Saturday, March 31, 2007

Houdini Would Have Played Omaha

Houdini Would Have Played OmahaLast week the grand nephew of Harry Houdini announced his plans to exhume his ancestor’s corpse in order to determine whether he had been poisoned. Some have characterized the proposed exhumation as just the sort of spectacle the famed escape artist would’ve enjoyed, dubbing it “Houdini’s last escape.”

What else would Houdini have enjoyed? Pot limit Omaha. I’m sure of it.

Been playing PLO and (just about) nothing else here for the last three-and-a-half weeks. Had played a lot before (a couple of years back), but have only recently started thinking seriously about Omaha again. The game continues to be profitable for me. And fun. As I’ve mentioned before, despite the fact that an individual session might feature wild swings -- wilder than what you get in a limit hold ’em game, for sure -- my experience has been that my overall variance is in fact less. Most of my sessions have been winning sessions, and my roll has steadily climbed ever since I made the move. And for some reason I’m less affected emotionally by a downswing or bad beat in Omaha. I’ve only played 4,200 hands or so, and thus haven’t anywhere near the amount of data to make any meaningful pronouncements about where I stand at this point. Am fairly certain, though, that I’m going to be sticking with PLO for a while anyway.

My approach has been to try to remain reasonable in the midst of the frequent craziness one often encounters. At the $25 max tables I’ve been buying in for $15. Often there’s only one or two other players with at least $25 anyway, so $15 has seemed a good place to start. If I slip under $10 I’ll add chips to keep my stack in the $15-20 range. These PLO players simply love to gamble, it seems, and it isn’t too hard to pick your spots so as to ensure you’re getting the best of it. So while I do see a lot of flops, I try not to get too carried away after the flop if I can help it. I don’t get wed to aces or pursue less-than-nut flushes or get excited about flopping bottom two pair. I strongly consider position when entering hands, playing a lot of marginal holdings from the button or cutoff that I’d instantly throw away anywhere else. I’ve a lot to learn, I know. (Hopefully eblonk will start his podcast soon and deliver further instruction to us all.)

Anyhow, during this brief period of play I’ve seen some truly remarkable hands the level of improbability of which exceed anything I can remember encountering in hold ’em. The fact that each player holds four cards -- and thus six different two-card combinations with which to connect with the community cards -- significantly increases the possibilities for hand-making and thus the potential for weirdness to occur. In his chapter on PLO in Super System 2, Lyle Berman points out that “backdoor hands are made more often in pot-limit Omaha than in hold ’em” -- in other words, there are more “escape valves” (as Berman calls ’em) that allow someone who is behind to come back and take down the pot.

Here are three hands (all at the $0.10/$0.25 PLO tables) where the manner of escape reached Houdiniesque levels of astonishing . . . .

March of the Ducks

Had a hand a few days ago where I was in the big blind and was dealt 9c9d3hTs. The UTG+1 who had been sitting out had posted both the small and big blinds before the deal. The short-stacked UTG called, UTG+1 checked, and everyone else folded to the small blind who completed, making the pot $1.10. So four of us saw the flop come nine-high -- 6d9h2s. I bet $1.00 and the UTG player quickly put in her remaining chips -- $4.10 worth. All folded back around to me, and I of course called, making the total pot $9.90. This was on Absolute, and so our cards were turned over at that point. My opponent had 7h7dJd2c. She’d flopped zilch, not even a gutshot straight draw.

Turn card -- 2d. River -- 2h. She’d made quads, and took the pot.

Down to the Last Out

Here’s a hand I played yesterday on Bodog. I was not involved in this one beyond the flop. Seven players limped, making the pot $1.75, and the flop came 7h9hJh. Six of us checked to the button who bet $1.00. I folded, but two other players called, making the pot $4.75. Turn card was the 4s and again it was checked to the button who this time bet $2.00. An early position player then check-raised pot ($10.75), which put the button all-in. The pot was $25.45 altogether. With the all-in, the players’ cards were revealed. The check-raiser held 3sAhKc2h, meaning he held the nut flush. The button had QhKh6h6c, giving him second-best.

The river? You guessed it. The Th, giving the button a straight flush. The only escape valve in the deck.

More Pure Than Ivory Soap

Finally, here’s another one I played on Bodog yesterday. Get ready to cringe. I was in late position where I was dealt KdJcAsJd. A decent starting hand, but I just limped and hoped for a nice flop. By the time the flop came there were four of us in the hand -- just a buck in the pot. The flop was a dazzling AcKsAh. Sweet sassy molassey -- I’d flopped aces full. All three players checked to me, and I checked as well. Gotta hope somebody shows an interest in the hand, I thought. The turn was the 9c and an early position player bet half-pot, fifty cents. One player called. I just called as well. Now there was a flush draw, and also the possibility someone might have a worse boat. The river was the 9d and the early position player again bet half-pot -- $1.25 into the $2.50 pot. I raised to $4.75, and he instantly raised pot, putting me all-in (with my last $11.10). I called, of course, making the total pot $32.70.

You know what he had, right? 9h3cQc9s. Runner-runner quads. Now I had let him get there. But for that to happen he essentially had to hit two one-outers in a row -- only those two cards appearing give him the hand. The Omaha odds calculator tells me I was 99.88% to win after the flop. Ivory soap is only 99 and 44/100 percent pure, for Chrissake! Then after the nine came on the turn I was still 97.50% to win. Gotta feel the slow play was still in order there, right?

Funny thing is, I didn’t feel bad at all about that hand -- not nearly as crushed as when I lose to, say, a five-outer on the river in a limit hold ’em game. I think I’ve somehow trained myself here not to be surprised that even in the most secure situations, when you’ve seemingly trapped that little bugger across the table to the point of no hope, there’s almost always at least some way for him to escape.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

Surveying the Poker Podcast Landscape (2 of 2)

Okay, here are the other six poker podcasts to which I subscribe. By the way, I should mention that Beyond the Table (discussed last post) is taking this week off but will be back next week with new shows. (Stay tuned here for details.) Meanwhile, if anyone knows of any other poker podcasts I should be checking out, give me a shout.

Poker Diagram

Poker Diagram
(website; RSS feed; RSS feed [enhanced version]; in production; last show late February)

After producing shows frequently for over a year, Henry and Zog have definitely slowed the pace here over the last few months. Their show consists of one of the pair (usually Zog) playing an online tournament (usually a $10 or $20 one-table sit-n-go), with both commenting on the action and decision-making along the way. Might sound less than thrilling in the abstract, but the two Londoners are able to keep the listener interested both with their analyses and quick-witted banter. Card Clubs also hosts a forum for Poker Diagram, though not much is happening over there. In some ways, the show’s format doesn’t really suit forum discussions all that well, as one cannot really discuss hands or particular situations without listening to the entire show first. On the most recent episode, the pair expressed their hope to begin producing shows on a “fortnightly” basis, although that goal doesn’t appear to have been realized. (A between-the-hands discussion about random card generators led me last summer to write a post called “Doing the What If Shuffle” as well as a sequel.)

Poker Podcast World

Poker Podcast World
(website; RSS feed; in production; last show 2/17/07)

Found this Australian poker podcast a couple of months ago and have really enjoyed listening to the occasional shows posted by host Synergy. Most of the recent shows have presented short interviews (some conducted by CardPlayer humor writer Max Shapiro) with figures such as Mark Vos, Billy “the Croc” Argyros, Marsha Waggoner, Jay “Moose” Moriarity, “Cowboy” Kenna James, and Robert “Chip Burner” Turner. There is also a very active forum associated with the podcast, Poker Analysis. Been a while since the last installment, so here’s hoping some new shows are coming soon. (For a longer review, see my post about Poker Podcast World from a couple of months ago.)

PokerWire Radio

PokerWire Radio
(website; RSS feed; in production; last show 3/28/07)

PokerWire Radio is, of course, the rebirth of the old Circuit podcast that featured Scott Huff, Gavin Smith, and Joe Sebok. The trio debuted the new show last February at the L.A. Poker Classic, and it was as though they’d never been away for those three-plus months. Huff appeared on the L.A. shows, but has announced his intention not to travel with Sebok and Smith to other circuit events. His place is being filled by Joe Stapleton, a man Huff introduced to us during that first week of shows as “the original king of hairy Italian comedy.” Stapleton is a funny guy and an able host, and should fit in well with Sebok and Smith (both of whom are smart and entertaining co-hosts). 2006 WSOP wunderkind Jeff “Mad Dog” Madsen is also on board as the show’s official news reader. (Here’s a post from last fall praising the old Circuit show, and here’s a more recent post announcing “The Caveman, the Cub, and Donkey Are Back.”)

Rounders, the Poker Show

(website; RSS feed; in production; live show every Sunday night with podcast usually made available on Tuesdays; last show 3/25/07)

This weekly program from Vancouver is one of the most consistent poker podcasts around, having produced shows without interruption for nearly two years. The show is recorded live on an AM sports radio station in Vancouver, then made available for download. Shows are always around 45-50 minutes long (with a few commercials), and hosts Mike Johnson and Adam Schwartz routinely bring in big name players and other prominent figures from the poker world for interviews. While the pair’s discussions of weekly poker news and the occasional strategy session are engaging, they are best with interviews, asking smart questions of their guests and -- importantly -- letting their guests speak their minds freely. Their interview of Jamie Gold just a couple of days removed from his WSOP Main Event victory was particularly well-handled, in my opinion. Some on forums suggested Johnson and Schwartz were too soft on Gold, but I disagree, and, as it turned out, they provided a ready environment for Gold to introduce that controversial persona he’s been cultivating ever since (intentionally or otherwise). (That interview ended up being entered as evidence in the Gold-Leyser lawsuit some months later.)

CardPlayer's The Circuit

The Circuit
(landing page; RSS feed; status unknown; last show 2/28/07)

CardPlayer’s podcast has fallen on hard times here since the departure of Huff, Sebok, and Smith. The revived version of the show hosted by Konan Luce, Rich Belsky, and David Singer was an ill-fated experiment that now appears to have been abandoned by the media giant after just 22 episodes. Problems with chemistry between the hosts and other factors have been discussed at length on forums (not always in constructive ways). Seemed to me that while the hosts certainly could’ve been more engaging, the main problem with the new show was a lack of focus on the tournaments they were purportedly covering for CardPlayer. Too often the show seemed to be about the show itself, with way too much self-conscious hand-wringing about its quality, how it compared to the earlier version, etc. No word at present whether CardPlayer intends to come back with yet another version of the show. It appears their focus might have shifted to the new CardPlayer TV now appearing on the site. (Previous posts discussing the new Circuit include “The Circuit 2.0” and “Common Knowledge & Common Sense.”)

ESPN's The Poker Edge w/Phil Gordon

The Poker Edge
(landing page; RSS feed; in production; last show 3/28/07)

Phil Gordon’s podcast for the “ESPN Poker Club” has been disappointing, generally speaking, ever since it first appeared about a year ago. Over the past couple of years, Gordon’s podcast reports from the floor of the WSOP have been uniformly excellent -- a fine example, actually, of what one could do with the podcast format. The ESPN show, however, has been much less compelling. Each episode begins with a brief rundown of poker news by co-host Andrew Feldman -- not always timely, and never really explored with any serious depth. Then Gordon interviews (usually) a fellow professional player, often with a focus on some particular strategy question about which the guest is called upon to provide “expert insight” (the name of Gordon’s DVD-producing company constantly promoted by the show). These brief (usually 15- or 20-minute) discussions are sometimes interesting and, in fact, insightful, though usually remain on a general level. As he’s proven in other contexts, Gordon is a terrific commentator and I think most listeners probably like his personality. One gets the impression, though, that his many other projects haven’t allowed him adequate time to make this podcast as rewarding as it could be.

* * * * *

I should also mention a thirteenth podcast I sometimes catch, “The Cold Call Show” over on Never Win Poker. Not so much a poker show as an irregularly-produced, unrestrained marathon of mayhem for Micon and his considerable legion of degenerates. The guys are funny, though, and some decent poker talk occasionally does surface amid the craziness. Only just discovered their RSS feed, and so maybe they'll make it into the regular rotation here.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Surveying the Poker Podcast Landscape (1 of 2)

Surveying the Poker Podcast LandscapeIf you look over on the right-hand column you’ll see links to a number of poker podcasts. A bit misleading, really. Of the twelve poker podcasts to which I currently subscribe, only a few are producing shows on a regular basis, and a number are in what appears to be a kind of hiatus at the moment. Here is a list of the shows I’m currently downloading: Ante Up!, Beyond the Table, Bluff Radio, The Joe Average Poker Show, Keep Flopping Aces, Pocket Fives, Pokerdiagram, Poker Podcast World, Pokerwire Radio, Rounders, The Circuit, and The Poker Edge.

I thought I’d provide a quick run-through of the podcasts I try to catch, including what I know about the current status of each show. In cases where I’ve written before about a particular show I’ve also added links to those earlier posts. I’m going to take these in alphabetical order and discuss the first six here in this post & the other six in the next.

Ante Up!

Ante Up!
(website; RSS feed; blog; in production; shows posted Fridays)

Hosts Chris Cosenza and Scott Long recently moved their long-running podcast from Wednesdays to Fridays. The pair have continued to produce a fun, informative show without interruption for nearly 100 weeks now. They maintain a popular blog in association with the show, posting several times a week; additionally, the Card Clubs Network hosts a busy (and friendly) forum to which both listeners and the hosts contribute. While the pair sometimes interview big-name guests (e.g., Greg Raymer appeared last week), most shows are directed toward topics of particular interest to the amateur player. One of the show’s greatest strengths, in my opinion, is its inclusiveness -- Cosenza and Long have done a terrific job building a comfortable community where listeners can interact and exchange ideas about the game. (Last fall I wrote a post about one of the more interesting episodes titled “Who Am Us Anyway?”)

Beyond the Table

Beyond the Table
(Hold ’em radio landing page; RSS feed; in production, with new schedule to be announced shortly; most recent show 3/21/07)

While I’ve tried some of the other shows on Hold ’em Radio, only two have been able to keep me coming back for more -- Beyond the Table and Keep Flopping Aces. BTT is co-hosted by Dan Michalski and Karridy Askenasy (two amateur players located in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area) and professional player Tom Schneider (who lives in Arizona). Michalski maintains the popular Pokerati poker news blog, and often brings topics of the day for the trio to discuss. Schneider is a high stakes cash game and tournament player who relates stories from the circuit as well as “winning wisdom” from his book Oops, I Won Too Much Money, Winning Wisdom from the Boardroom to the Poker Table. And Askenasy ably keeps the BTT vehicle between the lines (when not spilling coffee all over his trousers). All three are smart about poker and at times can be friggin’ hilarious -- indeed, we’re probably talking more grins per minute here than every other show on the list. During last week’s show, the hosts announced their plans to move BTT off of the regular live schedule at Hold ’em Radio. Hopefully we won’t have to wait very long before new shows begin to appear. (Wrote a post a couple of months back titled "Who Wants to Write About Poker?" which includes more about BTT.)

Bluff Poker Radio

Bluff Radio
(landing page; RSS feed; status unknown; most recent show 2/12/07)

The WSOP’s new “digital media partner” produced a regular live show twice weekly for just over two years. The two-hour long shows had aired every Monday and Wednesday evening on Sirius, though not every show was made available for download as a podcast. On the most recent show some six weeks ago, host Nick Geber announced the program would no longer be appearing on Sirius, but no information was provided about when or where the show might resurface. Geber is an amiable host whose British accent always makes me think of Tony Hendra (the National Lampoon pioneer perhaps best remembered as Spinal Tap’s cricket bat-wielding manager). The show was generally plagued by too many commercials and some thin moments during the call-in segments, but overall was usually a decent time-filler. I’d expect Bluff will be providing some audio this summer -- hopefully without charge (say us short-stacks) -- at the WSOP.

The Joe Average Poker Show

The Joe Average Poker Show
(website; RSS feed; on hiatus; last show 3/20/07)

Like Bluff Radio, the Joe Average Poker Show has been broadcasting live on a regular basis for around two years now. The show had been airing live on Sirius (most recently on Tuesday nights). The host, Fred Moury, isn’t really a poker player and relies heavily on his professional poker playing co-hosts -- Robin Farley and Charlie Knox -- to guide him through discussions about the game and interviews with various figures from the poker world. Gotta admit this one has always been kind of a hit-or-miss affair for me. The production is slick (probably the most polished of any poker podcast going) and now and then they’ll produce a decent, informative interview. They do feature an inordinate number of commercials (12 minutes per 48-minute show), and the level of discussion ain’t always even “average” as far as poker strategy goes. Not too bad, though, if nothing else is on. As happened with Bluff Radio, Sirius has bumped Joe Average from its live schedule, and the site will be posting repeat episodes for the near term until a new schedule is determined.

Keep Flopping Aces

Keep Flopping Aces
(Hold ’em radio landing page; RSS feed; in production; live show every Thursday night with podcast usually made available early the following week)

KFA is hosted by Lou Krieger and Amy Calistri, both of whom are accomplished poker writers. Besides his informative blog, Krieger has authored numerous, well-received poker strategy texts. Calistri writes for Poker News and other outlets, and maintains her own blogs, including Calistri’s Corner over at PokerWorks and Aimlessly Chasing Amy. One can always count on KFA to provide thoughtful commentary on topics of relevance to the poker world. The pair do a great job interviewing high-profile guests as well. It would be nice if Hold ’em Radio could make the podcast versions of its programs available on a more timely basis; such is particularly the case with KFA since the show often treats “hot-off-the-press” topics and issues that don’t always play quite as well a week later. Even so, it is always worth checking out what Krieger and Calistri have to say about whatever is happening pokerwise.

Pocket Fives

Pocket Fives
(website; RSS feed; in production; shows posted Thursdays)

The Pocket Fives podcast has been producing brief (25-30 minute shows) on a weekly basis for nearly a year now. The show is ably hosted by David Huber and Adam Small. The show is, of course, associated with the very popular Pocket Fives website, the forum for which is most certainly the second-most popular poker forum on the web (behind Two Plus Two). The focus here is online poker, and the show usually features interviews with two top online tournament players (as determined by the P5s rankings). Sometimes the discussions of online tourneys can be a little tedious for those us who aren’t that involved in the scene, but the hosts always do a great job with their questions and allowing the guests to share their knowledge. I’ve been a little surprised that the podcast hasn’t seemed to focus much at all on the UIGEA or Neteller (and other vendors) pulling out the U.S. here over the past few months. After all, each show is introduced as bringing us “the latest news and events from online poker.” (I wrote a post that talked about my first finding this podcast called “Funny Business” last August.)

Will discuss the other six in the next post.


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