rub: Everything else being equal (which it isn't, but work with me), what's the point in playing shorthanded vs. full ring? Both games have plenty of fish if you're selective about what games you join.

So why play short? Personal preference? An edge in postflop play?

Even if there is an advantage in profitability in shorthanded games because of the extreme fishiness, is it worth it? Or do the higher swings cancel out any perceived benefit?

If you have any thoughts, please post comments.

No comments: