Luminaries II

As we wrap up another exciting year in poker, it’s hard to keep track of all the scandals and crimes – and so I don’t! That’s intentional. I’ll let news sites and other blogs handle the “top tens” and poker “tips,”as usual. However, some issues are so important they can’t escape commentary, even when what we really want to do is just hide from the cold, light a bonfire of internet pages, and dream of the deep blue undulations of the California coast beneath a balmy wind.

Unfortunately, we’re not allowed to lay dormant and dream, not when They are out there.

In fact, They never leave us alone. That’s also intentional, because They can’t exist without enough agreement, as no principles keep these noisy scarecrows upright.

They can’t leave anything alone. (I suppose I should feel more sorry for such congenital problems!)

They, of course, are the majoritarian screechers who can’t abide a single thought that doesn’t align with whatever fluff they need to wrap themselves in. It’s tiresome, and all the more so, after suffering through this year wherein two manifestly unqualified presidential candidates slugged it out for the right to shuffle chairs on the Titanic.

We’re so lazy as a culture, both in the one that matters, and in our own Republic of Poker, that we let silly people who don’t even know the issues command all the discourse.

Enter into this perpetual fray Marty Derbyshire, a somewhat embattled writer at a somewhat embattled poker media site. In a fairly tame point/counterpoint op-ed about the prospects of playing professionally, Derbyshire took the position, among others, that professional poker players don’t add much to society.

For the most part, these are relatively smart people who choose greed, laziness and self delusion as their path. They are otherwise capable of doing something a little more meaningful with their lives.

He makes some fairly accurate summary points, well quoted elsewhere. He ignores the essential meaning of profession, a key to understanding the argument at the deepest level.

As part of his position he also makes a somewhat dubious claim which is worth much more disagreement:

The propensity for people to try to gamble for a living keeps casinos afloat. A global economic downturn over the past decade may explain why so many people have started calling themselves professional poker players. With few job prospects and economic opportunities, they may have had no other choice.

Nevertheless, Derbyshire closes strong:

The truth is that most run out of money, backing or credit within a few years and give it up, making way for a new crop of college dropouts and failed job seekers to replace them.

That’s a very recognizable truth for anyone who has done it and seen it, and so a fairly brave if rambling piece goes into the books, too short for lasting effect and too unfocused for more than a round of debate.

Not so fast.

After a voracious outpouring from the offended, who apparently felt a nerve struck, the piece was removed.

Derbyshire resigned, or was possibly fired.

(Interestingly, I searched in vain for other hard-hitting PokerNews pieces covering the color of the felt and the curvature of the table, but these, too, may have been pulled by cooler heads.)

Whether you are able to see past your eyelids or not, we don’t have to debate the low value of poker on the social value scale… or even the value of the question.

What do you owe to society? What value are you required to add?

Last time I checked there weren’t many guidelines for this on my tax return!

Poker, you see, is full of self-deception, as we all should know. In fact, quite a bit of the money in it is only available because of this characteristic of poker players.

So we should expect a little fluster in the fish tank.

In Plutarch’s Lives, the messenger’s head is cut off by Tigranes. Now afraid, no one would give the tyrant news, and so he sat without information he needed.

You have the right to call for someone’s job, to play politics with someone’s livelihood: go to it, sisters and brothers, do your worst. (And so you do. The easy part, isn’t it?)

Yet you’ll always be wrong. Now why is this? Because the value of speech comes not from what can be said, but in hearing what needs to be said, even if it is unpopular.

And that means even if it is wrong. That’s the critical part They don’t understand, although the best of them, perhaps, fear it in an unexplained sense of restraint they regrettably ignore.

Hysteria, in other words, is never the answer. (Response and argument, not torches, is- but I never hope to get that far with this crowd!)

Tigranes, and you all, lose when you punish an unwanted opinion through force and coercion and threatening careers.

Now, of course, you can quibble conscientiously with Derbyshire and PokerNews and journalism itself if you like, in this case making a case for self-censorship under the guise of required sincerity. This clever writer lives up to his forecast that all journalists are biased because he’s now unhappy that Derbyshire’s apology was a bill both due, as he was offended, and at the same time not sincere enough (which has no bearing on him being fired or not, or anything relevant to the essential situation but only to the irritating outcry).

We should assume Derbyshire was sincere enough when he writes and so evaluate the content of his work, or else why read it all? This is why it’s easy (and best) to see that his apology was a lame cop-out and that believing his opinion was some sort of click-bait is just being taken all over again. Fool me twice…

In other words, we can confront Derbyshire’s, or any journalist’s, suppositions whether he is sincere or not, and not need this new and subjective onus.

Or, if that’s too complicated, you can just be, if I may, more directly mealy mouthed, and announce, as T.Chan did on the Pokercast: “you can phrase something so that 200 poker pros don’t get mad at you.”

There’s a band of brothers worth kowtowing to! The cringe is, as they like to say, real. Those who are living great lives in poker don’t need the approval of one journalist who likely sees and hears some pretty brutal and embittering stuff, enough to make him more than willing to deliver to Tigranes some unhappy tidings.

So here’s to you, Marty Derbyshire, wherever you are off to and whoever you really are. Victim, perhaps, Luminaries Derbyshirevillain, maybe, but playing your role, however unwillingly, in a dance as old as time: the authoritarians and charlatans proposing a goosestep with the free and striving individual.

So Merry Christmas, donks.

Enjoy your Twitter rampages.

Whine to your microscopic heart’s content that not everyone agrees with you and supports your life choices.

Curiously, not all the cheerleaders want to fuck you.

But if that’s too confusing, keep this in your remaining brain cells:

Who will They go after, maybe not next… maybe not even soon?

Why, eventually, you, of course.

And then to whom do you turn?

Luminaries I


  1. I find it funny that so many people can’t get off their high horse and see things for what they are. Does poker contribute to society? Not really (sorry to hurt feelings), it’s a game and it just happens that in order for the game to be played well or for skill to shine through, there must be money (often enough money to make people care) involved. Do bars contribute to society? They allow people to pay to poison themselves at a huge mark up and alcohol is incredibly detrimental to society. You can take any number of jobs or industries (likely entertainment which I think poker falls into) and say the contribute nothing positive, and are a waste of peoples money and aren’t productive. I say instead it falls on the consumer to exhibit moderation. Are video games bad? No. Is playing 12 hours a day instead of working bad? Mmmm probably. Alcohol? Tobacco? Certain foods? The list goes on. Where is the personal accountability? No one forces you to go to the casino or play poker. No one forces you to drink alcohol, so should whiskey makers feel guilt for the product they make?

    As for the lazy and greedy comment, how about astrophysicist who set out with the idea of making rockets to reach Mars only to work for Lockheed Martin because the pay is much better. Is he scum for using his intellect to make weapons that will be killing people (maybe in his mind he’s creating “deterrents” and that helps him sleep at night). What about a hedge fund manager? The offer no tangible service to society other than identifying trends and profiting off them. Finance is one of the highest payed professions in the world and they contribute no “service”. Banks? Real estate? They generate money because they have enough money to loan and collect interest on. How about the concept that I “own” land or property and you have to pay to live on it. The list goes on and on. There is no difference from someone talented in that, and someone talented at poker. They have a skill set that allows them to be better than the competition, and your mad at them for using that to make money? Joke. At least you can choose to play poker or not. I have no choice in how the country is set up to favor the wealthy. It’d be like having to play poker where they get to see one of my cards. Lalalalallalal

  2. Astrophysicists are crap at building rockets, but they’re cogs in the same machine.

    I’m wondering if the bigger issue here is the rapid rise of “The Poker Media” which doesn’t seem to serve any useful role and cannot decide whether to be an industry shill or some strange poker justice warrior.

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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.