Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Listener Tournament!

For anyone still following or RSS-ing this much-neglected blog, please be advised that PokerDiagram is running a Listener Tournament on Full Tilt in the near future - checkout for full details....

Monday, February 12, 2007

Oh, just one more thing...

I had the pleasure this weekend of the company of a fellow poker podcaster, formerly a fixture of the sadly now-defunct Card Club on Lord Admiral Radio and now the best part (imho) of the popular and entertaining Ante Up! show - yes, the man they call Columbo.

I got in touch with Columbo when I heard that the Lord Admiral show was shutting down, to offer him a slot on our poker podcast, but the Ante Up chaps were a little quicker of the mark and secured his services before we'd even got our bid on the table... Anyhow, I told him how much I liked his mysteries, and said to drop me a line if he came to London, which is how he found himself drinking cocktails and eating curry with myself, the Zogster, Jonny NoShuffle and Keithy-guy on Friday night.

Stevie, our usual host on Friday nights, had a long-standing prior engagement driving on frozen lakes in Sweden, otherwise we might have been able to offer our guest the experience of sitting down to play in the home game.

Instead he had to suffer a Soho variant of a typical British night out (drinks in a bar instead of a pub and a slightly ponced-up Indian meal in place of a proper curry...), with quite a lot of chat about information technology, too much about politics, and nowhere near enough about poker...

No raincoat, which was a little disappointing.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The vanguard of modern poker

Here's the thing about Jeffery.

[Incidentally, I feel that I can call him by his first name now, having done a bit of Googling on him and found that although he never wrote another poker book, he did produce two sci-fi novels, the appropriate translations of which seem to have been peculiarly popular in Germany - Satellite E One and Vanguard to Venus.]

Here's the thing. I'm not sure that he's got it wrong. Let me put that another way. I suspect that he is wrong. I believe that he is wrong. I'm just not sure.

So, this is what he says about Hold Me. When two pairs comes on the board, it's pretty likely that one of the players will have a hand that gives them a full house. That player is almost certain to win. When there is a four-card straight or flush, the player with the key card is "virtually certain" to win. If there's just a pair on the board, the player with trips is very likely to be the winner.

The conclusion he reaches is as follows:

"It therefore transpires that on those occasions where the common hand contains a pair or better, or a four-card flush or straight, it is impossible to forecast the value of one's hole cards in relation to the probable winning hand. This eliminates 57 1/2% of the deals, which must be regarded as pure gambles."

He then looks at the remainder of hands and at the value of AK vs QQ or indeed any pair. At first he seems to warm to the down pair, but then talks himself out of it. His reasoning? Where there is no pair etc in the centre, "it is better than 3-1 on that it will contain an Ace or a King, and more than 4 to 1 against it containing a card matching the pair in the hole. So the prospect of winning with a pair less than Aces or Kings is minimal."

He concludes that Hold Me is a "pure gamble", that "nothing less than a pair of Aces or Kings in the hole has any significance at all", and advises "at the second or third betting interval fold as soon as a pair appears on the table unless one holds a matching hand".

What he's missed , I think, is the betting. In no-limit you certainly can't hang around until post-flop or post-turn to fold the hands that need folding - it gets too expensive. I think also that Mr Castle has abandoned the scientific approach to expectations that he takes elsewhere in the book.

But his conclusions give pause for thought. The assertion that no pair below KK has any significance reminds one that Doyle Brunson and his gang typically referred to QQ or worse as "a little pair", treating them with suitable disrespect. I do wonder also whether the suggestion that it is a "pure gamble" is so far wide of the mark. Is it ridiculous to suggest that the rise in poker's popularity, largely based on Hold 'em rather than other poker variants, could have something to do with the wider public's liking for a bit of a flutter*?

*Non-native English speakers and US types may find the 13th meaning listed here instructive.

Can you bring a chair?

My quasi-relative Ken is a bibliophile of the old style, visiting book fairs and car boot sales rather than lurking on Amazon or He knows of my interest in poker and so occasionally turns up with a find for me.

The latest of these is a slim harback volume entitled "How not to lose at poker", published in 1970 and written by Jeffery Lloyd Castle. I think of 1970 as a part of the extended present, by which I suppose I mean my own lifetime, but the style of the book is of an era long gone.

From the introduction: "This book aims to present all those ascertainable facts about the game of poker which enable a player to decide his line of play unhampered by doubt."

It seeks to deal with the earlier stages of each hand - so, before the "critical point at which the preliminary betting ends and the strategic betting begins". Mr Castle has a statistical bent; he's not overly interested in the psychological elements of the game. His mission is to make sure that his readers enter those later stages on a sound footing.

My first habit on receiving a new poker tome is to look for the Hold 'em section - that's my own usual game. I thought 1970 might be late enough to include something, and so it does - just about. Mr Castle devotes a full five pages (the same length as his chapter on poker dice) to the "lately introduced variant of Seven-Card Stud" which he calls "Hold Me".

To put things bluntly, he's not a fan of this upstart. It probably doesn't help that this new game has been promoted to him on the basis of the larger number of people who could take part - indeed, the first part of his analysis of Hold Me considers a game in which there are twenty-three players...

As he says, the problem with this game is that "more than seven players destroys the tempo of the game..." and could make it "very dull" if you weren't getting cards.

I love the idea of trying to set this up for the Friday night home game.

"You up for a spot of Hold Me this week? ... No, it's poker ... well, we've got 14 for definite so far, so we only need another nine ... OK great - can you bring a chair?"

More from this marvellous book to follow...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The return of the return of the blog

We've switched to the new Google version of blogger, which thus far doesn't seem to be radically changed - were there tags before, and why are they called labels and not tags?

Anyhow, I'm sure that these matters have been pored over by countless thousands of tech bloggers, and that isn't why we are here.

Why are we here? Since the wind was taken out of our sails by Blogger blowing up our old blog, we've never really recovered the momentum, but I've got a few things worth writing about on the poker front, and I'm hoping Zog will also pick up the baton.

In forthcoming despatches: highlights and opinions on three rather unusual poker books - one that I recently reviewed for the Philosopher's Magazine; another from 1970 containing a chapter on the latest poker variant, "Hold Me", and one from 1950 in which lurks "the Bug"...

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Barcelona or bust

I'm trying to get back into the blogging habit, so here goes...

My current mini-obsession is Ongame's Poker Classic event, a $5 million guaranteed pot tournament with a live final in Barcelona (a town in which, experience tells me, it is impossible to have either an unmemorable or a bad time). Its unusual qualifying structure involves several rounds of either scheduled or sit'n'go tourneys, each taking you to the next level, and then an online final which continues until there are 45 players remaining, at which point play is suspended, to be resumed live at a casino in Barcelona.

I've played quite a few of the $9+1 Round 1 sit'n'go tourneys, and made the second level, the $68+5 event, three times so far. As in Round 1, only two places pay, and only the winner walks away with a ticket to the next round; second spot earns you another ticket for the same level you just played, plus a small cash payout. So anything other than first or second really sucks.

My last appearance at the 68+5 level saw me bubble holding pocket kings - I paid the price for not making it sufficiently expensive when my opponent hit a lucky straight, so I feel like the game sort of owes me a break or two... we'll see.

I'd go into more detail about a few more hands, but unfortunately Mac Poker Pro, my tracking software, doesn't support the Ongame qualifier sit'n'gos.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Show 43 is on the way

After our loooooong break from the show, I'm happy to say that Zog and I have been recording again, and it won't be too long now until Show 43 hits the airwaves.

Some people mailed in to nag/encourage us, most of them expressing concern and hoping that nothing bad had happened to either of us. It was nice to see how much people cared about the show and about the pair of us.

If you already subscribe to the show via iTunes or another feed, our latest offering should be dropping into your computer in the next few days. Hope you like it...

Monday, August 21, 2006

Battle of the Kings

I guess you get to see every possibility playing internet poker in the end and I've heard worse bad beat stories, but they are usually about hands you should have won. Not this time.

Ten away from the tickets in a small MTT, seven at the table, blinds 50-100 and a lot of successful small steals going on. On the button I'm dealt KK. UTG+1 puts in 300, leaving himself 1000 or so. I have him outchipped by 50. The money's going in. He doesn't hesitate (understandably) and flips over the other two Kings.

A few LOLs in the chat from the other players - then a few more salty comments as four hearts come on the board to give him the flush.

Boo, poor me. Take a guess on the chances of that and then highlight the missing text chances4.3% overall - half that each back there.

Writely or wrongly

I'm hoping to post this direct to the blog, which I've been a little slack in updating recently, using the public beta of Writely. If this one succeeds I'll put in a proper post whinging about my most recent bad beat.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Slow turbo

So despite telling Zog, in a recent podcast that got screwed up by some gremlins, how much I disapproved of turbo games (usual reasons - discourages good post-flop play in favour of pre-flop gambling, no chance really to recover from a bad call or a bad beat) I have found myself playing the odd game during the week - just not really having time to play a proper game but wanting a little poker action to spice up my dog-dull day.

On three or four consecutive evenings I sat down to a little turbo SNG, either $5 or $10, hoping for some quick action. The clue is in the name. Now, I don't know whether someone somewhere has written something odd about turbo strategy, or whether it's some kind of bizarre online poker meme, or whether I was just unlucky, but in each of the games there were players consistently waiting until the last moment to fold, and the overall speed of action was so slow that the blinds were rising after every other hand. In one game they went up for the fifth time just before the ninth hand.

We aren't talking about a lot of money, so it's not some kind of scam. I think it's widely accepted that although there are some good winning strategies for playing turbo games, the element of luck is higher than in slower games. And by collectively reducing further the number of hands at each level, it's increasing the role played by chance.

Is this a technique being promoted by those who prefer to gamble?

I've been breaking even, so it's not sour grapes...

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Return of the blog...

Welcome back to the unofficial but official blog for PokerDiagram.

This blog has been hijacked, blacklisted, deleted, the domain taken over by another user and finally reinstated, thanks to the fact that someone at Blogger listened to me moaning about it on the podcast.

If you are looking for the podcast, go to

If you are looking for specific links prior to June 2006, sorry, that stuff has all been removed beyond recovery.

And if you are looking for the guy who briefly held this subdomain, sorry, can't help you.