No Progress Is Bad Progress

Nothing to report here from las Vegas yet, unless you’d like a stream of stories of loss, and if you’re reading the Poker Mutant, hopefully you’re not reading me for that!

So far, my first WSOP Deepstack event was my best showing. I’ve played a couple of other of the 2pm Deepstacks and a 10pm Deepstack, one of the nightly 7pm games at the Palazzo, and Limit Omaha Hi-Lo and NLHE at the Golden Nugget. Oh, and WSOP Event #44. Then, last night while I was waiting for my Doubles partner to bust out of a tournament at the Palazzo, I got a little ahead in a NLHE game, got the call that my seat opened in an Omaha Hi-Lo table, and got to play all of two hands before he called and we headed out to dinner at Krung Siam.

NP wrote me Monday and mentioned that a friend of his made the money in the bracelet event I played, and while I was looking for his name, I ran across another Oregon player, so as a quick little stats project, I looked up other Oregon cashes and entries.

There were 40 entrants who listed Oregon for their home when they signed up. That represented 1.36% of the 2,949 players entered in the tournament. I found 9 players from Oregon who made the money in the results this morning (none of the 40 made it to Day 3). Nearly a quarter of the Oregon entrants—22.5%—made the money. That’s 3% of the cashing field of 297, which may not sound like much, but then Oregon’s population isn’t that big, just 1.2% of the US population, and this is the World Series of Poker.

By comparison, Nevada, where lots of poker pros hang out, had 205 entries (7% of entries) for just 0.9% of the population if the US. There were 24 cashes from Nevada; 8% of the cashing field. There were no players from Nevada in the final 16 going into Day 3.

Plays Well With Others

Aces Players Club Noon $1,500 Guarantee

Finally sat down for lunch with MH, who I’d met at Aces originally last spring, passing around comparisons of the blind structure progressions of the big summer tournament series in Las Vegas. I hadn’t meant to play anything today, but since I’d won a game last night, his talk of playing the noon game at Aces was appealing.

I was in BB right off the bat at table 1, but started going on a tear. A player MH had been telling me had an 85% cash rate was in seat 1 and I called a big raise from him pre-flop with [4c 6c]. The flop gave me four to a straight on the top, and a [5x] on the turn gave me the bottom end. He’d tried to shake me off with a bet on the flop but I raised him all-in after I hit the straight and he folded with a bit of a speech about how I was a tight player (apparently, he doesn’t read the blog) and he didn’t think I’d have the six. I probably should have mucked it, but I showed my hand, then he mumbled something about how he was going to get my chips first. He got moved to another table not long after I took some more chips off him.

I busted several players before the break with mostly less-than-stellar hands, except for [qx qx] where I called against two all-in stacks who both flipped over [ax tx]. My pair held and not long before the break I was over 27,000 chips.

With about five minutes to go before the add-on, though, I picked up [ax jx] and got involved in a hand with two smaller all-ins, the smallest of which was [qx qx] and the (much) larger with [ax kx]. After the bloodbath was over, I was down to only 5,000.

The second set of rounds did me remarkably well, however, and I chipped back up speedily. The guy from seat 1 got moved back to the same position, MH got stuck in-between us, and another player I knew well was seated on the far end. I survived a couple table consolidations, down past two tables, then got caught out with [kx jx] on a straight draw by a slightly larger stack calling my all-in.

Two hours and forty-five minutes. -100% ROI. 15th of 39 players.

I Was Suited

A suited Poker Mutant at The Palazzo, Las Vegas for the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza I, 17 February 2012

I’d already been planning to write this article later this week. but then the great Mike Caro published a column in Poker Player, so I’m addressing it before I get to my second go-round at the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza.

It’s the standard joke when a player—often on the short stack—busts out when they go all-in with mid-level suited connectors or gaps. I think I’ve heard it in almost every tournament I’ve played, the (sometimes) suppressed chortle from one player to another that: “They probably played it because it was suited.”

Now, I can’t claim to know what those people were thinking—and far be it from me to joust with someone like Caro over poker statistics—but I have my own rationale based on statistical analysis of hundreds of thousands of hands at various numbers of players.

Anyone around a poker table will be happy to tell you that suited cards are only a few percent more likely to win than unsuited cards. That’s absolutely true, but let’s look at what that means in real life before we get too dismissive. In a nine-handed showdown to the river, a hand like 8To loses 87.47% of the time. That means it either wins the pot or ties for and splits the pot 12.53%. The same combination suited loses 84.42%. It wins or ties 15.58%. Now, if you’re looking at raw numbers, you see that as a mere 3.05% difference.

What you need to take into account in hand selection pre-flop is the relative strength of the hand to other potential hands. And when you stack up 8Ts against 8To, what you get is a hand that’s 24% more likely to win or tie (15.58% divided by 12.53% = 124%). That’s what that 3% difference means. So if you’re going to play something like JT, wouldn’t you rather play it suited (wins/ties 19.32%) over unsuited (wins/ties 15.92%)? That’s a 20% differential in the strength of the hand you’re starting with, i.e. if you’re playing JT at all, you’re 20% better off playing it suited than unsuited.

Caro’s analysis of the unsuitability of suited cards relies heavily on how likely it is that the cards will make a flush, which is the presumed rationale for playing suited cards. My analysis isn’t based on relying on the chance of a flush, rather the chance of a flush is a modifier to the pre-flop starting strength of the hand, in the decision to play it.

As Caro points out: “there are two chances to make a flush when you hold unsuited cards. … You have about a 6.5 percent chance of ending up with a flush (including a straight flush) when you begin suited and stubbornly stay to see the river. You have a bit less than a two percent chance if your cards are of mixed suits.” Using Caro’s numbers, if you view this in relative terms, you’re 225% more likely to get a flush with suited cards than you are with unsuited cards. That’s in addition to whatever pair, set, straight, or full house possibilities you might have picked up on the flop and turn. The number’s still small, but every slight advantage can count in poker.


Here’s a little something for you stats junkies.

This data’s taken from the Encore Club’s posting of point leaders near the end of last month. Yes, I took a grainy snapshot of the top sheet when I was working on my post about median ROI and ITM the other day, then coded the basic number of tournaments entered and xash (or “place”) information into an Excel spreadsheet. This is what you get:

The point leader sheet doesn’t have any info about dollar values of cashes or field sizes (it does give the number of times the player made positions 1-5), so there’s no ROI calculation, but I’ve added the break-even median ROI for each ITM value on the vertical axis, just for reference.

So here it is. 46 live game players from a single venue in town over most of a month. The median number of games played is 21. The median number of games in the money is 6. The median cash percentage is 24% (yes, that’s different from the games ITM/games played; that’s statistics for you). The sample size is relatively small in terms of games played, but you can see a definite progression downward to the mean as the number of games increases.

Cut Off

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 [ad 2d] on a board of [3c 4s 2c] only to run into a flopped straight with [5d 6d] (which also surprised the original all-in who had [3s 3h]). No backdoor aces on the board for me, but 1,001st (of 2,159) place let me concentrate on the Rush game with a bit larger buy-in.

The game progressed more or less on a steady build. There was one big chunk taken out about hand 170 when my [th ac] made top pair but pocket kings took the day (the third player in the hand, with [ad td] was surprised , as well, but I wasn’t all-in). A graph of my chip total shows a couple of sharp notches in the line at hands 260 and 280 as well but in both cases I recovered to nearly my previous position within a few hands. [kc ac] tripled me up at one point against [qs ks] when two players called my all-in and a [kh] was the first card on the flop. Another time I caught [ac 2d as] on the flop to trip up my [td ah] against [kc kd], which doubled my chip stack.

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 [ks 2d] after everyone else had folded. The flop of [2h 7h 8d] gave me at least a pair, and as he’d had several stacks of equal or greater size following him when he raised (with 21K to my 17K) it seemed unlikely that he’d have gone with anything in that range. I bet another 1,200 and he called. A [3d] turned and I checked to see what he’d do, still thinking he was probably unconnected to any of it. He bet 2,400, I called, and the river rolled out [kc]. No flushes or straights possible. Nothing that could make a full house. I had the top pair and bottom pair. He didn’t seem aggressive enough to have been holding kings himself or a pocket pair that matched the board. I checked to see what he’d do and he went all-in. I called and won 34K when he showed [js qh].

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 [ad as] on the button. UTG+1 made the call and I min-raised to 1,600 (I should really have pushed harder). The blinds dropped out and UTG+1 called, putting us heads-up. The flop was [7c qs 2h], there was 5,300 in the pot, I had 27K against his 43K. He checked; I bet 2,500. He raised to 5,555, I went all-in, he called. He shows [qc jc] for the lower pair. 58,808 in the pot and the turn card’s [5h]. He needs one of the jacks or another queen. And that’s what shows up on the river: [qd]. I go out of the tournament in 41st (of 1,062) with an ROI of 170% (he makes it to 16th).

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%.