Gargamel, part III

Gargamel has disappeared.  He hasn’t actually vanished, or been bound and kidnapped by a crowd of torch bearing Smurfs, but he is still gone for another day.  In fact, the WSOP has carried away not only your favorite Villain, but silent Osiris as well, perhaps the only other true TAG in the player pool and one who regularly makes his way back to the cage with racks of red smeared with blue.  Many of the middling, slight winners, the guys who love tournaments and can steer around a cash table without crashing the car too often, are south as well, dreaming of their “Hi Mom” moment on the live stream. Laughter and overcalls fill the void.

For me, just back from Vegas, it’s like working on the Friday of a three day weekend; the cubicles seem suspiciously empty and work isn’t happening. As I look around the room tonight and settle into my table, the tension of concentration observable in heavy pauses, thoughtful gestures, and deliberate movements is as absent as the Village’s scourge himself. Competence is scattered and rare. In one corner, Angry Asian Foster Kid, who normally takes out his misplaced frustration on the feeble daytime crowd, seems to putting in a little OT.  The plump Banker, a happy and smart player with a seat and a half of gamble, is in the house; he does actually appear to be taking up a seat and a half.  Medical Matt, an online refugee, sits next to me, in a rare appearance without scrubs.  Including me, that’s four demonstrable and known winners, one and a third for each table of NL.  The games tonight, needless to say, will be down pillow soft, and I have come home from racy Vegas games to lay my weary head and get back to the cozy.

So many of them at one time! And like their quantity, losing players are bad at the game in an endless variety of ways.  I’ll focus on a few. The most obvious, yet most important and telling, is that many do not even know they are losing players.  This division has a simple component -they don’t track their gaming results- as well as a more subtle, causal quality: they think others don’t track their results, either.  Oblivious to the efforts of the obsessive types that haunt forums, buy obscure poker literature from hirsute self-publishing aficionados, or fall asleep to HSP fairy tales, these players exist in a bubble of their own blowing.

I remember well, in a rare, mistaken moment of talking poker seriously with my opponents, explaining big blinds per hour to Angry John, a top percentile whiner who plays as big as possible to get away from what he calls the “bingo” poker of the low stakes.  I recall his eyebrows raising in frightened enlightenment while we discussed reasonable win rates. You see, poker for Angry John is a battle and a compulsion which seems to have no end and no beginning; he has no clue how much he has lost, and doesn’t compare himself to his fellow grinders.  What he focuses on is the winning and losing of pots, and then how he feels about the result (I’ll let you guess his primary emotion).  Angry John no doubt remembers the good nights, like a moment of sexual conquest on a calendar of rejection. It’s just going to be very hard for him to get to his next lay thinking like this.

Losing play, as a concept and as an approach to the game, especially thrives when the rigors of strategy do not fetter it.  Related to this, it is very rare that someone will lose every session: sometimes even the worst players have magical nights; hours of delight at the table, which, like Angry John’s finest soirees, feed them and their poker hopes forever.  The absence of tough competition, therefore, is not only and incitement to, but is in part the cause of, weak poker. Tonight, I observe, may well be one of those confirmatory nights: I open two pots and find five callers greeting me, each of them staring at the center of the table to see if they will be selected for a prize (Angry John does have a bit of a point, naturally, no one is completely wrong!).  After a week of dealing with quasi-pros and forum nerds at the Wynn, this is a mild regression, to say the least.

And I am not to be disappointed: within the hour, without a measure of Gargamel or others with a solid grasp of actions and equities to keep the reckless in check, to three and four bet in spots where it is demanded, to deny action where it is appropriate, to take the time with a decision which is not only the signifier of, but is in fact the game itself, we soon see a pot which summarizes the strategy, fun (yes, fun), and obliviousness of the losing crowd.

Where did it start and how did it exactly get there? I think the Lehore Lizard, an unfortunately ugly new reg with a slimy and protruding lip, who shields himself from good play with snazzy shades, may have raised under the gun; a limp would have been in character, too.  Kermit, dressed conspicuously as usual in his trademark green sports getup, humorously highlighting his tender vindaloo belly with stretched neon polyester sheen, made a typically loose call from EP.  (These calls, by the way, which always set off alarm bells when dropped in surreptitiously by solid players, are always absolutely terrible hands when performed by tadpoles like Kermit, who in turn compound their lack of equity and positional disadvantage by inviting in the donkey chain of further callers: oh, Kermie!)  I let something go, then Medical Matt, briefly looking up from his OFC addiction interface, got involved, clearly with some sort of implied odds hand he should probably be isolating Kermit and the Lizard with; but, as Medical Matt seems so very sane and impossibly normal, he was probably expecting strong hands from the jokers in EP.  From here, I lost track; did the Keystone Kops actually have a script?  Somehow these guys and three others, including Caleb the Caller, one of the worst players to ever grace a five dollar blind game, conspired to lose Medical Matt while creating a five way, four bet clusterfuck with a little less than 2k in the middle preflop.  Invent your own narrative; I just sort of looked up and they were doing it, like a bad babysitter.

So while the dealer was sorting out the main and two (?) side pots, Kermit showed me his 54dd, which he had back raised, naturally, still leaving a bit behind, just to make one weep a little for him.  (Medical Matt had had him overcoated and crushed with a high connector; tsk, tsk.)  The flop action starts with the Lehore Lizard leading $60 (not a typo) into mammoth pile of red, picking up Kermit, who had actually acted out of the turn first by shoving his five high.  However, now Kermit put it in anyway, with no made hand and with no draw on a paired, high/low/low board.  (Hmm, well he was committed, after all, and it was the right play given odds, so that incredibly, this was the best action he took at any point in the hand!)  However, the real problem, is that Caleb the Caller was not impressed with the lack of vigor in the Lizard’s betting, and therefore flatted with an underpair.  Now unable to shake Caleb, one of those seventy VPIP, I-call-how-much-is-it types, the table ends up seeing a showdown where his underpair wins against the Lizard’s miserably, hang-oneself-with-the-floor’s-lanyard, played AK. Someone from the blinds, like a shot (but not innocent) bystander, shows KJ (!?!); another player shamefully mucks and retires from poker forever (this last part is not true).  The delighted super duper station Caleb calls (haha) out, while scooping the 3k, “I only called because sevens are HOT!”  Somehow Medical Matt, who would have scooped the whole thing with top two, is not upset by this outrageous development; I feel the need to go on tilt for him.  Meanwhile, Caleb’s joker grin seems to be setting in permanently. Caleb will now go on, in fact, to get paid handsomely by a notable tiltasaur I regularly bumhunt, and have the night of his poker life, making a surprise return to the cage with pillars of green and catching the suspicious employees off guard.

As badly as they all played this hand, relativity is important.  No one was there to shut out Caleb.  No one bet properly at any point; even Medical Matt did not recognize the situation and know his equity against the field six way would be better than expected versus donkey ranges.  While the cat’s away, the mice will play, and this is how losers want to play: gamble and have fun.

It’s not a bad thing!  They want to win, of course, they just have no methodology for it, because it is not actually a goal, but a desire.  And why should they bother to have goal?  Caleb is a winner at life; he looks like a nice dad and a reasonable husband.  Kermit makes hundreds of thousands a year as a minor corporate goon somewhere; his wife probably has no choice but to put up with the clothes and the belly and the poker hours.  The Lizard is no doubt a green card software import with the cash to drown his loneliness.  Let them have their fun.

However, if you, dear reader, want to win, you can’t share in their kind of joy.  Winning may feel great at the end of the night, but in the trenches, it is work.  There are no hot hands, I’m afraid, Caleb.  You will get sucked out on all the time, Angry John, and you have to recognize it before you put in that one, winrate-killing final bet.  Then, counterintuitively, you then have to take a chance and gamble when it is right to do so, as Medical Matt declined, turning down 3k for the sake of normal poker and not missetting his OFC draw.  Winning is hard, losing is easy: that’s why it’s your most likely outcome.

In fact, if there is a unifiable losing theorem, it’s likely related to the fact that everything the loser does is easy on himself.  He whines at the table, like Angry John, or in the forums, like your least favorite poster.  He blames the deck, the dealer, the opponent, the casino, coaches, authors, family, job, fatigue, variance, math… whatever. He has all sorts of fundamental leaks, of course, and we can debate them or correct them until the whales wiggle home, but in the end, he gives up at some point on and thought and effort, letting the Goddess carry him where she may, because that is simply less stressful.  However, she is a bitch who carries mortals with the express intention of dropping them.

Gargamel, on the other hand, for whom nothing is easy or simple or fun, will be back all too soon, peeling off stacks of reds from these guys, taking even their jokes too seriously.  I feel sympathy, almost solidarity with his victims for a moment; why does Gargamel have to come and kick down their mushroom houses?  Why can’t the kazoos keep playing?  It’s the Smurfs that really run the show, after all: They keep the place in business, not the rake averse, seat hopping, table changing miser.

There is, in fact, some ironic justice for the Smurfs: Gargamel can’t have everything he wants.  In addition to failing to use a paleo-nitrate diet to change his physique to resemble Chris Cornel “in his prime,” one of his flagging schemes is to become a coach, or as I prefer to put it, to shit where he eats.  Unfortunately for him, his quest for students is comically unsuccessful.  He is turned down left, right, and center; his lack of pedagogical charm can’t open the door and his standoffish nature can’t close it.  I am relieved, of course: I need these guys to keep donating, not ranging.  The Village comprises almost exactly one half of my hours and provides one third of my income.  However, I shouldn’t have been so uneasy.  He could be smooth with an e at the end and these guys wouldn’t take him up on it, I have come to realize, because they don’t want to change.  Change is hard.  Change is tl;dr. Change is the opposite of easy.  Change is not for losers.  Even those who don’t win but quit, as I discussed last time, understand the power of change.

In one case, the closest moment Gargamel has come to acquiring a student, a fun and action player who has probably lost half his income over the past year at the tables, simply couldn’t be persuaded.  I even helped out, thinking a little triangulation would give Gargamel the best chance of acquiring that first student.  I had skin in the game: the pride of being able to convert someone.  Yet, no dice.  The potential pupil explained- with great credit to him and his honesty- that it was too painful to admit that he would need help to win.  I will not bother him again, and thanks to his reminder of how the struggling player thinks, I do not need to fear Gargamel or others changing the nature of the Village.

No, nothing changes.  I end up putting in a long session, one of those stretches where am becomes pm and then am. While I am racking up, I get a text from Gargamel, who is already at the airport. “Lol.  They’re holding my $ there.”  The barbarian is approaching the walls.

I look around.  The party doesn’t want to end, and the conversation burbles.  “I KNEW you had it, but I had to see it.”  “Nice bet.”  “No way to play Jacks right, har, har, harhar.”

Live it up while you can, guys.  Gargamel is back.

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The OOP Lexicon is a user-developed poker glossary.

Absolute Position
Being last to act (e.g. closest to the button) postflop.

Advancing Leverage
Aggressive actions intended to shift the leverage point closer to the current street.

A bluff or value hand which is a natural candidate for balancing another hand because of their shared qualities, such as AA and AK; usually helps planning range splitting and line construction.

Auto profit threshold (APT)
A bluff made with positive expectation resulting from the opponent under defending vis-a-vis bet sizing. The inverse of MDF.

Choosing to support either value bets or bluffs with their converse.

A bet is a proposition.  It’s the first offer on the pot with regard to the outcome of the game. Each player, in turn, has the opportunity to lay or change the price on the pot to the rest of the players. “The language of poker.” The bet, as opposed to the raise, is most often and most easily allied to the merged pricing construction.

To remove combinations of hands from a range based on cards in your hand or on the board.

Cards which influence our combinatorial assumptions. Ex: We face resistance on T76ss while we hold As7d. Both our cards act as blockers. Our ace of spades blocks (limits) a number of flush draws our opponent could hold, while our seven blocks a number of two pair and sets our opponent could hold. *See also Block and Unblock

Blocker Bet
A small bet made by an out-of-position player.

Board Texture
The available community cards and the set of conditions which inform its relationship to a logical range.

The worst hands in a betting range.  Depending on context this could be the worst hand in a value bet range or the bluffing section of polarized range.

A range descriptor indicating a range shape with a specific high or low boundary.  A range bounded high won't contain some number of the best linear hands ranked from the top down.  This is equivalent to a "capped" range.  A range bounded low won't contain some number of the worst linear hands ranked from the bottom up.  This is often useful to describe a range that doesn't include any air or very weak hands.

A strategic mode in which a player is attempting to deny their opponent(s) equity share of the pot through aggression. Often referred to as “denying equity” or “buying up equity”.

A range is capped when it represents little to no nutted combinations as confirmed by prior action.

A continuation bet. A bet made by the player with initiative as a continuation of their initiative on a prior street.

The ability to accurately range an opponent based on all available information at a decision point.  An understanding of your hands exact equity.

Closing Action
Acting last where no subsequent action is possible behind you.  For example calling a UTG raise in the BB or calling in position postflop with no players behind.

Cold Call/Cold Bet
An action is considered “cold” when it comes from a player entering into the pot has not previously put chips voluntarily in the pot. Ex: the UTG opens, the BTN 3bets. If the SB were to call or raise, it would be a cold-call or a cold-4bet.

The branch of mathematics the deals with finite number sets. Used in poker in determining the amount of combinations of certain hands in a range.

When a blind that is not the biggest blind calls the amount of the biggest blind. Ex: At $2/$5, action folds around to the SB and the SB completes. Meaning they just call. The BB can complete when there is a straddle.

A capped range that contains only middling value hands. A range without the polarized portion.

Logical advancement of combinations across streets.

Dark Side of the Deck
The large swath of hands, often off-suit, that fall outside of conventional playable recommendations. Counter-equity hands.

Dead Money
Money in the pot that is not being fought for.  A passive player creates dead money when they call a bet preflop and looking to play fit-or-fold postflop. Dead Money is often confused with the money in the pot.

Delayed Cbet
A cbet made on the turn by the preflop raiser when the flop checked through.

Delaying Leverage
Passive actions intended to maintain a likely late street leverage point, or possibly to avoid a leverage point entirely.

A strategic break from one’s standard construction as an exploit of a particular player’s profile or construction.

Diminishing Medium Value Category
A Seidman concept in which when one’s middling value hand range is too small and transparent to our opponent and thus either that range should be shifted into the top of a polarized range or the nutted portion should be shifted into the medium value range. Ex: AQo or TT being 3bet preflop.

A cbet that is less than the preflop raise. Ex: BTN opens to $25, we 3bet to $90 from the SB, BTN calls. On the flop we cbet $70.

Dry Board
A board texture that yields relatively few logical hands value. Often containing one medium or high card and disconnected low cards. Ex: Q53r, T622r.

Dual Mentalities
A Seidman concept in which when we decide to go postflop with a weak hand against a nutted range, we should either be looking to out flop it or steal the pot away. We base our decision against the player type we are up against and never go post with both mentalities at once.

Dynamic Board
A flop texture in which the runout is very likely to change the order of top ranking hands. Ex: 954tt, 742r.

Effective Stack
The smallest stack to VPIP in a given hand. Their stack decides the amount of money that can be played for or threatened before an all-in.

Effective nuts
A value hand that can be played for stacks as if it were the actual nuts.  This is a relative hand ranking based on range assumptions and opponent type.

A measure of how well the equity of a hand is deployed. Efficiency can also be used as a measure of what is risked vs what is gained for a given bet size.

Either/Or Philosophy
A Seidman concept in which a particular street can be a very good spot for value, meaning our opponent is never folding, or a very good spot to bluff, meaning our opponent is never calling, but that those spots cannot be concurrent.

Borrowed from economics, a measure of the sensitivity of a range or hand relative to the price offered.  Ranges (or hands) described as elastic will narrow, sometimes quickly, in response to increases in price.  Those described as inelastic will not.

The percent pot share of a holding or range on any given street if the hand were to go to showdown with no further betting action.

Equity Pusher
A analytic approach to the game in which a player views the correct actions only through the lens of their hands equity vs. their opponent’s range. Often this player type has a lack of understanding of overall strategy and plays their range face up with few bluffs.

Expected Value
The mathematical formula for how much a player’s action is expected to make with their hand vs. their opponent’s range. EV = ($towin * %ofwin) - ($tolose * %ofloss)

Face Up
A player is playing their range “face up” when their actions directly correspond with their desired outcome. Ex: A player bets half-pot three streets with a range that has no bluffs. A player 3bets to 7x with JJ.

False Polarization
Otherwise known as Faux-Po; a polarizing action taken with a merged range.

The result of losing your entire table stakes. All the way down to the felt.

A call of a cbet with a weak holding with the likely intention of taking the pot away when the opponent shuts down. Often done by an in position preflop caller.

The convergence of positions, stack depths, and preceding actions at a given decision point.

A mathematical formula developed by Phil Galfond for calculating the expected value of one’s range construction vs. an opponent’s holding.

A computer programming term that means "garbage in, garbage out" which also applies to poker forums when a poster seeks an in-depth conversation about a hand, but fail to provide pertinent information such as stack sizes, bets sizes, table dynamics and player tendencies.

Game Theory
The applied science of combining mathematical models with logic to craft winning poker strategies.

Game Theory Optimal
A set of strategies is GTO if no player can unilaterally deviate and increase his average profit. ~ Will Tipton.  GTO does not mean best possible response, highest EV, or maximally exploitative play.

Implied Odds
Additional value likely to be accrued if you make your hand on a later street.

Sometimes referred to as the betting lead, a common situation in which the passive player yields to the aggressive player postflop, or the last aggressor continues betting on subsequent streets.

A bet or raise intended to force out the rest of the field in order to play heads up against a weaker opponent who has entered the pot through limping, raising, or posting the blinds.

Loose aggressive player type. Generally overused and inaccurate.

A bet made from out of position after a passive action. Often referred to as a donk bet on the flop.

He knows that I know that he knows I know.

A bet or raise that signals the hand will be played for stacks.  Within reason, it is accomplished by betting with a sizing that will create RSP equal to 1 on the following street.

Limp First In

A consecutive range of hands decreasing in strength from top to bottom; generally meaning value hands. Equivalent to "merged."

Lockdown Board
A board on which the nuts have often already been made.  More prevalent in PLO but sometimes useful in no-limit, for example on monotone flops and boards with available common straights e.g. JT9, T98, 987, etc.

1) A range of hands that includes both strong and medium value; 2) in reference to medium value; 3) the merged construction describes the natural representation of a wide range through a bet.

Mini Stop-N-Go
A Seidman concept, a line taken by a OOP PFR where flop is check/called and turn is lead.

Minimum Defense Frequency (MDF)
The necessary defending (calling/raising) frequency to prevent an opponent from auto-profiting.  The inverse of APT.

Natural Action
A check, bet, or raise which is exactly suited to a player's range and situation (e.g. a pfr's continuation bet on AK2r).

A player who will not put chips into the pot without a very strong and sometimes only nutted hand.

The best possible hand.

Nuts-To-Air Ratio (NAR)
In a polarized betting line, the ratio of value to bluff.  As used by Seidman, not limited to polarization but sometimes used to label general opponent tendency of value to bluff.

Old Man Coffee. Typically an older, retired player that likes to play bingo with ATC, but will only continue with the nuts.

The first voluntary action. The first action or bet to voluntarily enter the pot.

A bet that is more than the size of the pot.

Perceived Range
Refers to the range of hands that your opponent thinks you could have in a certain playing situation. This can be interpreted and thus misinterpreted from your playing style and position at the table.

A range consisting of very strong and very weak hands.

Post Oak Bluff
A small bluff on a late street that has little chance of winning the pot.  Generally interpreted as “gutless” in the past but now fulfilling certain functions as betting efficiencies are understood.

Positional Protection
When the strength of a range is perceived to be capped or uncapped based on which position an action is taken from.

When an action or player is perceived to have strong hands in its range.

Protection Bet
A wager which denies equity to hands which will only give action if they significantly improve; "a value bet which does not want a call."

The rejection of the offered price and the laying of a new higher price.  Raises represent a more narrow range of hands and trend towards polarization.

Range Advantage
Implementation or study tool that refers to 1) most basically, equity measurement of one range against another; 2) or also including a combination of further factors including availability of nutted hands, the nuances of the runout, and positional protection.

Range Manipulation
Deliberate line work/bet sizing made to narrow a range or keep a range wide.

Range Switch
A deliberate change in range composition made to thwart a player who is reading our range too accurately in any spot.  Reduces transparency, fights assumptions, and wins the leveling war if implemented correctly.

Ratio of Stack To Pot
RSP. The stack to pot ratio at any point in a hand, generally used post-flop as opposed to Stack to Pot Ratio.

Taking a hand to showdown and realizing its full equity.  Generally used with regard to passive actions.

The mutual exchange of chips resulting from similar play and ideas.  Reciprocity is a common bi-product of group-think.  A true edge by definition cannot be reciprocal.

Relative Position
A player’s position measured against the aggressor's position.  Generally this is used going to the flop.  For example, if UTG raises and several players call behind, calling in the big blind would give you the best relative position.  You will act after seeing how the field responds to a likely continuation from the preflop aggressor.  In the same scenario calling immediately after the preflop aggressor results in the worst relative position.  You will have to act immediately after a continuation without seeing how the remaining players will respond.  Strong relative position confers an information edge.

The ability of hand to maintain equity across streets against a betting range or as part of a betting range.

Reverse Implied Odds (RIO)
Hands that often win small pots or lose large pots suffer from reverse implied odds.

Popularized by Mathew Janda, a descriptor for how well a hand retains equity over streets of play.  Hands described as robust have equity that does not suffer as an opponent's range becomes stronger.  Often these hands are currently both strong and invulnerable, or have the ability to become very strong by the river, relative to the opponent's range.

Fourth and Fifth Street cards following a given flop texture.

Scale of Protection
Poker theorem which states that the more protected or strong an opponent's range is, the higher the degree of denial or retention a counter will require.

Sklansky Bucks
Dollars won (or lost) in expected value regardless of actual hand result.

Any one of many possible poker archetypes found at low stakes games.

A reraise made after a player has raised and one or more players has called in-between.

Static Board
A flop texture in which the runout is unlikely to change the order of top ranking hands. Ex: AK7r, KK4r.

A passive action followed by an aggressive action, out of position.  For example, a call followed by a lead on the next street.

Streets of Value
A crude shorthand measurement for how much betting a hand can tolerate and still be best at showdown more often than not.

Tight aggressive opponent type. Generally overused and misapplied.

TAG's Dilemma
The paradox created by having a top-heavy range played so aggressively that it misuses equity vis-à-vis position and holding.

The Great Range Fantasy
The common idea that we know our opponent’s range and frequencies precisely; most commonly seen in post-hoc analysis to justify microedge decisions.

Thin Value
A bet that is only slightly more likely to be called by worse than by better. Associated with the merged pricing construction and bet-fold lines.

Three Fundamentals
The most fundamental variables for decision making: position, stack size, and community cards.

The best hands in a given range.

Two-Way Bet
A bet that expects calls from worse hands and incorrect folds at the same time, a simultaneous value bet and bluff line.

The psychological effect of feeling like you’re losing because your stack size isn’t as large as it once was during a session, even though it’s more than what you’re in the game for.

(e.g. You bought in for $100, ran it up $450, but now only have $175 in front of you.)

A hand that has no negative card removal effects on the target range.  Bottom set, for example, unblocks top pair top kicker.

A range that is perceived to contain the nuts in any given line.  Capped ranges may become uncapped during transitions for example from preflop to flop, or flop to turn.

A turned nut straight after raising flop with a gutter.

Value Owning
Making value bets with a hand that has less than 50% equity when called.

Voluntarily Put Money In Pot (VPIP)
The frequency at which a player limps, calls, or raises preflop.

Volatile Board
A flop texture where equities will often shift on the turn and river.  See “dynamic”.

An illusory cooler where one player makes a massive mistake equity mistake and loses his stack with a strong but second best hand; also known as a Jam Basket.

Wet Board
A board texture that allows for a lot of logical hands to continue. Often made up of medium rank connected cards. Ex: KT9tt, Tc8c6s-7c-Ac.

“Walk In, Fuck Shit Up, Walk Out” a hashtag used by instagram poker players.

Winning Player
A forum poster who offers reciprocal advice under the guise of questionable positive low stakes results. A weak player or fish, in general.

Young Man Coffee. Is very much an OMC, but younger.  They usually only continue with the nuts, often under the illusion of playing a GTO style.