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Poker is about winning not justice!

Poker is about winning not justice! One of the unpleasant aspects of playing poker is the sick nature of certain situations where you suffer the outrageous injustice of being the victim of an opponent who benefits from the fortune of winning a hand against you on the back of a decision based on flawed and illogical reasoning.

The main question is what constitutes a poor decision in the first place? If you ask a chimpanzee they will tell you, after taking another bite of their banana, that if the hand is won it was played correctly and if it is lost it was played incorrectly. To be fair to the chimp, it is a big asks to think in a more sophisticated manner than simply looking at the end result when your mind is concerned with ensuring that every square inch of bottom is adequately scratched.

In addition to this there are many situations where there is no right or wrong decision and more than one course of action can be justified, it is simply the individuals personal point of view that dictates the action.

My personal view is that poker is all about mathematics and from a long term point of view the more often you can make the “right” decision the more likely you are to be a winning player and your decision should be based on mathematical probability together with the information available to you regarding the current hand and events that have transpired previously.

I also think that those players that rely on “ feel” for their actions would be better employed and more financially rewarded if they stood next to a roulette table and waited until they had a “feeling” that the ball was going to drop in 26 black.

I witnessed a hand in the £100 re buy tournament at the Broadway in Birmingham, where a player made a raise to 2400 (blinds 600), which was called. The flop came Q73 and both players checked, the turn card was 2 and the initial caller bet 4000 (leaving himself around 3600) at which point the pre flop raiser moved all in. The player that had made the turn bet showed a queen and folded. Now I was amazed at this fold in that the information available (with the possible exception of the all in re raise) suggested that his Queen was more than likely in front and, more importantly, he had already committed around 60% of his stack to the pot. Not to suggest that if you have committed that sort of proportion of your chips to a pot that you should not fold but he did after all have top pair, which he could reasonably believe was in front and was not really leaving himself a playable stack if he folded. With this in mind I would personally not make a move on a player that seemed so pot committed unless I genuinely believed that they had no hand whatsoever. The player that re raised reasoned afterwards that he thought his opponents hand “ wasn’t very strong” and for me this is flawed logic as his opponent did not need to have a very strong hand in order to call the bet in that spot. Had he made the re raise because he believed his opponent was making a move with no hand then, whether right or wrong in terms of the reality of the situation at least his reasoning was justified and so it seemed to me that he benefited from making the wrong move for the wrong reason but was fortunate enough to find an inexperienced player (as it turned out) who had little concept of pot odds or being pot committed.

Having said all that it is highly likely that many players make similar moves for similar reasons and as they are not generally in the habit of explaining the reasoning behind their actions no one ever knows why.

At the risk of suggesting any personal interest in criticizing the play of the individual involved in the play above I had personal experience of arguably another example of unjustified reward for flawed thinking at his hands.

I was in the blind with K5 and the same player mentioned above limped in for 600. The flop came K85 with 2 clubs, I checked and he bet 1200 to which I re raised to 3000 and he called. At this point I thought he either had a flush draw or possibly a King. I hoped for a low card on the turn so it was unlikely he would make 2 pairs if he had a king and also no club as I thought that was his most likely draw. The turn card was an off suit 9 and so I decided that I wanted to take the pot there and then and so I bet 6000 quite happy to take the pot there and then and not take the risk of getting outdrawn on the river.

(I realise it is possible he is letting me walk into a set but if he has me, he has me and I am just unlucky. You cannot go through a tournament always assuming your opponent has a monster hand)

Anyway he calls my 6000 turn bet and now I am sure he has just a flush draw and I am hoping for a none club on the river at which point I will check and hope he bets on the basis that he can not win the pot by checking after me, after all if he has a flush draw and misses he will not call my bet so the only way I can get more of his chips into the pot with no hand is if I can entice him to try a bluff. Luckily for me the river card is an off suit Jack, as planned I check, and as planned he bets enough to set me in. I call instantly happy that my cunning plan has borne fruit and I am moving into 3rd place in the tournament with only 3 tables left.

I did chuckle when he turned over Q10 of spades. It was generally noted that his call of my check raise with Q10 spades on a flop of K85 (with 2 clubs) was somewhat creative and he justified the call by informing the table that he did not believe I had it. I was not quite sure how wide his definition of “having it “ was and I discussed this with myself all the way to my car.

I decided to phone Marc Goodwin (we were shares in the tournament though he was not there) and as it was 2am I decided to text him first to see if he was awake. As he did not respond to the text I guessed that he was in bed asleep so I knew it was a good time to ring him. Unfortunately he was unable to enlighten me as to an understanding of my conquerors’ creativity.

One of the benefits of Internet poker is that the quality of explanations for creative plays often goes no further than "it won didn’t it?" or "thank you for your chips fish"

Fri, 10th December 2010

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