Monday, May 07, 2007

"Is This Standard?" (3 of 3)

Heeding What Two Plus Two Says . . . “I think you are using the word standard a little too liberally. In fact when you say ‘standard’ I think ‘almost never.’” -- dangerfish, posted 4/2/07 on Two Plus Two, Mid-High Stakes Short-handed

“That play is so standard it’s not anymore IMO” -- danzasmack, posted 4/18/07 on Two Plus Two, Small Stakes Short-handed

“I think you say standard more than this forum combined.” -- jkamowitz, posted 4/23/07 on Two Plus Two, Medium Stakes Limit

Began this here triptych of posts wanting to say something about pot limit Omaha and so-called “standard” or “by the book” play. I had noticed in the Omaha High forum over on Two Plus Two what appeared to be an inordinate number of references to “standard” strategy. I thought perhaps I might have stumbled onto something regarding PLO players and how (many of them) tend to approach the game. Instead, I conclude here with a less grandiose observation about the function of poker discussion forums.

The fact that certain posters on Two Plus Two frequently make reference to this or that play or scenario as “standard” shouldn’t be surprising. In fact, one might argue that establishing what exactly constitutes “standard” play is a primary purpose of Two Plus Two.

At this moment, Two Plus Two is reporting 84,145 registered users. On the 4/10/07 episode of Poker Psychology, Two Plus Two owner Mason Malmuth mentioned that the site receives over 30,000 unique visitors per day, and over 100,000 unique visitors per week. According to Sniper, there have been about 12,000-13,000 posts per month for 2007. A decent percentage of those posts concern poker strategy and theory. It is inevitable that with so many people participating as readers and/or writers, certain “guidelines” or “values” will emerge as more influential than others, if only because of the frequency with which those ideas are cited as authoritative.

To give a quick example from pot limit Omaha. Someone recently posted a hand for analysis in which he was playing four-handed PLO and open-limped from UTG with 7c5d9c8d. Two of the other three players called, and the flop -- 6d5cKc -- ended up giving him a big draw, which is the part of the hand where he appeared to have wanted feedback. However, in the subsequent discussion, someone pointed out that he shouldn’t have open-limped since they were playing four-handed. A little later in the thread, someone else counters that “open limping in PLO is pretty standard from early positions” (i.e., regardless how many players are at the table).

Now I’m not going to say whether limping from EP is “standard” or not in PLO. I know I tend not to raise very much from early position. I also know that in his PLO section in Super System 2, Lyle Berman says “Never raise before the flop from a front position. This is a cardinal rule of Omaha.” (I also know not everyone agrees with everything Lyle Berman has to say about PLO.) As discussions about the issue attract more and more readers and/or posters, eventually, over time, a “consensus” (of sorts) will inevitably emerge regarding how to enter hands from early position in PLO. That “consensus” may or may not be the best play, of course, but it will nevertheless exist as a “standard” within the context of subsequent discussions on the Omaha High forum.

As that interview on Poker Psychology demonstrates, Malmuth clearly sees Two Plus Two as the “standard-bearer” when it comes to poker strategy and theory. At the beginning of the third segment, Al Schoonmaker asks Malmuth to answer the following question: “Who’s been the most influential person in poker over the past five years?” Malmuth’s reply to Schoonmaker is, essentially, you’re talking to him:
“I don’t think it’s close . . . I think we have been. I head up the group, and we basically impacted . . . how poker is played and we impacted . . . basically all sorts of thinking on poker. And we brought a lot of forces together -- a lot of different authors, a lot of different opinions. The website . . . is basically the place for poker information. I don’t think it’s close. I don’t think anyone else in the business comes close to us. I know a lot of people disagree with that, but . . . I really think we are the dominant place now.”
As the quote shows, Malmuth doesn’t necessarily pay heed to social “standards” for humility. Nevertheless, it is hard to deny the influence of Two Plus Two, whether one wants to regard the advice and wisdom disseminated there as “standard” or not.

I guess my overall point here is to say that discussions on poker forums necessarily function as a way for players to “negotiate the norm.” In other words, those who participate in the discussions are together working toward building an idea of what constitutes “standard” strategies or theories and what constitutes deviations from such.

The discussions don’t always end harmoniously, of course. During one early April thread in the Medium Stakes Limit forum, a relatively new player asked for advice about how to improve his game. Another poster advised him to “post hands or situations you are uncomfortable with.” To which another poster -- rafiki -- cheekily added “So that half the people can say ‘standard,’ and the other half can fight with them.”

Which is how it should be.



Blogger Swifty said...

Interesting discussion. My experience is limited to NLHE so I won't deviate from that here.

It is clear that although there are 'orthodox' plays (commonly described as ABC poker) there is some latitude even then.

Given the same cards and chip stacks on two different tables one's decision whether to raise pre-flop/limp will be dependant on the opponent, the table texture any reads you have, even how you're feeling on any given day.

I see books which advocate one type of play and then a professional will do the complete opposite at the table.

The last comment you quote is oh so true. Scanning through 2+2 the other day I saw a long thread analysing, and criticising, one guy who laid down aces on more than one occasion when on the bubble. That may not be 'correct' or 'standard' play, but it's his money that other people are giving their opinion on so vehemently.

Once upon a time a 3 or 4 x BB raise was standard. That has been blown out of the water by the internet. I once raised 7xBB early on in a game with Aces and a friend on MSN said that I was too conservative!

What was standard five years ago is positively old hat now. The game evolves and so it should.

5/08/2007 3:50 AM  

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