Sunday, May 06, 2007

"Is This Standard?" (2 of 3)

A standard PLO raising hand?To recap: Reading through the Omaha High forum on Two Plus Two, I’d been struck with the frequency of references to “standard” play. My instinctive response was to hypothesize that Omaha High players more frequently consider certain plays “standard” than do players who play other forms of poker. Wanted to try to come up with some concrete evidence to support this here theory. So back to the forums.

What I’ve tried to do here is hardly bulletproof statistical analysis. I decided to focus on one month’s worth of posts -- April 2007 -- to see if it were true that the Omaha High posters were speaking of standard play and/or scenarios more frequently than did posters in other forums.

“Sniper” regularly posts something called the “Unofficial 2+2 Post Count Analysis” the first of every month. A fairly interesting compilation of data to peruse. Click here to see his report for April 2007. During April, there was an average of 68 posts about Omaha High every day. Meanwhile, there were 1,080 posts per day about PL/NL Texas Hold ’em: Small Stakes. The forum I used to watch most closely -- Small Stakes Short-handed -- got 157 posts per day in April.

Looking at Sniper’s table, I immediately decided it would be simply too damn unwieldy to search through the no limit or tourney forums, so I limited my scope to the six limit hold ’em forums (High Stakes, Medium Stakes, Small Stakes, Micro Stakes, Mid-High Short-handed, Small Stakes Short-handed) and the five “Other Poker” forums (Omaha/8, Omaha High, Stud, Heads Up Poker, Other Poker). Among those 11 forums, Sniper reports the following activity for April 2007:

Sniper just lists the averages, so I multiplied by 30 days to get the total number of posts. Notice that the Omaha High forum has a modest amount of activity, especially compared to the other limit HE forums. I like that, actually -- since only a few threads are begun each day, I can usually follow all of them.

I then used Two Plus Two’s search function to see how many posts in each forum contained the word “standard” in the subject line and/or the body of the post. I’m aware not everyone is a big fan of the search function on Two Plus Two, but it essentially suits my purposes here. I searched each of the 11 forums for uses of the word “standard,” narrowing my search to 4/1/07 to 4/30/07 inclusive. I then skimmed through all of the posts to sort out how many unique uses of the word actually appeared. For example, if someone started a post with a subject line of “3/6 PL this is standard right?” and received five responses, that would turn up six instances of the word “standard” -- when, in fact, there was only one unique use of the term.

There were also a few posts where the poster used the term more than once, in which case I counted each use separately. I also got rid of those instances where the term was used but didn’t really refer to standard play or scenarios (e.g., mentions of “standard deviation,” questions about “standard” bankrolls, etc.). There weren’t so many of those, actually -- interestingly, people posting in poker forums generally don’t use the word “standard” unless referring to “logical ‘default’ play” (to use Sklansky’s phrase from the article that started all of this).

After all of that sorting through, here’s what I found:

I had expected to discover the Omaha High section to boast the highest percentage of posts containing unique references to “standard” play/scenarios. Didn’t end up seeing such a dramatic difference, however, between the Omaha High forum and some of the limit HE forums. And in one case -- Small Stakes Limit -- references to “standard” play/scenarios came up more frequently than in the PLO forum.

There are a few possible explanations for why the numbers turned out the way they did. A lot depended on the individual posters and their tendencies -- indeed, over in the limit HE forums there were a number of high-count posters who appeared particularly fond of the term “standard.” In fact, there were a few threads where describing a play as “standard” itself became the topic of discussion, with one poster complaining about another’s overuse/misuse of the term.

It may well be true that Omaha High players -- successful ones, anyway -- place a premium on playing “by the book,” and likely value such “standard” play more highly than do hold ’em players. (Intuitively, I still believe this to be likely.) But I can’t really say these figures unambiguously prove my hypothesis. In fact, even if the numbers had turned out differently, this here test probably ain’t the best way to “prove” the idea.

I had anticipated that my third post would build on my hypothesis with some discussion of how situations one faces in PLO reoccur so often -- more so than in hold ’em -- that such repetition necessarily reinforces prejudices in favor of “standard” play. (Someone with more Omaha experience could probably have written that post more effectively than I could, anyway.)

Not gonna go in that direction, though. Instead, I think I’ll conclude with a few less ambitious thoughts about poker forums, generally speaking. I particular, I want to talk about how the idea of “standard” play tends to affect discussions about poker strategy (as demonstrated in forums like those on Two Plus Two).



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