Luminaries I

I spend a lot of time watching poker videos. The clicking of chips is often enough my own personal “Gentle Beach Sounds” that lull me into the brief death of sleep. I love the game, and it loves me. So, being a nobody in a surprisingly big industry, I must have a few favorites of the flatscreen who we all see and sometimes, hear. Let’s start with two people who truly stand out at this present moment, each for very different reasons.

Doug Polk is the great face of contemporary poker. It’s not merely his technical ability, as obviously there are a Luminaries Doug Polknumber of highly proficient, borderline legendary players out there. What counts is his ease of manner with our people. His soundness and fairness in almost all situations he has described, even when lamenting on his own behalf, is evident. Yes, the clear excellence of his strategy videos and succinct thought process merit emulation. Yet this is not what truly matters: while his high stakes days seem to have waned– rather conveniently given the state of the games – he brings a great deal of joy to poker.

Doug’s not really my culture. I’m not punching kappas on Twitch or buttons on 888, not interested in hand charts, and sure as hell am not “donating” to his stream (who are these fish?) There’s only so much Chicago Joey I can take. I could personally care less about kids in suburban bedrooms clicking buttons at NL50 and making tired jokes about hookers and blow, neither of which they will ever need to experience.

However, what I can appreciate and care about is Doug’s always human but still extraordinary commitment to creating fun and excellent content. I am constantly impressed by everything he turns his mind to, even by how he takes breaks from his punishing work schedule without fuss or worry. We need more of these people, players who are not just poker winners – those are easy, because someone has to win – but life winners in poker.

This is the category Mr. Polk belongs to.


William Kassouf is the most interesting thing to happen in WSOP television coverage (and to tournament players, who demand all the torment we can scrounge from the poker castle basement) in a long time. I’ve listened to a lot of whining, even from legends of the game, about his tiresome behavior. Fair enough, be heard. Why can’t I have things exactly as I like them and how they always were before? Just so, just just just like this this this yes this.

Ok, more seriously, since his tanking is wearisome and his catch phrases tiresome, find ways to defend yourself if you are at the table.

Poker is a social game.

People talk, stupidly, about “live” poker as if it is some novel alternative to the real thing.

No. Never forget where you came from. At the heart of the game is people and the relationship between them.

Some of us, it turns out, are a little more annoying than others and also had $10k in the sock drawer.

Poker is life, and just as you will anywhere, you will encounter all sorts of assholes in the course of your poker day. If you are a man, someone will try to out-alpha you. If you are a woman, someone will express unwanted sexual interest. If you think that a publicly available poker table is somehow a safe space from the human project, you are living a delusion that speaks to your own misunderstanding of the basic facts of life.

And, yes, sometimes, some goof will prattle on obnoxiously or try to eat up your time.

Luminaries William KassoufEnter Mr. Kassouf. Villain. Dork. Small stakes grinder.

Big time personality.

Countering the occasionally unbearable Mr. Kassouf, with even the most crude social skills, may not always be easy but crying for daddy is not the answer. With a little of your own spark of divine fire and a passing acquaintance with tournament rules, or failing that Olympian bore, with human nature, any serious player should find the ability within to keep this sheep in wolf’s clothing at bay. (He even explains how in a recent podcast interview.)

Instead, that resentful, entitled look, the one that spread over Stacy Matuson’s face and then to many of Kassouf’s other victims, says it all:

I won’t cope with this adversity. Bail me out. Sympathize with me.

Who are we really rooting for in this sort of encounter? Is it the case that the aggressor always is at fault? What makes for interesting situations? How thick is your bubble?

Poker is a social game. Everyone is riveted by Mr. Kassouf, even if it is from hatred, because the game is built for personalities. It is nine people facing each other, sitting down (even eating and drinking!), compelled to interact.

Poker is a social game. That means dealing with society. See the lil’ connection between the words there?

Everyone knows this, even if they can’t admit it.

The proof is this: if I had a dollar for every time I heard some lament about the lack of personality in the game over the past five years, I wouldn’t have to hit the casino today.

But but but what if everyone did this, they squeal, then then then the games would be impwwossible.

What makes you think everyone can do this? Or would?

(Even Kassouf can’t keep it up, and rightly gets hammered by Vayo for being repetitive. Slowly the geniuses adjust! Great stuff!)

Or that we couldn’t deal with it? That we wouldn’t move on?

The argument that he is annoying is obviously true. The argument that he is anti-social is ipso facto false.

(You want to know who was anti-social? Remember the guy who wouldn’t change his clothes for the duration and stank so much players were choking? They came up with a rule to counter this. Further, if you want to let your pro buddies tank because you think their decisions merit it but those of a glorified amateur from a distant land don’t, you continue to unimpress me. I hope in one of your endlessly fascinating flips, somehow you both lose.)

Sure, there are ways to see him as a giant problem. In a cunning comparison in the forums, clever bunny Which points out that a negative EV play in a multiway pot can push equity to where it doesn’t belong. However, I’m afraid that in the deepest sense, we are responsible for figuring even that out and accounting for the possibility. Questionable behavior, in other words, in any social situation is best handled by those affected, and so if your fishing trip is ruined by one loudmouth, that’s also a tad on you and explains why your complaints at the water cooler on Monday following ring hollow: no one’s impressed, even if they scrunch up their face for your benefit.

That’s called personal responsibility. Almost, you might say, leadership, but we know that’s not too common in these parts.

As for what truly motivates recreational players to fulfill their poker dreams, no one knows like you sharks, am I to take it? People just dump ten large into a seven day event because it looks like a bunch of well behaved blokes worth sharing thirty crinkly plastics bottles of water and the urinal line with, amirite? The library poker of the last few years has REALLY stimulated the games, after all! I mean, people got excited because a guy was wearing a fedora last year. The tables are so dull people look forward to divorce jokes! Now, I am forced to agree with you that there is one formerly very determined librarian in Twin Falls, ID who is now DEFINITELY not coming next year because of the possibility of running into Mr. Kassouf when she reaches the final four tables of the Main. SSHHH! Definitely, definitely.

People are different and bring different gifts to the table. And to life. And then it changes. And then there is something new. Suddenly we miss what we had before and wonder why we weren’t happier then.

Moral of the story: My poker tourney brothers, you are all acting like a bunch of pussy cats. I mean, we knew this already but you really tipped your hand this time. The new, gelded age of poker is too kind to you. When I think of what the road gamblers who made this game possible went through and compare your kvetching, well, I don’t even think I want to say.

(Yes, that’s the real theme – Kassouf’s story isn’t even his own. He’s just the latest heterogeneous element, stirring up a sleepy village whose best years seem to have just passed.)

Now, can I make some more money? Could I now double down on that bet I mentioned, and be paid twice over to hear all the same people who long for the old days of strange and compelling characters complain about how Mr. Kassouf takes it all too far?

I would kiss that brick of bills and toss it into my safe – almost, well, like a high level supervisor, you might say.


Luminaries II

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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.