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Views: 560
Date Posted: Oct. 14, 7:09pm, 3 Comments

Can I believe my own eyes? 

    Is proof really proof? 
    Apparently, most people pay far less attention to data than might be wise.
    Most of us would rather base our opinions on anecdotes, hearsay, theories and advertisements. 
    Data is difficult.  Complex even. 
    And while we might be condemned to repeat history if we don't remember history, history is just so much data.  And data is no guarantee of the future.
    However, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, data is the worst way for us to form our opinions, except for all the other ways.
    Except... for... all... the... other... ways.
    Humans are emotional beings who often make judgments with the heart and/or gut, then look for evidence to verify that decision.  This filtering of data to discern "information" consistent with what we want to believe is called my-side bias.
    Players who chase a couple of outs to the river are seeing what they want to see.  Or hope, even pray, to see.  Players who make the hero call are often ignoring a mass of data suggesting a fold. 
    When confronted with evidence which is contrary to what we want to believe, we look for any scintilla of information to confirm our view.  It's just human nature.
    But it is probably bad poker.
    And I have the data to prove it.
    As many as 100% of all the hotshot instructors on all the numerous training sites make use of heads-up displays (HUDs). 
    100%.  Maybe more.
    It's irrefutable.
    So, to make a short blog even shorter, let me just say I am in the process of installing Hold'em Manager. 
    Oh, yeah, that's how I roll.  Look out!!
    To be perfectly honest,
    I can't promise I'll play any better. 
    But I will for sure
    be ignoring more data
    than ever before
    when I make that hero call.
Views: 575
Date Posted: Oct. 11, 12:46pm, 1 Comment
In the root and stem of your own psyche there is an accumulation of bad habits.  If you cannot see through them and act independently of them, you will unavoidably get bogged down along the way. - Zen master Yuansou
    I recently listened to The EightFold Path to Poker Enlightenment by Tommy Angelo.  Angelo, a long time pro who contributes to the Deuces Cracked training site, is the author of The Elements of Poker.  The video series averages over an hour per episode and includes musical interludes by Angelo, who is also an accomplished musician.  And a practicing student of Buddhist philosophy.
I'd like to share some notes.
1.  Right View.  See things as they are... Hating anything is the wrong view.  There's no room for fear... "The decisions that bother us most matter the least."... Don't criticize other players.
2. Right Thinking.  "Position dominates dominance."
3. Mindfulness. "Mindlessness is our normal state of mind." Observe your own thoughts; witness what you think.  The breath is the link between the mind and the body.  Mindful breathing is the key....
    Poker constantly pulls us into the past.  Focus on your breathing, which is the now.
    Sit up.  Breathe.  Let it go.
4.  Reciprocality.  No decision occurs in isolation.  Sending less info = more profit; receiving more info = more profit. 
    "Playing good is not inherently profitable; playing differently is where the money comes from."
5. Quitting.  Practice taking breaks.  Walk away from the table for no particular reason, other than proving to yourself you can do it.... Quitting is a poker skill... knowing how and when to quit is part of being a successful poker player.  "It's never wrong not to play." 
    When you know you are a good quitter, it reduces your fear of a big loss and allows you to play more confidently.
6. Right Speech.  Ignore the seduction of anonymity online.  Remember, one person knows who you are, you know.  Practice mum poker.
7. Right Action.  Don't focus simply on table selection, remember table rejection.  Move if the game gets less fishy. 
    Emphasize having tight, passive players on your left, so you can be the last to act in as many hands as possible.  Practice firstlessness, the act of not be first.  Defend the button.
    The best thing you can do is sit up straight and be conscious of your breathing.
8. Tiltlessness.  "Running bad is just an idea."  Don't blame people for anything.  Ever.  And don't blame yourself. 
    Here's how you handle a bad beat: 'The card came. And he won.' 
    Sit up.  Breathe.  Let it go.
    If your objective is to increase your profitability, you must increase your mindfulness.  Put your effort into focusing over and over by stilling yourself.  Be aware of your mindfulness.
Watch.  Listen.  Breathe.  Win.
Views: 601
Date Posted: Oct. 7, 3:06pm, 0 Comments
I was watching WPT champ Nam Le - a young man - play at the same table as 11-time-bracelet-winner Phil Hellmuth, a more experienced, older man.  Nam Le took his bad beats in stride, expressionless, while the Poker Brat seemed shocked - shocked!, I tell you - every time something happened which he did not predict.   Nam Le was not exactly surprised, while Hellmuth acted like Columbus discovering America.  Stuff happens.


"Imagine a speck of dust next to planet a billion times the size of the earth," writes Nassim Nicholas Taleb in The Black Swan. "The speck of dust represents the odds in favor of your being born; the huge planet would be the odds against it. So, stop sweating the small stuff. Don't be like an ingrate who got a castle as a present and worried about the mildew in the bathroom. Stop looking for the gift horse in the mouth -- remember that you are a Black Swan."


What the hell is a black swan?, you ask.


The black swan is a highly improbable event, unpredictable, with an immense impact.  Such an event is typically explained afterwards as being more predictable than it really was. Before Australia was discovered, all swans were assumed to be white. When a black swan was first seen in that country, previous assumptions about swan color proved baseless. The lesson is this: just because we have not observed something happen in the past does not mean it might not happen tomorrow.  Or even the next hand.


And bad beats, for example, can hardly be described as something that hasn't happened before.  So, why act so surprised?


"Experts, [Taleb] argues, "are certainly flawed—overconfident, narrow-minded, overly committed to a particular picture of the world. But the fundamental reason for their failure is that they are playing an impossible game. The future—or at least those parts of it that really matter— is, by its nature, genuinely unpredictable. We can’t read the tea leaves because they don’t exist."


Overconfident?  Narrow-minded??  Paging Mr. Hellmuth.


As a species, we seem to desire predictability.  Life is best lived in stable, understandable patterns.  We don't easily accept change and we detest - in particular - unexpected change.  But since we cannot control the future, we really should not be so surprised if some surprising event occurs. Predicting predictability - when we cannot know - leads to tilt.  And tilt leads to a diminishing bankroll.  Not to mention suffering.  Why do that to yourself???


What does the Black Swan have to say about longevity in poker?  About going busto??

How many times have you sat there trying to put your opponent on a hand you could beat?  How many opponents have you seen do just that???   A small pair puts the opponent on over-cards or AQ puts him on AJ.   We see this phenomenon all the time.  “...Things in the real world are far messier than in recorded history or in memory," says Taleb. ”But we find it hard to live with such messiness, so we tend to look for causes and patterns that do not exist." This is the narrative fallacy, the belief that, after the event, every outcome, even a surprising one, has a cause which might have been predictable.


We are chronic explainers: once an event has occurred, we hurry to create an explanation that makes it look predictable. The site is rigged...the Doom Switch...the withdrawal curse...crazy Scandanavians. There must be a reason.


Fallacies blind us to the existence of the black swan.  The Platonic fallacy, for example, is a view of the world as safe, structured and comprehensible.  It's a human self-defense mechanism at its core.  Otherwise, we'd never be able to go out the door in the morning. 


In a nutshell, Taleb's advice is to assume that really crazy things can happen and to set yourself up, so that you can benefit from good crazy things without being hurt by bad crazy things.


"We underestimate the share of randomness," Taleb writes. "Lucky fools do not know that they may be lucky fools."


Our failure to accept the reality of black swans, James Surowiecki says Taleb suggests, actually magnifies their impact, because it deludes us into believing we understand the risks we’re taking in a given pursuit. If we were more aware of the limits of our knowledge and more cognizant of the real risks we run, we could do two things: limit our exposure to fields where potential catastrophes are possible and maximize our exposure to potential windfalls."


Is this what Hellmuth can't seem to quite grasp?  If it wasn't for the black swan, he'd win every tournament??


All might be chance. The point is, we cannot know.   The least we could do is admit it.  And deal with it.


 Cliff Notes: Put yourself in situations where favorable consequences are much larger than unfavorable ones.  And don't be surprised if things don't turn out exactly as you expected.

Views: 449
Date Posted: Oct. 4, 1:19pm, 1 Comment
Are you feeling lucky?
    First of all, I suspect most folks commonly do not understand the concept of luck.  You must realize - as a living human being -  each of us experiences luck of one sort or another every single day. Often, many, many times.
    Let me emphasize, living human beings.  Deceased humans have already run out of luck.
    Not to be indelicate, but just let's suppose your own personal lucky streak began when a certain spermatozoa of your father crashed into a certain ovum of your mother.
    There are two kinds of luck, good and bad. 
    If all you experience is bad luck, you are still lucky.
    My dictionary agrees.  Luck is defined as "chance, thought of as a force that brings either good or bad fortune." 
    An alternate definition is "the events, etc. (either favorable or unfavorable to one's interests) that it brings."     
    And luck ebbs and flows, does it not??  You can be ahead pre-flop... behind on the flop... then somehow manage to emerge victorious on the river. 
    By the way, you will invariably hear complaints from a weaker hand which flopped good, then lost on a later card.  Something to keep in mind - LIFE LESSON - you don't get paid in the middle of the hand.  It doesn't matter where you are in the middle but where you stand at the end.
    I was reminded of this ebb and flow by a story I saw recently in the St. Petersburg Times (Florida.)  A reasonably handsome Caucasian male American (2-4xGoodLuck) is drunk (no luck involved perhaps) and hurt (maybe 1xBadLuck.) 
    Somebody sees him (1xGL) and calls 911 (1xGL.) 
    Emergency Services is told the victim is near (1xGL) the fire station. 
    Two rescuers (socialism??) open the garage bay doors, turn on the emergency lights and pull out of the fire station. 
    And run over the guy (1xBadLuck, minimum) they were sent to rescue in their 10-ton (1xBL) truck.
    Apparently, nobody thought to explain just how nearby was the victim.  That is real, real lucky.
    But not good.
    Two days later authorities were still trying to figure out how that homeless drunk came to be so lucky.
    "There's just so many variables that were involved," explained the assistant fire chief, "that any other combination would not have resulted in what occurred."
    Isn't that just another way of saying LUCK?
    Turns out this particular station has multiple buildings with three separate addresses.  The complex has nine different garage bays facing two different streets.  So, the victim was about 8-1 not to get hit by an exiting rescue vehicle.
    He's as likely to get runover as you are to hit a set on the river. 
    If you only play one hand all day.
    Let's call the victim Ted Allen Lenox.  Because that's his name. 
    Ted Allen Lenox survived, though he's still not feeling too perky.
    To add insult to injury, police actually took the trouble - how does it matter? - to administer a blood-alcohol test to Ten.  Turns out he blew - painfully, I'm guessing - 0.46.  Nearly six times the 0.08 level at which a driver is considered legally impaired.   
    Lucky for him he wasn't driving.
Views: 996
Date Posted: Sep. 30, 11:28am, 0 Comments
I do not think of myself as a gambler.
I do not think of myself as a gambler,
despite three marriages, three business start-ups, elephant racing,
drunk driving, stock market short selling, bar fights, cliff diving,
sports betting, drugs, blind dates....
    I do not think of myself as a gambler, despite some stuff I can't talk about. 
    I don't much like risk.
Risk avoidance seems like a major hindrance to poker success.
    Losing just hurts too much.
    Certainly, losing feels far more painful than winning feels good.
But I realize if I am going to be a winning player -
    and I am going to be - 
I have to learn to take more chances.
Psychology professor Elke Weber said something helpful.
    "Attraction to risk is not an innate trait that some people have and others don't.  Mostly we're chance-takers in some areas of our lives and not in others."
    Which suggests to me I can learn to be more daring.  In poker at least.
    "The difference," Professor Weber continues, "is in what we perceive to be risky.  For example, you might take fewer risks in a certain aspect of your life, but not because you're more scared, but because you see a greater potential downside.  It's all about perspective.  Most rock climbers think rock climbing is pretty safe.  People who don't climb think it's pretty dangerous."
    Drunks don't seem to think drunk driving is dangerous.  But then they're not thinking.
    Maybe I think too much. 
    Maybe I think too much about losing.
    It can't be the money.  My wife spends more in one afternoon's worth of shopping than I lose at the tables in a bad month.
    I think I just hate to lose.
    But I'm learning.
    I'm learning, if you're afraid to lose,
    you have no chance of winning.
Views: 953
Date Posted: Sep. 27, 2:34pm, 2 Comments

An excerpt from
The Strangest Secret

By Earl Nightingale

George Bernard Shaw said, "People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, they make them."


Well, it's pretty apparent, isn't it? And every person who discovered this believed (for a while) that he was the first one to work it out. We become what we think about.


Conversely, the person who has no goal, who doesn't know where he's going, and whose thoughts must therefore be thoughts of confusion, anxiety and worry - his life becomes one of frustration, fear, anxiety and worry. And if he thinks about nothing... he becomes nothing.


How does it work? Why do we become what we think about? Well, I'll tell you how it works, as far as we know. To do this, I want to tell you about a situation that parallels the human mind.

Suppose a farmer has some land, and it's good, fertile land. The land gives the farmer a choice; he may plant in that land whatever he chooses. The land doesn't care. It's up to the farmer to make the decision.


We're comparing the human mind with the land because the mind, like the land, doesn't care what you plant in it. It will return what you plant, but it doesn't care what you plant.


Now, let's say that the farmer has two seeds in his hand- one is a seed of corn, the other is nightshade, a deadly poison. He digs two little holes in the earth and he plants both seeds-one corn, the other nightshade. He covers up the holes, waters and takes care of the land...and what will happen? Invariably, the land will return what was planted.

As it's written in the Bible, "As ye sow, so shall ye reap."


Remember, the land doesn't care. It will return poison in just as wonderful abundance as it will corn. So up come the two plants - one corn, one poison.


The human mind is far more fertile, far more incredible and mysterious than the land, but it works the same way. It doesn't care what we plant...success...or failure. A concrete, worthwhile goal...or confusion, misunderstanding, fear, anxiety and so on. But what we plant it must return to us.


You see, the human mind is the last great unexplored continent on earth. It contains riches beyond our wildest dreams. It will return anything we want to plant.



Views: 961
Date Posted: Sep. 23, 11:26am, 0 Comments
1. Take a deep breath.  Stay calm, cool & collected.
2. Study the table.  Who are your opponents?  Pay particular attention when you are not in a      hand.
3. Play the player & his stack.  Short stacks invariably will have a looser range.
4. Be ever aware of everybody's chip count.
5. Make correct decisions in the blinds.  You  are usually out of position and position is power.
6. Attack tight play.  This is especially true at the end of the day and on the money bubble.
7. Adjust your play throughout the tournament.  Change speeds before everybody else does.
8. Show no mercy.  Never leave a short stack with any chips when you can put him all-in.
9.  Bluff & steal & re-steal.  Stay ahead of the rapidly increasing cost of each orbit.
10.  Learn survival.  Be patient.  You can't win a tournament in the first hour or the first day.
Bonus tip.
11.  Get lucky!!!  Nobody wins a tournament without a suckout or two.
Views: 392
Date Posted: Sep. 18, 2:29pm, 1 Comment
If you do not bluff, there is no chance you will be a successful poker player.
1. Bluff no more than one or two players at a time.  For every player you have to trick, the odds of doing so successfully diminish greatly.  Position counts even more when you don't have cards.
2. Don't bluff just to advertise.  Eschew the fancy play syndrome.  The best poker players show off by winning.
3. You are more likely to bluff successfully if your opponents all checked on the previous betting round.
4. Understand all bluffs do not have to succeed.  You will win hands you would never have won otherwise.  And your opponents have to worry about your willingness to bluff.
5. Don't bluff calling stations.  Don't try to bluff the, umm, stupid.  Bluff passive players.  And, interestingly, quite often, the better the opponent, the more capable he is of laying down a hand.  Bad players can't do that.
6. Consider a semi-bluff when there are more cards to come.
7. Suggest specific hands.  An Ace on the board is scary.  Three cards to a flush or four cards to a straight are excellent opportunities to bluff. 
8. The tighter your image, the more credible you'll be when you represent a hand.
9. Occasionally attempt a bluff when nobody in their right mind would even try.
10. Tell a believable story.  The story has to make sense from the beginning of the hand to the end of the hand.
Views: 329
Date Posted: Sep. 15, 8:54am, 1 Comment
Here's two words....fixed income.
    Got married (third time.)  Retired month before I turned 60.  Decided to pay bills playing poker on Internet.  Republicans began campaign against working at home.  Games got tougher.  And tougher.  I refuse to surrender to failure.
    Prefer early retirement include more phrases like "Nut flush" and fewer like "Welcome to Wal-Mart."
     Tired of hoopla re Young Guns.  Old Dudes can rock, too.  Rocky Balboa: "I still have stuff in the basement."  In my case, the stuff is fire, a burning desire to excel.
     The game can help me achieve greatness.  And pay the bills.
* * *
I'd be interested to hear - in 100 words or less - why you play poker today.
Views: 403
Date Posted: Sep. 12, 1:40pm, 2 Comments


"In the end, if you are still just doing it, you win." - Laird Hamilton
    Like many poker players, I first played seriously in college.  I began to believe I was one of the best poker players ever to sit down at a card table.  I crushed the dorm game - crushed it! - pulling down maybe as much as 40 or 50 dollars a week.  Seriously.  That was a helpful sum, some 45 years ago.  In fact, I played poker and bridge so seriously, I flunked out of school.
    My father was not happy.  He offered me a choice.  I could deal with his - not inexplicable - wrath or I could serve my country...starting tomorrow.  He was not bluffing.  I figured my odds were better against the Viet Cong.  Talk about your prop bets.
    Dad, it must be said, was an excellent poker player.  Mother tells about the time she found a piece of property upon which to build her dream home.  The site was so choice, a bidding war was about to erupt.  If she could come up with an unlikely large amount of cash immediately, she could swing the deal.  "I might be able to help," Dad said.  From his sock drawer, he pulled a roll of bills, approximating his pre-tax annual income.  The next day we owned a half-acre field atop a hill.
    I joined the U.S. Air Force because the Marine recruiter was out to lunch.
    Oh, the irony.  Having flunked out of college due primarily to a lack of interest in higher education, I soon found myself in Monterrey, California, at the Defense Language Institute.  Assigned to a year-long study of the Czech and Slovak languages. Forty hours of classes weekly, with no option whatsoever of quitting.  Failing grades doubtlessly meant a direct flight to Cam Ranh Bay.
    At DLI, all governmental agencies studied, even the FBI.  Virtually every language around the globe was taught.  Including Vietnamese. 
    We used to joke about the two-week course given to combat troops on their way to the Far East.  What could they be teaching you?  "Hello."  "Goodbye." "Drop your weapons."  "Raise your hands."  "Surrender or die." "I'll have another beer, please."  "I love you." 
    I still remember how to say "kiss my butt" in Czechoslovakian.
    Of course, we played poker.  We played a lot of poker.  Hour after hour after hour of poker.  In those days, the games were mostly 7-card stud and 5-card draw.  Dealer's choice, with the occasional wild card, like one-eyed jacks and suicide kings.  Stakes varied, usually depending upon how close - or how far - from pay day the game was played. 
    Games got tougher as the pay period went on.  Think of the month as one big MTT, towards the third weekend, most of the weaker players had surrendered their bankrolls. By the end of the month, each barracks was basically spreading a short-handed sit-and-go.            The better players had the option of moving up to face higher "ranked" competition.  By ranked, I don't mean the PLB.  The sergeants had their games, the officer corps had their games, too.  The weakest games were among the junior officers, the second lieutenants.  Sooner than later, I got my ass kicked.  And kicked.  And kicked.  And kicked.  I began to believe I was one of the worst poker players ever to sit down at a card table.
    I got beat so bad, I decided poker was not the game for me.  I stopped playing.
    Fast forward a few decades.  I cannot precisely place the blame on Chris Moneymaker.  But I did read the best-selling Play Poker Like the Pros by Phil Hellmuth.  In the book, Mr. Hellmuth graciously recommended playing on  So, I signed up.  (After all, the Poker Brat had been voted "Best Poker Tournament Player in the World" in 1997.) 
    I deposited $50, which was lost almost before I figured out what buttons to click. Just like in the military.  Apparently, years away from the tables had not improved my poker skills. 
    So - what the hell - what did I have to lose?  I began to play... gulp... play money games.
    Slowly, and then ever more rapidly, I begin to win.  And win.  And win.  Just like in college.  Before long I was playing 1000-2000 NLH with a BR beyond 3 million.  I had my mojo back.
    If you ever have a choice, do not marry a crazy person.  My wife wanted me to cash in.  When I explained it was not real money, she refused to believe I was even playing poker.
    After the divorce, I began to play again for real.  I managed to get small deposits on a half-dozen sites.  And while I study and study and play and play, I am barely a break-even player.  I simply cannot manage the win which allow me to move ahead.
    Oh, I did have a big win some months back.  A huge win.  I finished first in a 12,000 player MTT on PokerStars.  There is something very rewarding about sitting alone at a final table with a stack of 18,000,000 chips. I was still admiring my stack when they closed the table.
    Unfortunately, the event was a freeroll, which merely served to allow me entry into a future tournament.  I placed 36th of 3391 entrants in that MTT.  I was feeling pretty good about myself.  Back-to-back Jack.
    This was about the same time I began to understand the ups and downs of my youthful poker "career."  College, where I was a big winner, was small, private, expensive, church-affiliated.  Those kids had no idea how to play poker.  None whatsoever.  The Language Institute, where I was a big loser, was populated with country boys and city slickers, who actually knew how to play the game.  Some of them might not have even cheated.  They were that good.
    My own skills, to use the term loosely, never changed.  I was bad when I won, I was bad when I lost.  My game remained the same, while the results depended upon my opponents' skills and the fall of the cards.
    Today, I improve incrementally, glacially. Seems everybody who survives online improves, too.  So, gradual improvement almost seems -EV.  To be successful, we must get better faster.  We must be open to new ideas.
    As winners, we must realize we might not be as good as we think we are. 
    As losers, we have to understand why we lose. 
    And when we do win, we have to make sure the victory is worth achieving. 
  Those who can, do.  Those who can't, well, we quite often write articles trying to figure out how.


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