A Short Prayer for the Poker Hand History

hand histories persuadeo.nl

I come not to praise poker hand histories, but to bury them.

They are done. Fried. Cooked. Delivered.


They are so dead, in fact, that I don’t even feel up to writing a history of the hand history. It would be good, I’m sure. I could pretend to be Martin Harris. After all, I wrote all about the editorial “we” in poker parlance; I can do a little research and not lose my head. In fact, I’ve written some detailed stuff of late, probably my best stuff ever.

So, I would start with some old books, find out what they cared about. Throw in some jokes. I could move on to Two Plus Two, and go deep into those cool archives where all the real poker knowledge started, coalescing like a gloopy creature crawling out of the 1990’s lagoon and into the modern poker era, itself already leaving the Solvisticene Period for Neural Net Time.

But no. I don’t want to and I’m not going to do it. I’m tired, and no one cares anyway. Poker’s changing (I might be talking about more than the Hand History here) but again, I’m not going to lose my head, not today.

The long form hand history, though, is losing its head. You know, the one with all the history with the players and the bluffs they showed and their race and their sweater type and if they are TAG or LAG or SLAG or whatever that all was about.

It’s done, finished. Say a prayer for the hand history. And I was part of it! This guide made a lot of sense at the time. It helped a lot of people. I think it was my most popular article for a long time. It showed a way of presenting something thoughtfully at a stage of the game and of a player’s development when the answer was not as clear, when all things were things still, and there was no POS slob behind a computer telling you your line was not approved by Alexa.

things! persuadeo.nl
Yes, actual chat note some dipshit said to a VIP in a game, courtesy of our man in Michigan, Jambasket Poker.

Of course, that’s wrong too! It was 2016 and at the top of poker, the solvers were already in play. The Baron had in fact already declared his love of CREV over the solver because he was creative and not trying to induce equilibrium. (Why did he come off like such a snot? Ah, poker players.)

Still, we at the bottom had to eat, too. I’m more concerned about this drawing that I had so much fun with: why isn’t the King discovering the Jack sleeping with the Queen? Instead, what is this convuluted story I am trying to tell? And why didn’t I put one bunny slipper dangling off her cute little foot? Opportunity lost! What was I thinking?

Well, in fact I had just bought a stylus for the first time and was really drawing. It was amazing! You see, all the drawings I do are in MS Paint, deliberately keeping with the tradition of poker player scribbles over at Two Plus Two. You know, like the Cyrus guy, the whale at the Full Tilt Game? (Remember The FULL TILT GAME! So great!) Moreover, I didn’t know how to draw (I still don’t, whatever), but I knew I wanted to, and had to teach myself. In fact, all the drawings up to this point I had done with my finger on the track pad. Do you know how hard that was? I don’t think I could do it again.

Anyway, the point is, the drawing for the hand history article was such a liberation thanks to the new tech, that I didn’t think through the story much, I just wanted to scribble freely and easily for the first time ever. (Plus I had to write the article, of course.)

Now, that’s over. The hand history and the article are over. They’ve had their day, but long form hand histories are out.

Of course, I’m not saying we don’t communicate hands to each other! That’s not done yet. After all, GTOW still doesn’t cover all the spots. Tournaments need their underpaid lackeys to (apparently mis-) report the latest QQ versus AK thriller. Coaches have to hear your latest disaster.

But the long form, drawn out, player description, game-state, all the details, all the history record is done. PLEASE, no more tags and lags and thinking players and non-thinking players (God the thinking thing really is the worst) and whales and droolers and god knows what else we maniacs used to describe our opponents’ play styles. Oh, right, Maniacs!

Don’t do it anymore. We just need the basics.

You want to talk about an exploit? Describe it, not some poor human you likely don’t understand at all.

So go now. Go now to the other shore, sweet prince hand history. You had a good run.

Now, we don’t need the detailed hand history for a very logical reason. It’s because we don’t play reactively anymore, or don’t judge our hands from whose insight is sharper. We have a model to refer to. Even me, one who doesn’t use the model that much, was already developing a more rational way of thinking about the game in 2016. By 2017 I was writing my construction course, which proved insightful and predictive of GTO-era poker and everything we do now – so effective I taught many future winners and pros and so didn’t even retire the course until this year.

You may have noticed a word I used: I say reactive deliberately. People didn’t play exploitatively before rational and equilibrium strategies started to become standard because there is no exploitation without equilibrium. Exploitation is itself therefore a GTO concept, a fact which eludes many.

Instead, we were playing a reactive game. Many still do, as I often do, and many more still do who don’t even know they are doing it. (Don’t be that guy). You’re not really exploiting anyone, not outside a few clever spots. You’re outmaneuvering them, reacting to the game as is, far from what might make you the most in the long run.

Ah yes, that long run, that balanced, winning approach. There are now mathematical, precise outlines of the game to compare our lines and decisions to. All that hand history stuff, the contexts, the information, the perceptions, the leveling, just doesn’t matter anymore.

As I said, we still have to communicate hands. We just should do it in a simpler way. One of my students, Eugene, developed a system for jotting something down at the table, just enough to piece together the hand later.

Something like

5/10 8p 2ke, 3 30 8 90 2 200 3?

What that translates as is 5/10 NL, eight players, UTG (seat 3 because the button will be the number of players) opens to $30, it folds to the button, with eight players is 8, who makes it $90, the small blind folds (that would be player 1), and the big blind (always player 2) now four-bets to $200.

And so on. Make variations as you like – you can make it even shorter with some cleverness – but it’s a simpler, elegant way forward that both saves time at the table and omits unnecessary details for the chat. The genius of it is to free us from the wordy names for the positions and center the action on the button.

Thanks, Eugene: I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if you, sly reader, borrow it, too.

And thanks, guys in the OOP discord for fighting over the hand history. There are some diehards out there, and I forgive you.

Still, we must close: Rest in Peace, Long Form Hand History. You served us well.

4 thoughts on “A Short Prayer for the Poker Hand History

  1. Only someone that fully understands all of the complications can present a thing in it’s simplest form. The rest of us without a complete understanding have to present it with all the extraneous details.

  2. Hey you guyyyyys!

    Thanks for the mention P. Your Construction approach changed how I think about poker forever. I can’t imagine what replaced it to compel its retirement.

    I was able to use the above shorthand to record all the relevant technical details of a hh quickly enough to to capture all hands I played in a session.

    I’ve long hoped to write an app that will do it better, but, despite having wireframes in hand, I’ve not broken the code to learn to code. Still, someday…

    I see the above numbers instead of positions (who knows where the lojack is anyway?) as a development akin to chess abandoning descriptive notation in favor of the simpler clearer algebraic notation. It baffles me that no modern poker training sites and forums (outside of the zoo) haven’t created something similar.

    I miss my time with you all, jules, moldy, doug, bigburge, porter, p. Our endless conversations were the most intellectually stimulating I’ve had.

  3. I still take notes in live sessions, and while my shorthand is not great, it helps me reconstruct what happened. The most important note I take is : STOP LOSING. Sometimes it works but probably no more than equilibrium would dictate.

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