Thursday, April 24, 2008

Stupid/System 007: Positive Expected Value

Here's a situation we've all found ourselves in at one point or another.

Some real drool-bucket has cracked your awesome straight draw with his flopped set, and rather than admit his luck, he's accused you of whining.

Naturally, you have done what any sane person would do in that situation. You followed him from table to table for an hour, making sure all his opponents know just what a donkey he is. Also, you've challenged him to heads-up, any stakes he wants, bro.

So you're at the $1000 NL heads-up table. You've bought in for $376, because that all you . . . you just feel like playing short. That's all.

You're holding Tc3c.

He raises his button to $25. What do you do?

Now, your standard, garden-variety poker-playing mouth breather would tell you that Ten-trey is a real loser, even suited. Even this more enlightened tome, which shares with you poker secrets worth more than your first mother, would point out (quite rightly) that you are only on the one flush draw and thus you're removing 12 of the outs that can make this a productive call. Those two clubs together in one spot limit your outs; a not insignificant argument against a call.

But that's the first level of poker. I'm now going to introduce you to the THIRD level of poker. (The second level of poker is just a decoy to fool the fish, and contains mainly throw pillows and Scandinavians.) The third level is where the secrets lurk, to wit; how to know when the doom switch is on, choosing your lucky hand, and how to put on your sunglasses upside down.

Over on the third level, there are some pretty serious arguments FOR a call as well.

1) Calling means you have a stronger hand than if you raise (see The Gap Principal).

2) This is a grudge match, and you don't want to show any weakness by folding.

3) Your Expected Value.

It is about Expected Value that we should focus, because there really isn't a more important poker concept, beside learning to spell "poker". Named after legendary poker strategist Leo "Tex" Expectedvalue, it simply states that a decision is correct if you can expect to make money over the long term (say 12 or 13 hands), and a decision is incorrect if you can expect to lose money over the long term.

So . . . before you make the call or the fold with T3 clubs . . . what do you expect to do?

Remember this. Don't forget this. Poker is a game in which the score is kept in money, and which never ends. That means it goes on for a really long time, sometimes after last call, and what a pain THAT is. So you really need to keep a good mindset.

It goes without saying that top poker players expect to win. Do YOU expect to win money over the long term? If the answer is 'yes', then this is a clear call with T3, because you are a winning player. If you're doubting me, then let me ask you this: What do winning players do? They win. And what do losing players do? They lose. So obviously, it is best to expect to be a winning player. It's just simple math, really.

If you expect to win, this is known as positive expected value, or +EV.

If you expect to lose, this is known as negative expected value, or -EV.

This emphasizes the power of positive thinking. If you don't think the board will come clubs, then why are you even playing? Why, you may as well just fold like all the other fish. So many of them fold their inside straight draws because 'statistics' tell them it won't come. Hogwash! Hogwash I say! Statistics are so dangerous, because when improperly applied, they so easily lead to -EV thinking.

So, work on your expectation. Take the example above. You should make a positive expectation. To wit; you should expect that he probably has T2, making you a huge favorite. Remember, Doyle Brunson plays that hand every time, and he's won like ten bracelets now. Well . . . TEN THREE is even STRONGER than that!

I hope you wouldn't think this player is stronger than Texas Dolly. Therefore, you shouldn't give him credit for a stronger hand. So, it's settled; your opponent has T2. What a maroon.


You call.

Flop: KcQd6d

What do you do?

Answer Great flop! He's missed his deuce and is way behind you! Not only that, but you have a straight draw and a flush draw. You've got him crushed, but you want to get more money in the pot. I'd utilize the checkraise here.

You check and your opponent bets the pot.

What do you do?

Go all in! Go all in!

You go all in and your opponent shows AdKd for a flush draw. He catches a diamond on the river to beat you, but don't feel down about that. Just type "NICE CATCH LOL WHAT A JOKE RIGGED," then read our chapter on reloading, and our chapter on home re-finance, and then challenge this crumb-bum to a rematch. Remember that just because he didn't have T2 this time is immaterial. In the long run, he will have T2, which makes your play +EV. That's why you're a winning player and he's a total fishcake. Just keep making positive Expected Value decisions like this one, and you'll be a major poker pro in no time. Tell Howard Lederer I said "hello."


Carson said...

Abso-fucking-lutely brilliant

HighOnPoker said...

The remarkable part, aside from the sustainability of this bit, is the fact that you really channel Groucho Marx's humor in your writing. Rock on, Goat!

Rakewell said...

A germ of an idea, which you are free to expand on for a future installment of Stupid/System (or to ignore, if you prefer): The concept of "outs" is only defined for the player who is behind in the hand. If you have the best of it, there's no such thing as "outs." Which means that if you get your money in when you have the best hand, you have NO OUTS! Which, in turn, means that it's mathematically impossible to win! Hence the need to get all of your money in when the so-called "conventional wisdom" would say that you're an underdog--it's the only way you can win the hand. It's frankly astonishing that a concept this simple and powerful has escaped some of the great poker minds of our time.

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