I bought Poker Odds Calculator Pro for my iPhone for $2.99 a little while back and really liked it. It’s not a simple odds calculator, it’s like PokerStove, with the ability to calculate odds against a custom range of hands, random hands, and a set of pre-defined ranges. It was just updated; the new version speeds up card entry and lets you drill down into all the various permutations of winning hands. I can’t recommend it enough, because for May 27, to celebrate the opening of the WSOP, developer Richard Mullinix is giving it away for free.
Encore Club $10,000 Guarantee (10,000 chips)
Time was running out. If there was any chance of getting to EPT Prague for my 50th birthday, last weekend was pretty much make-or-break time. The second starting day kicks off at noon on December 6 (St. Nicholas’s Day); I’d have to catch a flight on the 4th to get there in time, which meant having the money and arrangements made the week after Thanksgiving at the latest. To do that, I needed to to get to an event (or series) with a potential prize large enough to cover the €5,300 ($7,125) entry fee and expenses for a nice little Yuletide vacation for Ms. Poker Mutant and myself (which only got higher as the date got closer). Not that I hadn’t been trying before.
I suppose I should have kept notes on what turned out to be the biggest win of my poker career so far, but I’m back in the mode of not being obsessive about it (plus my iPhone was low on charge). And after the whirl of the past couple of days, I’m not sure how much or how accurate my recollections of the event are.
I started off the night at red table 2 in seat 7; we were ten-handed, as usual in Encore’s $10K games (the same table was used for the final). My stack made its usual ups and downs, the first thing I can remember of any significance was when I’d managed to chip up to about 35,000 and a player in seat 1 pushed all-in from BB for the third or fourth time after raises in front of her. I stood to lose about a quarter of my stack calling her with K
The older guy to my immediate left reacted with indignity with the usual cant about how it was a stupid call. I didn’t point him to my calculator. In a nine-handed game, a pair of nines is the best hand 17% of the time. K6s is good 13%. My “relative par” rating—comparing each hand’s win/tie percentage to that of a pair of aces—for K6s is 19.19%; it’s 26.87% for nines (for nine-handed play).
Before I knew that the player I’d knocked out was related to my neighbor, I tried to explain why I’d called: that she’d made the same move several times from the blinds, that I had her stack covered substantially, etc. but he actually flipped his hand at me and said something like “Stop talking. Phffft, phfft, phfft.” I had a hard time suppressing outright laughter at the performance.
My own feeling is that I had at least a 33% chance of taking out a player without losing more than a quarter of my stack. Not good odds in a cash game, but tournaments aren’t cash games. I think people forget that sometimes. Every player knocked out gets you closer to the money in a tournament. UPDATE: Essentially, this is the same situation described in this Card Player hand matchup between Pius Heinz and Phil Collins at the WSOP Main Event final table earlier this month, right down to the pocket nines, with the difference being that the player with the draw—Collins—was the one at risk. Maybe Mr. PhfftPhfft would like to take his point up with Collins.
I don’t remember exactly where the tipping point in the game came. Unlike some other games, I never seemed to be significantly stacked higher than anyone else; but somehow as the night progressed people kept leaving and we eventually ended up at the final table with more or less even distribution of chips. Play was exceedingly friendly, although one of the players to my right said almost nothing throughout the night.
Then, once we got to the final table, something kicked in. I think I play my best short-handed (naturally it helps if I’ve started to pick up chips). Action got down to me and the quiet guy, with us trading blinds back and forth without flops for quite a while until he was all-in with two high over cards (K
I thought there might be trouble when quiet guy dropped a $20 on the table and asked where he got paid. He took the payout and headed for the door, leaving the volunteer dealers grumbling. I spread the love, gave something to the security guard for walking me to my car, and headed home to figure out how to try to capitalize on the win.
And the one time I forget to take a picture of the tournament screen…here’s one from earlier in the night that Encore posted on their Facebook page.
Eight-and-a-half hours. +568% ROI (including entry, door, add-on, tips). 1st of 75 players.
Aces Players Club 10pm Turbo (5,000 chips)
The night started off well. I was in seat three (BB) at the first table and was dealt Q
I won another 400 holding A
My real turn-around hand was calling an all-in of 2,800 (about half my stack) with J
Not only was the suited jack-ten combination favored over the pair of fives but it was the best suited connector hand overall against the lower pair, with an 8% relative advantage over even A
I went all-in on my next hand, holding K
It was a turbo tournament, and we were already up to 200/400 by my re-buy. Raises were beginning to get even more aggressive. I called 1,600 with A
I shoved the rest of my second stack shortly thereafter holding 3
Despite the fact that it’s supposedly now the top tourist destination in the state (and that’s a state where half a million people a year visit a bear-infested fish hatchery) I’d never been to the Spirit Mountain Casino in Grande Ronde since it opened fifteen years ago.
For one thing, I’m not much of a gambler. Despite the poker fixation, I have no interest in games of pure chance like roulette and slot machines, or card games where you have absolutely no control, like blackjack. I’ve built roulette and slot simulators, I’ve even worked with some of the people who design real electronic systems, and they just don’t interest me.
It’s a long drive down to the Mountain. Sure, it’s the closest real casino (sorry La Center, but “8 tables” doesn’t cut it) to Portland, but it’s more than half-way to the coast. Sixty-five miles by the shortest route, which takes you through the ugly traffic jam around Dundee; more than 80 miles if you go south on I5 to Salem and across.
And I’m not a cash game player. I really prefer tournament play, the bigger the field and the slower the blind structure the better. Without knowing more about the games at Spirit Mountain, there wasn’t any real draw for me.
But this weekend they are running their “Summer Showdown 2011,” a $440 buy-in tournament for 20,000 chips with $100 bounties. It was tempting with the money from the Champions game last week rattling around in my pocket. But it was too big a hunk. However, Friday they were running a $90 satellite tournament, and 20% of the field would get seats in the big game. Easy-peasy, right? I headed down there after getting some work done in the morning.
Spirit Mountain $1/$3 NLHE
Since I arrived more than an hour early (expecting more traffic on the I5 route than I ran into), I bought my tournament entry (getting a bonus of 500 chips) and then stood around a bit. Two tables of $3/$6 Limit Hold’em were running—not my game—but one of the hosts asked me if I wanted to join in a $1/$3 No Limit HE game that was starting up. I bought in for $100.
I picked up about $25 early on, then lost it a bit later after I had to lay down a straight draw to a re-raise. Then I got very lucky with a Q
30 minutes. ROI: 141%.
Spirit Mountain Summer Showdown 2011 Event 1 (4,600 chips)
It was supposedly an “event” but it was actually just a satellite to the big game on Saturday. The room filled up pretty quickly, a lot of the folks at table 12 where I was seated (table draw was from unlucky table 13) seemed to know each other and the dealer (with whom I discussed the relative “safeness” of the Encore and Aces; with her opinion being that she liked the neighborhood around Aces better—she’s the second person I’ve talked to whose car’s been broken into at Encore). Signing up over an hour early got me an extra 500 chip to go with my Coyote Club 100 bonus. I was feeling upbeat after my performance at the cash game, but I needn’t have bothered.
I lost a couple of smallish pots through the first half-hour of play. The levels were 30 minutes and we started at 25/50 but a couple of players busted out, with everyone looking their way in disdain. Just hold out, dudes! One in five gets through to the big game tomorrow! 20,000 in chips!
The last hand before the blinds went up, I was on the BB and drew 8
So, a long drive to Grande Ronde on a sunny day, half-an-hour of good cash game play, and an incredibly stupid move in the first half-hour of a marathon tournament. Driving back to town I was kicking myself for the call but when I ran the numbers I saw that it wasn’t as bad as I’d thought it was. Oh, it was still bad—especially when my tournament life was on the line—but I had between a 27% and 30% chance of winning the hand, which was better than I thought it was on the drive back.
30 minutes. -100% ROI.
Portland Players Club Main Event (10,000 chips)
This was probably the most “interesting” game I’ve played lately, but not because of the cards. The field was small, about 20 players and I was at the middle table in seat 1. Seat 5 had a burly guy named B who everyone knew and who had amassed a big stack of chips by a couple of hours into play. S was a woman seated down at seat 7. Seat 9 was a hyperkinetic kid I’d run into earlier in the day in another tournament who I could imagine calling himself a “baller” and who kept up a steady stream of patter meant to burnish his image as a man in the know.
Blinds were climbing, I picked up 9
Of course, that’s the truth if you look at the numbers in an absolute sense. At the time he went all-in, B didn’t know what I had. I didn’t know what he had when I called. He could have been trying to bluff me off and take my raise with a drawing hand. If I’d had K
At the next break the hyperkinetic kid came up to me to offer words of advice about how B & S were big-shot players and I shouldn’t get them riled up disputing odds and poker terminology. That was sort of irritating.
B didn’t have a lot of chips left after that hand and was out before the final table. S and the HKK were there, with S seated next to me in seat 6 and HKK down at 3. I wasn’t keeping notes on this game but blinds were rising up and I picked up 7
4 hours. Finished 5th of 21 players. -9% ROI (including buy-in, add-on, tip).
I ended up entering this tournament twice. There were a total of 435 entries from 295 players. Looking at the payouts, it’s sort of sobering to see how the multi-entry format makes it possible to make it into the money but still be behind at the end. One ninth of the forty-five players who got payouts were anywhere from a couple cents to an entire buyin underwater.
My first entry came to a screeching halt fairly early with K
I had a little better luck with the second entry (I don’t make them simultaneously) but it was A
15 minutes. 140th place out of 264 entries.
7 minutes. 152nd place out of 223 entries. Not an improvement.
Play started off slow for me in this game: at least, it felt slow compared to the Rush games. But I really do like the 6-Max format, and the fact that this had knockout bounties and a large purse made it very attractive to me, despite the rather ugly history of my previous miniFTOPS outing.
I’d only lost a hundred or so chips to blinds when I picked up my first win ten minutes into the game with K
The same guy got into it with me on the next hand. I had A
Twenty minutes into the match we were playing five-handed and, I got Q
My first bounty came with a player who’d lost all but 600 of his chips half-an-hour in, most in a 3-way battle with him having A
More pocket pairs: J
The Mutant Jack showed up to propel me over 10K about 45 minutes in. I was in the cutoff position with J
A quarter-hour after the break, I’d only won one hand—and that was just the blinds. I was down to about 9K when I picked up 7
I continued a steady, slow bleed of chips after that, at one point folding five hands in a row after putting out blinds or bets. I was down to 6,000 before I managed to turn things around with J
I was on the button with about 7,200 chips. Both the blinds (which were 80/160) had about 3,500. UTG and cutoff were both over 10K, and hijack had a few hundred more than I did. Both the big stacks stayed out of this hand, but HJ bet 324. With 9
Someone else’s nines didn’t fare so well against me just before second break. Blinds were 120/240/25 and I was on the button again, only with A
My last bounty came through no action of my own, shortly after the second break. I was big blind with A
Another series of decent cards that didn’t connect followed that, and I’d slipped down to 9,200 twenty minutes after the second break. Blinds were 170/340/25, and I was on the big blind holding 4
140 minutes, 4 bounties, -38% ROI. Finished 6,311 out of 17,102 players.
It’s a busy week in the non-poker sphere but I’m watching Tomer’s progress at Snowfest today; tonight I’ll be trying to get my quest for the puffmammy POY back on track, and this weekend is one of our double-point quarterly events.
Another tale of amazing recovery thwarted!
I’d had the usual mixed luck in the early levels of the game. My stack had gone down to just over 1,000 chips then back up and I was at 2,245 and in the big blind at 40/80 when I got K
Three hands later, T
I hit a plateau at that point, not gaining or losing more than 1,000 chips at a time for nearly fifty minutes. I had decent hands but wasn’t able to capitalize on them at all. Then I picked up K
My next hand was another pocket pair: J
That was Hand 126, by the way.
After the ante and the small blind on the next hand, I had 110 chips. The best thing that could be said about my T
The flop was 8
I let 4
The flop was a scary 5
Another half-hour wrestling around the 4,000-5,000 range ensued, with blinds and antes wearing my stack back down to about 3,500 when I got T
A couple of small wins put me up to 10,000, then another unlikely off-suit combo got me a big bump. Blinds were 300/600/75. UTG+1 raised to 1,200 and action folded to my A
My peak was 27,900 after picking up nearly 6K with 8
I was on the button with 8
Of course, at 500/1,000/125, 18K isn’t so much and ten minutes later I was down to less than14K when I got 6
That put me out in 185th place of 3,115 players. ROI of 98% after 173 minutes.
So I realized where pokerterms.com had gone wrong in their evaluation of the so-called “computer hand” of Q7o.
As the legend has it and my own evaluator showed, Q7o is the hand just above the 50% mark in heads-up matches. Q7o has a very slight statistical edge (winning 50.56%) against random hands when the board runs out to the river. The entry for “Computer Hand” at pokerterms.com, however, claims that the Poker Stove application “Q-7 shows 51.77% equity versus a random hand.”
The problem arises from a misunderstanding by the folks at pokerterms.com of what Poker Stove calculates. As the Poker Stove FAQ itself states (emphasis added):
What does PokerStove calculate?
The values generated are all-in equity values. This is not the chance that a hand will win the pot. Rather it is the fraction of the pot that a hand will win on average over many repeated trials, including split pots.
So what we’ve got here is a sort of apples and oranges comparison. The “computer hand” specification is precisely about how often a hand will win. Poker Stove is making an entirely different evaluation.
Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.
In the last couple of live games I’ve participated in, the “computer” or “internet” hand of Q7o has been mentioned. The pokerterms.com definition discounts the idea that the conventional explanation that a simulation showed it was the hand with the smallest positive win rate in heads-up play of the 169 hand combinations. In their section “Real Statistics,” they claim that Poker Stove shows Q2s and Q5o between Q7o and the 50% mark and that J5s is just under the mark.
I hate to differ with the venerable Poker Stove but I have my own sets of statistics, run for between two to twelve players. Each set is based on 500,000 hands of No-Limit Hold’Em. And the conventional explanation is right. Q7o will be the best hand 50.56% of the time in a two-player game. I don’t know what pokerterms.com was feeding their copy of Poker Stove but Q2s only wins 47.74% heads-up and Q5o is 48.51%. J5s is 47.35%, also on the down side.
Of course, that’s not the entire story. Poker isn’t just a binary win/lose proposition. There’s always the possibility of a tie, and some hands have relatively high possibilities of doing so. While a hand like AA will only tie 0.42% of its appearances, J5s will tie 5.13% of the times it shows up.
One way to evaluate a hand’s strength isn’t how often it wins but how often it doesn’t lose. If I don’t lose any chips, if I can split whatever other money might be in the pot, that’s acceptable. On that basis, Q7o looks marginally better. I wouldn’t normally play it, but in a brute-force statistical race, it only loses 46.02% of the time. It’s in the top 40% of possible hands, ranked on how often they lose. If you look at the range between a hand that loses 50% of the time heads-up (J6o loses 50.05%) and the best possible hand pre-flop (AA loses 14.02%), Q7o rates 11% better than statistical average. Q2s is at 5%, Q5o is 6%, and J5s is 7%.
Lots of ways to slice and dice statistics. Just a matter of making them useful.
The last couple of days have been a mixture of frustration and a feeling that maybe I’m breaking through a couple of barriers.
I didn’t play much on Wednesday. A $1K guarantee on Cake that didn’t last long, a bounty tournament where I fell out short of the money after making it to chip leader (but where I mitigated somewhat with a couple of bounties), and a shot at an Irish Open Quarter-Final Satellite that went bust.
Then, Thursday, I was atypically playing two tournaments simultaneously: another Irish Open QFS and a $1K guarantee. Personally, I like to concentrate on how the hands play out—even if I’ve folded—so that I can see what the other players are doing, and having two or more games running is too distracting.
I was managing to hold my own, though. The satellite had been running for 45 minutes and I’d been nearly busted out but worked my way back into the thick of things. We were 19 hands into the guarantee and I was about double my starting stack. Then Cake froze up. I left the client open for more than an hour, tested connectivity from another computer (in case it was my internal network, but I had no problems with Full Tilt or PokerStars). Even the web site was unavailable for a while. Once things got back up and running, my two games were gone, but there were a couple of small tournament awards in my cashier history and it looked like my buy-ins had been refunded. No announcement of what they’d done to resolve the technical glitch in Curaçao.
I switched over to Full Tilt for a bit and entered a Super Satellite to the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star Main Event, which had a qualifier playing last night. I didn’t do any better than 13th of 32. Going directly to a satellite was even worse: 15th of 18. Then again, I realized after I’d started playing that I’ve got a pretty big commitment the weekend after the tournament and in the very unlikely event I was to win a seat, I was going to be flaking out on something important just to play poker. And you wouldn’t ever want to do that.
I lasted about an hour in The Ferguson, but was somewhat distracted because I was—for the second time in a day— playing dual tournaments. Half an hour in I entered a $10K guarantee Rush tournament. The last couple of times I’d played the tournaments I’d seemed to have gotten a feel for how to play it, not using PokerTracker or my own tools. For a while, both games were running relatively well, but I ended up all-in in The Ferguson with A
The game progressed more or less on a steady build. There was one big chunk taken out about hand 170 when my T
A min raise at 300/600/75 from a player in the UTG+2 position in hand 325 prompted me to call from the big blind with K
I couldn’t have gone out on a better hand, although it would have been better not to go out. It was 400/800/100 on hand 354. I got A
Another $1K guarantee at Cake rounds out this account. No steady climb this. An hour into the tournament I was back at “GO” (i.e. 1,500 chips) but then things took off an in about 20 hands I was over 12K and racing down to the cash. Some laydown I made to avoid getting knocked out before the bubble took me down but a couple of helpful ace hands pushed me back up. A set of threes beat pocket fours to put me back in long enough to take 11th and an ROI of 176%.