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Old 11-16-2013, 09:34 PM   #51
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Book review coming soon...for now, I wanted to save the link to this reddit "ask me anything" by Phil Galfond, which (as usual for Phil) has some valuable insights: http://www.reddit.com/r/poker/commen...l_galfond_ama/
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Old 11-17-2013, 05:08 PM   #52
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Thx for the link : Galfond is unsurpassed when it comes to answering questions with clarity and sincerity.
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Old 11-24-2013, 02:04 PM   #53
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

I haven't been reading poker books of any kind for the last couple of years but I did read two this month, both about the mind-game. The first was by the psychologist Arthur Reber, whose Poker, Life & Other Confusing Things is a recent ConJelCo e-book gathering Reber’s brief columns about poker and psychology. I thought it was lightweight but ok—and much better than the over-rated Psychology of Poker.

Then, because Reber wrote so enthusiastically about it, I decided to follow up with Tommy Angelo's The Elements of Poker (2007)—especially when I discovered it’s now available for free online. It’s made up of well-written but loosely unified (and often underdeveloped) essays about mindset—allowing him to talk about all kinds of things other than strategy, all of them aimed at keeping players focused—ranging from how to comport yourself at the table to how to discipline your thinking (breathe). I encountered a lot that was worth thinking about (even if I already, in some way, knew it), mixed with much that was obvious or less interesting. The last section, imagining poker as the kind of game you'd invent if you wanted to play something called “Bad Times,” is very witty, well-worth reading if you read nothing else in the book. In general, I thought he could have dealt with many of his topics in greater depth but, playing in my home game last Friday, I did find myself thinking about some of his strongest points. So it was helpful to read.

Last edited by RussellinToronto; 11-24-2013 at 02:12 PM.
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Old 11-24-2013, 07:38 PM   #54
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Thanks, Russell. I found Reber's homepage (http://arthurreber.com/home/projection-in-poker.html) and like what I see so far. Why don't you like The Psychology of Poker (I haven't read it yet)?
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Old 11-24-2013, 10:21 PM   #55
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

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Thanks, Russell. I found Reber's homepage (http://arthurreber.com/home/projection-in-poker.html) and like what I see so far. Why don't you like The Psychology of Poker (I haven't read it yet)?
I thought it was superficial and obvious, as was Schoonmaker's later book, Your Worst Poker Enemy. Angelo can also be obvious, but he writes with wit and verve that can make the obvious seem worth thinking about again.

But I see online that many disagree with me about Schoonmaker's books and find these helpful. One Amazon reviewer who did share my feelings, however, suggested The Poker Mindset by Hilger and Taylor and Inside the Poker Mind by Feeney instead. I haven't read either of these but would be interested in feedback if you have -- or if you do.
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Old 11-24-2013, 11:11 PM   #56
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

sure thing. As you've probably guessed by now, my main interest is literary but I plan to look at a few of the psychology books you mentioned. To his credit, Schoonmaker wrote a very generous review of Reber's book on Amazon.

If you're interested in hearing directly from Angelo or Jared Tendler, check out Andrew Brokos's podcast (just scroll down a bit to find them): http://www.thinkingpoker.net/category/podcast/. I think Brokos reviews Hilger's book somewhere on the site, too. Great, great podcast for a lot of reasons.
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Old 12-16-2013, 03:25 PM   #57
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Poker and Empathy

“I feel like I am pretty empathetic (big part of why I think I have done well), and I try to, as much as I can, BE the person I am playing against. This allows me to react optimally to their decisions as often as possible. This also means I think about losing from their perspective, and my wins are always tainted with some worry about them.” — David Benefield

(http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/19...or517-1138473/)



This quote, from online wizard and recent November 9er David Benefield, raises some interesting questions about poker and empathy. Empathy can be defined as the ability to recognize the thoughts and emotions of another person. It involves a kind of intense identification in that one tries to "BE" another person, as Benefield puts it.

What are the benefits to being empathetic in poker? One advantage is that it can help us battle against “projection”—a classic term in psychology that, as the poker-playing psychologist Arthur Reber explains, is “The process by which one ascribes one’s own traits, emotions and dispositions to another.” One of the dangers of projection is that we assume our opponents act and think like we do. This attitude towards others is fundamentally self-centered; it’s devoid of empathy. Thinking that others are “like me” can be devastating at the poker table in all kinds of ways: from assigning ranges to a villain (“I would open a ton of hands on the button, so villain must also be light this spot.”) to predicting villain’s actions (“The King is a scare care that I would bluff at 99% of the time; my opponent must be bluffing, too, so I call!”). As Benefield suggests, seeing our actions from the villain’s perspective allows us to tailor effective counter-strategies.


Empathy can help us to resist our tendency to believe that others are just like us. It works against our "default" way of viewing things—seeing players around us merely as extensions of ourselves—in favor of a conception of these people having, like us, genuine inner lives. We need to choose to focus our attention and use our imagination to move beyond our overwhelming concern with our own needs and difficulties in order to apprehend others’ situations.

How can we cultivate this kind of awareness? And how can we be put empathy into practice at the poker table? Arthur Reber offers two good suggestions in his blog entry “Projection and Poker” (http://arthurreber.com/home/projection-in-poker.html):

First: Know Yourself

“You need to appreciate what your game is and understand it, for its strengths and its weaknesses. And the key here is grasping deeply that this is your game. It is not necessarily anyone else’s even though they may play in ways that feel familiar.”
The key words here are honesty and awareness. Do you have an honest self-knowledge of how you play and how others perceive you? Sure, we all like to think that we’re strong players. But is this really true? How can you plug leaks in your game?

Second: “Be aware of, not only the styles of others, but the extent to which they may project their own tendencies onto others. It is a cliché that the good players play the player, and an important part of this is recognizing who tends to project their own tendencies onto others and who has risen above this.”
Bluffers believe that others will be bluffing them; trappers will always be suspicious of the slow-play, waiting for the next monster under the bed; tilt-monkeys. How self-aware are the players around you?

Let me submit a Third Point: Read literature. Yes—read! A recent New York Times study, for instance, showed that reading “great” literature can improve empathy: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/1...-read-chekhov/. What is it about literature specifically that can cultivate empathy? One answer is that, by meeting a character in a piece of fiction, you can leap over the wall of self. And you can imagine yourself being, not just somewhere else, but someone else. Literature models and encourages empathic connections in all kinds of ways. To give one of countless examples, here’s a passage from The Lord of the Rings:

"For a moment it appeared to Sam that his master had grown and Gollum had shrunk: a tall stern shadow, a mighty lord who hid his brightness in grey cloud, and at his feet a little whining dog. Yet the two were in some way akin and not alien: they could reach one another’s minds. Gollum raised himself and began pawing at Frodo, fawning at his knees."





Frodo’s heroism comes from his ability to look at Gollum and see “himself”: a tormented slave to the Ring who hints at what Frodo might become. As Frodo looms over his doglike servant, he perceives something “akin and not alien” to Gollum. When Frodo imaginatively steps into Gollum’s shoes (or his hairy hobbit’s feet, I suppose ), he extends a degree of empathy that wouldn’t exist if he saw Gollum from the outside. Frodo’s initial wish for Gollum’s death early in the book (“what a pity that Bilbo did not stab the vile creature, when he had a chance!”) eventually gives way to his view that Gollum, while pathetic and reprehensible, is deserving of pity. And, of course, Frodo’s pity comes back to save him at the edge of Mount Doom, when Gollum does what Frodo can’t and destroys the Ring.

What are some other benefits to empathy?

How have you been able to step into someone else’s shoes at the poker table in order to “out-think” them?

What are the dangers of empathy?
One of the most interesting parts of the Benefield’s quote, I think, is when he mentions that his wins are “tainted” by the losses of others. Does this discomfort resonate with you? Do you think that we should use empathy with caution?
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Old 12-18-2013, 10:50 AM   #58
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Great read.

My thought process has been about a different duality lately : trying to reconcile, as a traveller, the ideal of getting out of your comfort zone (in order to fulfill oneself) and surrounding yourself with familiarity (especially in a strange environment).

Thx for sharing, really enjoyed the thought provoking ideas!
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Old 12-19-2013, 04:16 PM   #59
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

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Originally Posted by Dubnjoy000 View Post
Great read.

My thought process has been about a different duality lately : trying to reconcile, as a traveller, the ideal of getting out of your comfort zone (in order to fulfill oneself) and surrounding yourself with familiarity (especially in a strange environment).

Thx for sharing, really enjoyed the thought provoking ideas!
thanks, Dubn. I'd enjoy hearing you write more about how you've been able to reconcile these competing impulses. You were in Alaska then Europe and now Asia, right? What's the plan next? What do you consider "home base"?

I struggle with similar questions. I've been anchored in one spot for a while (Houston) but think quite a bit about pushing my boundaries by traveling to new and strange places.
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Old 12-28-2013, 12:32 AM   #60
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Cards by Jonathan Maxwell (Silent Lyric Productions, 2005)





"All-in." I thrust my stacks forward. Quickly the guy replies,
"I call." I flip over my set. The guy identifies it. Strained with laughter I tilt down. The guy enters the casino excited to play a bit of honest poker, he patiently watches me bluff all sorts of bull****, then when his big hand arrives I ruin him with a completely hidden twenty-two to one shot. Chuckles bounce me on the seat. He's frozen, still staring at the board. I pull in the chips with my head tilted as far as possible. I'm an awful human being
(235).


You've probably never heard of this novel--but you should. Cards lacks interesting characters, has no plot outside poker, revels in its own offensiveness, and is riddled with typos and grammatical errors. And yet it's the most engrossing poker novel that I've read so far.

The action follows Mike Jameson, a self-titled poker pro who’s rejected everything--family, friends, romance, a career--in favor of cards. Like Joey Moore, the protagonist of King of a Small World, Mike openly mocks and rejects the conventional 9-to-5 career. Instead, he relishes life on the felt--every moment hinging on the turn of a card and the adrenaline rush that comes with every contested pot.

The novel moves in three steps, starting in Los Angeles, moving to Paris, then ending in Las Vegas. (It ends with a brief coda back in LA.) In a thoughtful move, Maxwell parallels these changes in location with changes in stake: Los Angeles introduces us to the mind-numbing tedium of 3-6 limit holdem, followed by pot limit in Paris and no limit in Vegas. As he moves to more volatile forms of the game, the swings--and the reader’s emotional involvement--increase as well.

Surely the strongest part of the book is its sordid realism--we get a sense of what grinding low-limit poker is really like. In general, poker media (books, films, TV) tends to focus on big pots and exciting or interesting hands. Think about how ESPN televises the Main Event. We jump from big hand to big hand, skipping over those moments when someone raises pre, gets called, and wins the pot with a cbet. Cards, however, shows every hand:

"Next hand: 2-3 offsuit. I throw it away.
Next hand: 7-9 offsuit. I toss it. I feel fine. I can fold all night.
Next hand: 4-4. Alright, I slide in three chips. The flop hits J-10-6. I fold. The turn comes a 4 which pisses me off a little. Now I delve into a long series of calculations to see if, including all the implied odds, it pays to call one flop bet with a low pocket pair. I soon lose track, then dismiss the idea as absurd.
Next hand: 7-5. Toss.
Under the gun I receive AK-offsuit in middle position. I raise. At these lower limits I usually don’t raise with A-K because I need to hit a pair to win, but when I’m running good I build a pot. Three players call. The flop comes 4-2-J. I bet, call, call, call. On the turn arrives my beautiful ace. Two players call to the showdown and lose. I rise and ask the dealer to send my food to the 6-12 table. Ahh, if poker was always so easy.
Moving up in the world. The floorperson places me in a seat one. I post the big blind, the dealer changes my chips. I peel the corners of my first hand: 3-5. No raises. The flop comes 9-5-8. I check. It’s bet, then raised. I might have called the single bet.
Small blind: 9-3. Fold.
Next hand on the button: K-4. I call. The flop comes Q-J-J. I fold to a bet. 6-12 play is a little better than 3-6. At 3-6 everyone would have checked that flop.
Next hand: 6-8.
J-6.
7-9 spades. I call. The flop comes Q-9-5 with a diamond draw. I fold. No problem. This is the discipline."

The whole novel is like this: The first person narrative aligns us with Mike's perspective, giving us access to his thought process during a hand. Both the monotony and the volatility of poker is captured really well.

As far as strategy goes, Mike come off as a skilled but undisciplined tilt-monkey. He's capable of making smart folds and bold bluffs--we get a brief glimpse of his “discipline” above--but it's only a matter of time until he punts off his stack. Fearless bluffs give way to bad beats, which give way to tilt and serious chip-hemorrhaging. Sometimes he'll raise his button blindly; another time Mike sees an intimidating foe (James Pot) who only folds or pots it and begins aping his style. While this isn’t a book to turn to for strategy, it does capture how an average-to-good grinder thinks about the game. As I mentioned in the previous post about poker, projection, and empathy, we can’t play optimally unless we “get inside the heads” of opponents who think about the game in a variety of ways. Cards offers just this kind of resource.


***


Although the first-person narrative brings us closer to Mike, it has a distinct downside: there are no other interesting characters in the book. This is not only the result of being "inside" Mike's head; it has more to do with his attitude towards others. Mike's competitors are, to him, merely "pea minds," stick figures whose lives have no value beyond the money that they bring to the table (5). "I despise the people at these lower limits," Mike says, "thinking they know what's going on, thinking they'll win, thinking they're anything but wastes of space on planet Earth." Mike's "friends," similarly, are buffoons who are only good for a couch to crash on or money to borrow.

This, of course, is part of the point. Mike is utterly alone with himself and his game. There are no meaningful conversations, no significant relationships, nothing--just the allure of cards on the felt. There's an undercurrent of deep despair and searching throughout the book--towards the end we learn that, at twenty, Mike was hospitalized for depression (he's now 28). Poker has stolen Mike's twenties; he predicts that it will steal even more time. But, as he puts it, "what else is there? The buck always stops there. What else is there?" To some degree, then, poker prompts Mike's existential and spiritual musing (the blurbs on the back cover suggest as much). To me, though, these themes are far less effective than the poker content. Other than a few brief references to Zen and Hermann Hesse--and some wacky advice from Mike's mentor and personal ATM, Ryan--the "deeper themes" of the book are rather undeveloped. I suppose, though, that this is once again the point: the book isn't about "the truth" but about its elusiveness:

"Am I happy with no finances, family, future? If I am then why do I complain? If I am not then why don't I change? I've been strong enough to resist society. Am I too weak to resist a silly game or am I so strong that I martyr myself with it? Without answers I know no other way than to attack with chips, chase flashes of opportunity through the night, through the morning, through the night again. I wonder if others feel this way. I think they do, not most but some. The rest see us as either defective vagabonds or romantics harlequins, but we're neither. We're tired pilgrims searching for a small truth, an anonymous peace."


Cliffs: Despite many flaws, Cards will take you for a ride. Highly recommended!
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Old 12-31-2013, 06:04 PM   #61
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Happy New Year! Best of luck to all you 2+2ers in 2014. Here's a nonpoker-related review that I hope you'll find interesting.

***

Sidewalk by Mitchell Duneier (Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 1999)




I just finished two books over the weekend. I read at least one book a week,” said Hakim.
“I try to tell my son that,” said the deliveryman. “If you read one book a week, man, you don’t know how much knowledge you can get.
” (5)

Think about the last time you’ve been to New York City. Remember those tables of books that line the sidewalks in Greenwich Village? Maybe you walked past them; maybe you browsed for a few minutes and bought something from one of the vendors. As you kept walking, can you remember if a man opened a door for you and then asked for some spare change?

At first glance, we may dismiss these people are mere peddlers or nuisances who clutter up the streets and create disorder. In Sidewalk, Mitchell Duneier argues that, instead, we should see them as integral and respectable parts of urban society. A Princeton sociologist who practices “participant observation,” Duneier spent five years interviewing and working alongside these men. His book is a thoughtful, meticulous, and accessible portrait of the sidewalk—a glimpse into the lives of magazine vendors, table watchers, movers, storage providers, and panhandlers.

The Men of the Sidewalk

The idea for a book on sidewalk life came to Duneier when he met Hakim Hasan, a book vendor and street intellectual on Sixth Avenue. Curious, approachable, and brash, Hasan is what’s known as a “public character”: someone whose very presence makes street life safer, stabler, and more predictable. As a book vendor, Hakim has an intimate knowledge of his trade. “Hakim doesn’t just name titles,” writes Duneier. “He knows the contents. I have observed the range and depth of his erudition impress scholars, and have seen him show great patience with uneducated people who are struggling with basic ideas and don’t know much about books. He might sit for hours without having a single customer step up to his table; other times the table becomes a social center where men and women debate into the night” (5).
Despite initial reluctance, Mitch convinced Hakim to introduce him to the world of the sidewalk—he describes the agreement as a kind of informal, unpaid internship. We meet a diverse group of people: Mudrick, who dropped out of school in third grade and runs a table near Hakim; Ron, who resists a powerful drug addiction in order to provide for his grandmother; Warren, who was a panhandler and is now a magazine vendor; and many, many others. These are not just poor, uneducated, black men. As one vendor, Marvin, puts it, “You learn a little something from each and every one of these people. And you can get advice from some of them. And you can learn a pattern about how people are in general. The peoples that live around here—you can see a diversity of all different kinds of people” (70). Duneier also tracks down some of the political officials whose legislation impacts life on the street. One man, Ed Wallace, wrote the 1982 local law that made street vending possible; now, he thinks it has done more harm than good.

Confronting and Contesting Authority

One of the most memorable parts of the book is when a police officer strongarms one of the vendors, Ishmael, into packing up his table.

“Listen. Listen, Ishmael. The captain says he don’t want anybody out here. Now, by all means I should be out here closing the table down, putting your stuff in the car, but I’m not gonna do that to you. I want you to voluntarily do it yourself. ‘Cause, listen, if he comes out here and you out here, he’s just gonna take your **** away, probably collar you or something like that. And you know, it’s not a good day for it” (268).

Since Ishmael has only a vague understanding of the law, he backs down and packs up. But Duneier knows that, barring some special circumstance like a parade or a demonstration, the officer has no legal reason to insist that a vendor move from a legal space (271). To test this law, he borrows a few magazines and a table and sets up in the very space that Ishmael vacated. In a few minutes the police return:

“My man. There’s no selling here today. Break it down.”
“Excuse me,” I said.
“No selling here today. Break it down.”
I took a copy of the municipal law out of my pocket. “I’m exercising my right under Local Law 33 of 1982, and Local Law 45 of 1993, to sell written matter.”
“Break it down, “said the officer. “There’s no selling here today.”
“Am I within the spaces? I asked.
“I’ll tell you one more time.”
“Am I within the spaces?”
I’ll tell you one more time. Break it down.”
“Under what law?” I asked.
“No vending here today. Break it down.”
“For what reason?”

Mitch stands firm, waving his copy of the law until the officer takes it and exclaims, “This, listen to me, this means nothing to me right now” (273). Finally, after consulting his superior, the police let Mitch stay where he is. Here and throughout the book, we get a glimpse of the fragile and volatile nature of life on the sidewalk—the ways in which structures of authority will bend or ignore the law even when that very law is waved before its eyes; the relationship between race, class, and education (Ishmael is an uneducated black man while Mitch is an educated white man—does this impact each man’s ability to resist the police?); and the fine line between civil order and disorder. But, to me, the great contribution of Sidewalk is the rich dialogue between and among vendors, police, panhandlers, and Duneier himself (he was meticulous about tape-recording as many conversations as possible). Duneier is willing to give space to the many voices on the street rather than letting his own voice (the book's "argument") dominate the conversation.


From “Broken Windows” to “Fixed Windows”

Most broadly, the book concerns how we should live together as a society, especially in urban spaces. Much of the pushback against sidewalk vending rests on a “broken windows” theory of social order, which suggests that the appearance of neglect in a neighborhood—like, say, an abandoned car—gives a sense that “no one cares.” This, in turn, implicitly encourages more careless behavior—more broken windows or abandoned cars. Some policymakers consider the streetdwellers themselves to be “broken windows.” In other words, their very presence and offensive actions—urinating in public, detaining people in conversation, selling stolen goods or drugs—suggests that this vending is a detriment to social order.

Without rejecting the "broken windows" theory, Duneier proposes a complementary “fixed windows” approach. These people on the streets don't just pop out of the ground; they subsist on the streets because, as products of the prison system, poverty, deindustrialization, and a host of other social factors, they have nowhere else to go. When the government fails to help ex-prisoners to find homes and jobs, these people are left to their own devices if they are to transform themselves and contribute to society. Some behavior that may appear disorderly to the outside observer is actually bringing about community controls rather than leading to its breakdown. Duneier suggests that, if residents see this behavior as a positive contribution deserving of respect, more ex-prisoners may emulate this behavior and go down a path that doesn't involve crime. I found it interesting that, in a documentary that updates the stories in his book, Duneier offers Paris street vendors as an example of city that respects, and perhaps reveres, its booksellors (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bv4civR8mSI).


Cliffs: Sidewalk is a compelling ethnography of a hidden and misunderstood subculture. It also, I hope, will give a bit of context for my next post, which will be a review of the only existing academic study of poker culture, David Hayano’s autoethnography Poker Faces: The Life and Work of Professional Card Players.
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Old 01-01-2014, 03:04 PM   #62
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Thx for the review. Am excited about the next one (even though I never heard of it!).

Have you dipped into latino literature, particularly Magic realism? I am a big fan of it, and have read One Hundred Years of Solitude 3 times. I love how the fantasy allegories usually refer to political/historical events...
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Old 01-02-2014, 01:16 AM   #63
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

yep, I read 100 Years a while back and really enjoyed it. Beyond that, though, I'm not too familiar with Latino lit. Borges is someone whom I'd like to read more of as well.
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Old 01-04-2014, 12:56 PM   #64
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Some Hands

I played some live pokers for the first time in a while and want to post some hands. as always, feedback appreciated

General Reads: The game's 1/3 holdem and the players are almost exclusively loose/passive donks. A raise means 88+, AJ+; a reraise means QQ (maybe) and KK+. Pretty much what you'd expect from these stakes.

My image, if it matters at all to these villains, is clean. I'm entering most pots with a raise but am folding quite often pre.

Hand One

The villain in this hand had just sat down. He was midthirties, intelligent-looking, and had over $400 in chips, which suggested that he might be decent. No reads beyond his appearance and stack size, though. One limp, he limps, I raise to 18 with KQo and $350 effective, villain calls and we go heads up to the Q86 rainbow flop. Check, I bet 20 into 40, he calls. Turn 6, check check. Merits of checking vs betting? I assume that I can get two streets of value from a worse queens here but not three. River T ($80), he leads 35, I call and lose to J9.

Hand Two

Within the next orbit or two it was clear that the villain above was a massive station. He would limp and call any raise pre and called down with any piece--gutshots, draws, etc. With this info in mind and A5, I call a 10$ raise from the SB, a young asian ($200) who's only raising premiums here. Four other limpers call behind me and we see a Q95flop ($60). Asian checks, I check and it gets checked to the button--the villain from above ($400)--who bets 10. We all call and see a 2 turn ($120). The action is once again checked to the button who bets $25, only I call. River A ($170), I check/call his 25$ river bet (lol) and ship versus his 33.

How do you guys like playing a nut drawing hand in a multiway pot in which at least one villain isn't interested in folding most of his range? I think that check/calling, leading, or check/raising the flop and turn are all arguable. Not sure what line is best, though.

Hand 3


With 300 behind and QJ UTG, I raise to 10. Loose-passive to my right calls ($150), nitty young reg calls ($150) from the SB and we see a JJ4 rainbow. I bet 15 into 30, both players call.

Turn: A ($75), young kid leads for 25. What's his range? Does he call with Ax and lead turn? Does he turn pocket pairs into a bluff? Does he have a jack? I don't think he's bluffing in this spot, which means that he's betting a pretty strong range. A raise folds out his Ax hands--from both the young kid and the guy to my left--so I just call, loose/passive calls.

River 7, young kid checks. I can take AJ out of his range, I think; to me this check suggests that he has AK/AQ that peeled the flop or maybe a weak jack (beyond JT, though, I'm not sure what weak jacks are calling pre). I bet 75, loose/passive folds and the kid tanks and gives the "you have aces but I can't fold speech" before calling with KJ. Nits gonna nit.

In Hand four , I raise JJ and get called by the same loose/passive older man from hand one ($150ish). Bet/call 15$ on a KT3 flop, bet/call $40 on J turn, bet/call $100 on 7 river, I lose to AQo.

Hand five

The final hand was at a new table. The villain ($400) was a big middle-aged guy who was prone to spazzing and tilting. He was the clear mark at the table.

After folding for about three orbits, I raise AK to 15 from UTG, old man on the button calls and villain calls from the sb; we see a 723 flop ($48). I bet 20, old man folds villain calls. Turn 8, check/check. River A, he bets 55 ($88). I call and lose to A2o. This hand is a good example of one of my leaks: knowing when to double barrel or not. Obv his range is weak, but the issue is also whether he'll fold a pair in this spot. The river could easily be a mistake. Yes, he's unpredictable, but it's tough to put him on a hand that's value-betting worse. Ax hands that peel the flop probably bet less, and he has all combos of sets and two pairs.

Hopefully I'll have more hands to post soon!
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Old 01-05-2014, 05:42 PM   #65
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Hand 1 : standard, IMO. If you think you can only get 2 streets of value, then it is a matter of deciding on which streets... Checking back flop for deception and to increase your flop checking range has its merits, but I personally prefer a cbet. A case could be made for 3 streets of value though...

Hand 2 : My default play in a multi-way pot where I want more callers than not, is to lead when I am ones of the first to act. Being in the BB, I want to bloat the pot by betting smallish, around 25-50%. I do not mind checking for a free card, but it makes turn more difficult to play if it is checked through...

Hand 3 : Standard. Not his play though.

Hand 4 : Coolers suck!!!

Hand 5 : Question here : why did you raise your QJs to 10 UTG, while you made it 15$ with AKs? I realize it is 2 different tables, but do you use 2 different sizing preflop according to your cards?

I ask because I have seen that tendency in my local Canadian game, where the better regs raise to 7$ with very playable hands that wants more callers and 15$ with premium holdings that is looking to bloat and isolate. I believe that this approach is a leak, for it reveals a lot about the raisers range (and the 7$ raises are easier to 3 bet against and isolate him with his range being clearly defined).

I don't think I would double barrel, unless I am willing to barrel river again.
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Old 01-05-2014, 07:03 PM   #66
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

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Hand 5 : Question here : why did you raise your QJs to 10 UTG, while you made it 15$ with AKs? I realize it is 2 different tables, but do you use 2 different sizing preflop according to your cards?

I ask because I have seen that tendency in my local Canadian game, where the better regs raise to 7$ with very playable hands that wants more callers and 15$ with premium holdings that is looking to bloat and isolate. I believe that this approach is a leak, for it reveals a lot about the raisers range (and the 7$ raises are easier to 3 bet against and isolate him with his range being clearly defined).
I'm betting smaller because (1) the table was shorthanded at the time and I had widened my range to put pressure on the blinds in position; and for the same reason that you mention--to "price myself in" with more speculative hands. I've found that, with everything but KK+, many LLSNL players will raise a limp but will only call if someone raises.

I agree that varying raise sizing can be a leak--but only against attentive players who are willing to exploit you. In general I try to remind myself that lowstakes live poker is largely exploitative poker. So if someone will call a $30 preflop raise when I have aces, then I'll be raising that size.
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Old 01-06-2014, 04:36 AM   #67
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

I see. I totally agree that you can vary your sizing and easily get paid off with the top of your range in a 1-2 game. When I get back to my Dawson game, I often focus too much in balancing my ranges and sizing, which often makes me miss out on exploitative value...


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yep, I read 100 Years a while back and really enjoyed it. Beyond that, though, I'm not too familiar with Latino lit. Borges is someone whom I'd like to read more of as well.
Borges is a pretty intense fellow. Magic realism combines elements from both non-fiction and fiction that I seek : stories based upon historical and political occurrences, and a poetic enjoyable style. It was a very interesting way to read about subjects such as : The Mexican Revolution (The Old Gringo), The Pinocchet coup (House of Spirits), The Shining Path in Perou or the Syndicate uprising in Brazil (forgot the name of these 2 books).

Well, good luck, thx for the great book reviews and run good at the tables!
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Old 01-14-2014, 05:37 PM   #68
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Poker Faces: The Life and Work of Poker Players, by David Hayano (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982)




Throughout his early life, professor David Hayano loved playing poker—with classmates, friends, and, on one occasion in 1971, with strangers at a smoky cardroom in Gardena, California. The trip didn’t go well; he lost his entire stake of 15$. “This initial bad impression,” he writes, “convinced me that commercial cardroom poker was not for me and I stuck solely to the more slow-paced, enjoyable home games with friends” (145). Eventually, after finishing graduate school and enjoying more spare time, Hayano returned to the Gardena cardrooms in 1973. This time he did well, winning almost $300 bucks in an hour and prompting speculation. “Nobody I knew earned more than $300 per day at a job,” he reflects. “Yet there were dozens, even hundreds of players in these and bigger games. How did they do it? How could I do it?” (146). By the summer of 1974, Hayano was a regular. Eventually his social and professional interests converged: what might it look like, he wondered, to undertake a systematic social study—an ethnography—of the cardroom and its players? (147).

The result is Poker Faces, the only academic study of poker and, for that reason alone, a valuable resource for understanding the culture of the game. Since this is an important book (at least to me), my review will be broken into three posts: (1) a summary of the book's first half, which discusses methodology, the social organization of the cardroom, and tendencies of winning players; (2) a summary of the book's second half, which includes the tendencies of losing players, "dealings under the table," and my take on what’s changed in poker culture since 1982; and (3) some thoughts on why Hayano’s book inevitably falls short of capturing the reality of the cardroom--in other words, on the limits of ethnography.

Method

When he began research for the book, Hayano had already written an ethnography of natives in Papua New Guinea was a full-time professor at Cal-State Northridge. He was also a seasoned poker player. Hayano’s research draws from long sessions in Gardena, an area in southern L.A. with six casinos (the Rainbow, Monterey, Horseshoe, Normandie, El Dorado, and Gardena). The cardrooms could seat roughly 1,500 players combined, making them the greatest concentration of draw poker clubs in the world (30). "In June 1975, I had played solidly for almost a year and a half on an average of four playing sessions per week," he writes. "I played in every club, tried out every type of game, and began to play regularly in the highest-stakes games" (148).

Why bother? What can be gained from the cultural study of "one's own people" or, as Hayano calls it, an "auto-ethnography"? One answer is to better understand the codes and practices that saturate our everyday lives. Rather than investing all our resources to study obscure tribes in exotic places (a common focus in anthropology), we might apply these critical practices to secret or overlooked parts of our own culture--in this case, the poker world. Mitch Duneier's Sidewalk, by the way, offers a great example of auto-ethnography in practice.

Most of us would probably agree that poker remains especially mis-understood and mis-characterized. Most Americans--and even some American poker players--just don't "get" the game. “The many distortions and self-serving stereotypes remain unchallenged," Hayano insists, "because most observations are based on little or no participation in the cardrooms, coupled with a vague understanding of the social dynamics of poker-playing” (41). I agree: you simply can't understand the game by watching it from a distance or on TV. To understand poker—to get a sense of game flow, table dynamics, the emotional high and lows—you must immerse yourself in the action. You need to play. Most writers are either unable or unwilling to put in the necessary time, energy, and (let's not forget!) money. Hayano gives it a shot.

Definition

For his governing term, Hayano chooses “professional” over rounder, hustler, gambler, or other tags (we might add “grinder”). He splits the professional player into four categories (21-24):

The Worker Professional—works full-time or part-time and earns significant money playing poker on the side

The Outside-Supported Professional—doesn’t work regularly but has a steady source of income (pension, SS, welfare, trust fund, spousal support)

The Subsistence Professional—“usually a retiree or younger man who chooses not to work for others” (22). This type actively avoids the biggest or toughest games and is content to eke out a small sum to survive.

The Career Professional—lives almost entirely on poker winnings.

These categories are, of course, flexible and permeable; players move from one to the other all the time (just think of how you might define yourself).

Social Organization of the Cardroom

Here, Hayano details the spatial and temporal layout of the poker room. Much is familiar here: the floor, the board, the rail, the cashier’s cage; the slow and peak times of the day (early morning is the slowest, late evening is the busiest); and the staff (the floorman, manager, dealers, and servers).

One of the strongest parts of the book is Hayano's acute understanding of how different social group meet and mingle. Players are united--or estranged-for a bunch of reasons: their age, gender, occupation, sleeping schedule, or preferred betting limit. For elderly players, to take one example, “their main concern seems to be to pass the time in small-stakes games, meet with friends, watch television, and eat moderately priced meals. In this respect, generally maligned and neglected social institutions such as bus depots, racetracks, and cardrooms may fulfill beneficial social functions that have gone unrecognized” (40). For many old man, playing poker isn't "about" winning money; it may be "about" routine and a kind of community.

Playing different stakes may also bring together or alienate different part of the cardroom population: "two men may play in the same club for ten years, only twenty feet apart,…yet they may never recognize or interact with each other” (41). In an odd way, the cardroom redefines—and sometimes inverts—common social hierarchies: “Doctors and lawyers may become known suckers, unwitting victims of the poker skills of college students, plumbers, or housewives” (45). Skill is king.

Controlling Luck and Managing Action

Hayano lists three factors that affect winning and losing—strategy, luck, and the player himself. The discussion doesn't address in-game strategy but rather the "metagame"--tendencies and techniques that players can cultivate in order to gain an edge.

Monitoring others players—one of the advantages to being a regular is partaking in the daily gossip of who’s winning, losing, playing elsewhere, or playing lower. One guy gets pissed whenever his peers assume he's broke: "Every time I leave town for a few days the word gets out that I'm busted. That's what they'd like to think. I went to Mexico once and heard someone say that they saw me in L.A. That's the kind of petty bull**** I can't stand! What it is, is that they'd like to think that I was busted so that they could have something bad to say about me" (54-55)

Verbal barbs—a kind of manipulation, both playful and cruel, that aims to induce players to act in a certain way. “God, are you rocky! They even named a movie after you. If I played your discards I’d probably make a million bucks.” Another example: “You’re so rocky you probably **** bricks” (55). Regulars also adhere to the unwritten rule of never correcting or insulting bad players (57)

Angle-shooting, slow-rolling, and miscalling—we’ve all heard of these terms. “mis-calling” is knowingly announcing a false hand to induce your opponent to muck.

Luck (switching decks, tables, seats; quitting or moving to a different room) (62-64)

Finally, winning players are able to create a gap between how they appear to others (too loose) with their actual holdings (strong hands): “regulars and pros often put on the image of a person who gambles, makes risky bets, bluffs frequently, or is nothing but an incompetent player, especially to newcomers in the game who do not know them” (65). This may involve advertising a bluff, making a loose call and showing your hand, or feigning an ignorance of the rules. They “talk loose and play tight” (66).

Winners Talk

What are the special personal characteristics that differentiate winners from losers? (71). According to Hayano, the most common traits of winning players are (1) mental altertness and concentration on the task at hand; (2)strong self-discipline; (3) a great desire to win; (4) tremendous self-confidence; (5) the ability to surprise; (6) an excellent knowledge of the probability of events; (7) a more than average analytical mind; and (8) the ability to judge other individuals correctly (72). Unfortunately these skills are mentioned only in the abstract; we never see them in action (an admittedly hard task, for any writer).

How much do these players make? Hayano estimates between 15,000 to 45,000 a year (remember we're in the 1970s). Unfortunately this is one of the weaker sections of the book--not that much can be done to improve it, even today. Concrete facts and statistics are scarce: Hayano draws from a tiny sample size of thirty pros, and some of his observations are vague or impossible to verify ("I estimate that on any one night 20 to 25 percent of poker players in a given cardroom will end up winning") (72). The problem of tracking earnings has been, and remains, an insoluble question for many reasons: honesty, lazy record-keeping, coming to a consensus on what counts as profits or expenses, etc. Not much to be learned here.

This chapter does capture the volatility of supporting oneself through poker. Even the winners walk a fine line between being broke and a “career pro.” “Who would want to hire a broken-down card player?” asks Hal, a fiftyish regular. Neither does remarriage appeal to him. “I’m married to the cards, and I hope they don’t divorce me” (8). More on this subject in Part 2, coming soon.
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Old 01-14-2014, 08:03 PM   #69
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

thread looks awesome. subbed and bookmarked
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Old 01-16-2014, 11:00 AM   #70
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

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Poker Faces: The Life and Work of Poker Players, by David Hayano (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982)
[...] More on this subject in Part 2, coming soon.
Nice piece, well written. I'm looking forward to the rest of it.
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Old 01-16-2014, 05:31 PM   #71
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

Thanks for the comments, guys! Here's the next part, which summarizes the final two chapters.

Losers Walk

“After last night’s loss I went to my car looking for a rope or a gun but I couldn’t find them. When I did find the rope I tied it to a post and stuck my head in it. But the rope broke. So here I am.” --a Gardena regular

After discussing winning players' tendencies, Hayano moves to losing players' tendencies (chapter five). Why do players lose? Hayano gives three reasons:

1. Poor play—many losers are inexperienced, imperceptive, or simply bad players. duh!
2. Belief in luck—some players believe that independent random events are somehow linked to each other and, upon changing their actions in response, they lose money (“the flush hasn’t hit the last nine times; it must be coming in now!”)
3. Poor time and money management—Hayano devotes the most space to these metagame errors. Losing players succumb to:

Danger One: Setting No Limits on Time and Money—they fail to keep records, risk their entire roll, and play in bigger games; and they play for hours on end with no plan in mind, a terrible habit that causes fatigue, poor decisions, and a lack of balance in life.

Danger Two: The Escalation of Stakes

Many players, especially ones mired in a downswing, insist on upping the stakes and pursuing “get-even” strategies. As a cautionary example, Hayano mentions the well-known story of Jack Strauss: “Back in 1970, Jack was down to $40 after a run of bad luck in Vegas, and then he started playing 21. He quit after running it up to $500, took that and stretched it to $4000 playing poker, then returned to 21 and hiked it up to $10,000. He bet that on the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl—and collected $20,000” (96). Often, of course, the opposite happens and players go bust.

Danger Three: The Lure of Other Gambles

While some players can draw a line between poker and other casino games, others fall victim to the guaranteed pitfalls of blackjacks, craps, slots—basically any other game in the casino. While playing and winning is hard enough as it is, these metagame errors compound the losses of many players who are technically weak.

Ultimately, Hayano estimates that 95-99% of players end of up losing more than they win (93). If life is tough for winning players, then it's even worse for the losers.

Loss and Compulsion

How do losing players respond? Many of them resort to borrowing money from friends, other players, or loan sharks; some admit that they have a problem and go to therapy groups like Gamblers Anonymous; others quit altogether. In general, though, permanent change is hard. As one player admits,
“The [Gamblers Anonymous] meeting I went to was a joke. About half the people there were from Gardena, and I had played poker with a lot of them. Most of them were pretty depressed, and they asked me a lot of questions about some of their friends who were still playing. I only went one time because I couldn’t stand seeing those same people. But now I see most of them here in the club. Maybe they think going there is just a joke. It’s for their wives and relatives anyway. You know, gamblers fool themselves a lot. Once a poker player, always a poker player” (100).

What makes these players return to the tables? Deep down they must know they'll lose, right? So why come back? No one really knows. In general, many people have equated losing with compulsive gambling. Hayano is not so sure. “Who is the compulsive gambler?” he asks. “Is it the once-a-year sure loser who buys an Irish Sweepstakes ticket, or is it the professional poker player who plays every day and earns his livelihood? Is it the player who loses one dollar when he cannot afford it, or the millionaire who drops ten thousand when he can?” For him, the behavior of poker players who lose heavily doesn't suggest an addiction, a love of losing, or a need for self-punishment; instead, it comes from poor gambling skills, mistaken beliefs put into actions, or atrocious money management—or, perhaps most likely, a combination of all three.

From this perspective, Hayano suggests, gambling is less “compulsive” than “compulsory.” For many players, in other words, “staying in action” is the only realistic option for digging oneself out of a financial hole. "I can't afford to work," says one losing reg. "What would I do if I did? Make three bucks an hour? I'd have to work 200 years just to get even for the last month." Gambling for such players is the cause of financial ruin, but it's the most likely road to salvation too. For many players this reasoning is sound in theory, but it may well be devastating in practice.

Dealings Under the Table

Chapter 6 is probably the most dated section of the book, since it discusses obsolete forms of cheating (in standard brick and mortar casinos, at least). I’m not sure when it became customary to have paid dealers at the tables—anybody know?—but the 1970s Gardena cardrooms only had playing customers who took turns dealing. Players would frequently short the pot, “forget” to post their antes, or (mis)deal cards to friends and foes (remember the scene in Rounders when Ed Norton deals from the bottom of the deck? That kind of thing). Chip thieves were bolder back then, too: “I once lost a $100 stacks of chips,” Hayano writes, “when I was absent from the table, to a player on my left who ‘accidentally’ knocked over his stacks and one of mine. After fitting the fallen chips in a wooden chip rack he left the game and cashed out. The cardroom refunded my money when I complained” (116). I’ve played a decent amount of live poker and have never seen this kind of activity (maybe I’m not looking hard enough).

Some forms of collusion still persist today, of course. Spoken or unspoken understandings between players, subtle “kicks” under the table, lightning-fast card flashing—all of these techniques survive in one way or another, especially between regulars. My own impression is that cheating and collusion were more rampant in the 1970s than it is today. Speaking of one Gardena game, one floorman mentioned that “it really got bad because of all the scamming. I’m not talking only about two people. I meant they were three or four deep, involved in signaling and trapping other players in the pot. It got to the point where the practically had to issue knee pads there was so much knocking under the table. (Laughing) I bet you at least three of them players had to go in for knee surgery after those games” (121).

Questions: Why do losing players keep coming back?

To what extent can poker be considered a form of gambling? Is poker closer to blackjack or to chess?

How does cheating and collusion survive in live poker today?
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Old 01-17-2014, 01:03 AM   #72
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

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How does cheating and collusion survive in live poker today?
In the Toronto area casinos (all about a 1+ hour drive from downtown), there are a number of young guys who hang together and, when they're in the same game, soft play one another. "Do you want to check it down?" being one of the less objectionable forms, but it does mean those who want get asked that are in a different table dynamic from those who know they won't be facing further bets heads up.

In one of the regular twenty-forty limit games I've been told that 4 or 5 players are on a shared bankroll ...
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Old 01-17-2014, 11:41 AM   #73
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

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In the Toronto area casinos (all about a 1+ hour drive from downtown), there are a number of young guys who hang together and, when they're in the same game, soft play one another. "Do you want to check it down?" being one of the less objectionable forms, but it does mean those who want get asked that are in a different table dynamic from those who know they won't be facing further bets heads up.

In one of the regular twenty-forty limit games I've been told that 4 or 5 players are on a shared bankroll ...
I think you nailed it, Russellin, with soft playing and shared bankrolls being the modern day live collusions. The same can be said about the Vancouver 1-2game where the old-timer-regs check it down when they are involved in a hand together... I would ask to switch tables whenever that happened and I am surprised that the house lets them soft play each other... I have not seen anybody do it in the 2-5 game, which is good, because they are rarely more than 1 table of 2-5 running and usually only gets going in the evening.

We had a small situation in Dawson where 2 women would soft play each other, but were warned by the floor manager. If not, nobody soft plays each other over there, as we are all friends, and I have frequently seen couples get involved in raising wars.

As far as house games go (with bigger buy ins), there is a rumor that some players share rolls, especially when a stranger sits down. I nowadays avoid house games with strangers, as I was once the one who took a pretty significant beating versus guys that knew each others game.

I have also witnessed some shady stuff in Vancouver, where a player would announce "2 pairs" only to have the other guy muck his Aces and when asked to show his 2 pairs, he flipped over a single mid pair.

The game in Dawson has become more "standard" as far as the rules go, but they use to be a silly rule where if you showed your hand in a tournament with action pending, your hand was declared dead, where as nowadays, you only get a penalty. Not knowing that the rule had been changed, one out-of-towner tried to take advantage of this loophole by shoving all but 1 chip. He was in seat 10 and got seat 1 to call his "supposed all in" and flip over his cards. As soon as the cards were exposed, he said "that hand is dead". The floor was called and the right ruling of a simple warning was made. The trickster had a marginal hand like KJo and was rightfully sent packing.
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Old 01-17-2014, 12:42 PM   #74
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

interesting thread, gl OP!
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Old 01-17-2014, 06:11 PM   #75
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Re: The Poker Project (playing and writing about poker in the U.S.)

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In the Toronto area casinos (all about a 1+ hour drive from downtown), there are a number of young guys who hang together and, when they're in the same game, soft play one another. "Do you want to check it down?" being one of the less objectionable forms, but it does mean those who want get asked that are in a different table dynamic from those who know they won't be facing further bets heads up.

In one of the regular twenty-forty limit games I've been told that 4 or 5 players are on a shared bankroll ...
I've seen the first example many times. I'd have a bigger problem with sharing rolls than softplaying, but both are bad.

it seems like the line between "collusion" and "table dynamic" can be blurred at times, esp in tourneys. One good example is on the bubble when medium stacks are unwilling to get all in vs. each other in the hopes that the short stack will bust. Despite this being a pretty clear case of tacit cooperation, would many people call it collusion or cheating? I don't think so.

I also remember a crazy case from the 2011 WSOP, when Doc Sands and his girlfriend Erica Moutinho made it super deep in the Main Event--like final 20 or something: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZJ9FOBYtbY. It would have been a disaster for them to get all-in vs each other. At one point she was on Doc's right and shoved all-in blind vs. blind. Should he call with Queens? Kings? Aces? If he folds, is it cheating? Really interesting scenario, and not one we're likely to see again soon.

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As far as house games go (with bigger buy ins), there is a rumor that some players share rolls, especially when a stranger sits down. I nowadays avoid house games with strangers, as I was once the one who took a pretty significant beating versus guys that knew each others game.

I have also witnessed some shady stuff in Vancouver, where a player would announce "2 pairs" only to have the other guy muck his Aces and when asked to show his 2 pairs, he flipped over a single mid pair.
Yea, I'm not a fan of sketchy home games either.

The second ex. is really shady, Dubn. A good lesson for everyone, though--never muck a potential winner until you see your opponent's hand. I haven't seen this yet and hope I won't have to.
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interesting thread, gl OP!
thanks! I'll need some luck
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