trip reports

NY, part 2

The reinforced door to the host’s apartment is being repeatedly struck and will soon be destroyed; small pieces of it fly into the hallway.  A hinge snaps.  The players are frozen by the unsettling combination of the loudness of the battering ram and the silence of the intruders behind it. I look at the high window but it’s several stories down: futile.  There is no other way out.  The host gives up trying to stop them and tries to make the most of the remaining seconds. He orders his wife, pregnant and delicate, to go into the bedroom, but she simply sits petrified on the chair she’s been watching the game from.  All of us are frozen, in fact.  The group of poker players watch the entryway in unison.

The door comes off its last hinge and collapses.  A heavy, black metal pipe pushes briefly in, then back, and the chaos begins.  Handguns first, three police officers enter, wearing armor and one of them a helmet.  The lead officer, young and fit like a soldier, shouts to everyone, “Put your hands on the table and lay down. Down on the table hands out!”  Everyone complies immediately. I lay my head so that I can watch the entrance.  The officers are certainly not understaffed and have taken no risks.  More of them stream into the apartment, all with sidearms raised and aimed at the group.

cuffs“Put your hands behind you!” Every player is handcuffed.  The officers are not satisfied with their personal safety however, continuing to point their pistols at the helpless and prone players, now face down on the felt like cards.  The trampling in of officers is over, but they begin to talk amidst themselves.  Radio chatter buzzes and clicks.  The world cup plays on.

Once everyone is secured with the raid slows down.  The players stare at each other, trying to find a reaction that makes sense. I worry it’s a shake down and not only will my table stake be confiscated, but the remaining grand in my wallet might be worth some cop’s while.  No doubt the others are wondering the same thing.  I go through the if onlys… if only I stayed and looked at natural history… if only I didn’t buy in again… if only I hadn’t stacked off with tens… (The poker player in you never goes away.)

Meanwhile, the host is taken back to the hallway where the bank is kept; presumably he’s the one facing the most serious consequences, and we all know it, even though in aggregate the players are losing the most.  Or are they?  Three of my opponents are employees and I’ve kept out of the way of soft play and collusion so far, but it might go deeper, despite amiable appearances.  I’m in over my head, after all.

Despite the drama, a small period of tense boredom sets in.  While the cops scavenge the place for drugs or anything to further incriminate, I find myself looking over the policemen, one younger and one much older, a true Dennis Farina type, stringy and muscled, with decrepit old tattoos on his husky forearms.  He’s got the big, near bouffant, head of grey hair and a matching moustache. However, I don’t want to call attention to myself, so I let my eyes settle on the world cup game, Honduras vs. Ecuador, locked up at one-one.  The host had in fact made a grand betting on France; there’ some consolation for him: the money presumably is not in the apartment.

The players are silent, but we’re both soon distracted by a younger cop barking at a finance guy I stacked the time before.  The guy is twisting away and in pain; he asks if the cuffs can be redone, but this is refused.  Later I observe he’s the one guy to be victim of a less experienced or crueler officer: his wrists are behind him and parallel, unlike the rest of us with a more normal limbs pointed down configuration.

Between moans from the suffering player, silence and soccer is the rule for a few more minutes.  There are at least six and maybe as many as nine policemen, and they end up breaking the mournful quiet at the table and the ridiculous chorus of discordant vuvuzelas from the television by setting off some sort of alarm; I suspect it is a safe or the intrusion device.  When that is turned off, the host is returned to his seat at the poker table, still cuffed.  He does not look happy but is not hysterical at all, and seems, I notice, to be feeling sorry for the players, an attitude worthwhile to note.

It would become a serious time for me, however, but for one detail: many of the cops are wearing body armor, but the ones who remove their vest or are not wearing it, have Vice Squad t-shirts on.  That’s when my sense of irony returns to me.  This is a ridiculous moment and an absurd abrogation of our basic rights to assemble and pursue our own course of pleasure in privacy, with the locale and taxes paid.  These fellows may be enforcement officers of the state, but they are as much stooges and phonies as anyone else, any bureaucrat, any criminal.  The final organization of society is always through power, no matter what system you are on the side of or in, and now our game has been ruined by the intolerance of the hierarchy of our betters who hypocritically have no patience for the pastimes of their charges.  Our snug surroundings don’t even qualify us for the “broken windows” theory of social recrimination.  So many celebrities, historical figures, and most of all, the politicians who shape our legalities, have enjoyed and even bragged of their poker prowess and extolled its essential Americanness. Vice indeed.

So what happens next is fitting and therefore should be not surprising, but it still will be a shock for some of you.  While the world cup plays on the screen, the lead officers and the detective interrogate the host.  The officers are led to the bank box, which was accounted for in a separate room.  They empty it, but aren’t satisfied by absconding with the players’ buy ins.  They interrogate the host further, who is at first unsure he should comply.  However, the undertone of the threat surfaces.  This will generally work when your companions are in chains, your pregnant wife is in tears (clearly on the edge of a breakdown), and your aggressor is armed with deadly force.  After a few more persuasions, the host leads them back into his bedroom.   The sounds of movement and commotion ensue.  Something is being sought, violently and quickly.

This takes a while.  I glance around the room.  Most of the players are now watching the World Cup, tipping their head upwards.  One cop, bored, joins in.  No Chips looks upset and scared.  Tears stream down the face of the player with the misapplied cuffs.  Finally he cries out for help, and one irritated cop fusses with him for a few moments.  Unfortunately, he informs him, he’ll just have to wait.

When the noise in the bedroom is finished, some cops come and go.  Now I’m getting restless and instinctively test the strength of the handcuffs; yeah, those are going to work.  Farina and the lead officer discuss something in low and urgent voices. The door is left open, and a signal given.  One by one, the players are uncuffed and led to the bedroom, where a line is formed.  I’m one of the last to go, so I sit and absurdly watch the World Cup along with the bored officer.

Farina pulls the host aside yet again.  I can only make out the tones and a few intermittent words, but I am getting the idea: Is there more money?  I glance at the Korean limp raiser, one of the remaining faces chin down on the table. I’m darkly amused that his limp raise tactic worked but his reward is taken.  So I’ve got that going for me: all our chips are worthless. He stares at me blankly.

When I am finally led to the bedroom, I am horrified by the carelessness of the invasion team.  They have upended the room in a completely unnecessary act of contempt for the host, scattering his belongings everywhere and tearing out the contents of his closet in order to better examine what they have been searching for: the safe, I realize, where the rest of the host’s personal money- who knows how much- is stored.  Officers sit on his bed rudely, as if it is a sofa, and have scattered their paperwork over it.

No Chips is miserable and the others in front of me are cowed.  I ask them what is going to happen, and I get the attention of a junior, perhaps Puerto Rican officer, who is collecting our licenses.  He explains that we will have to go to court.  He asks me why I can’t go to outside the city to play table games?  He knows a legal place.  I explain I like poker and not those things, but he doesn’t get it or seem to know the difference.  He offers to give me a gambling addiction number which I smile at.  He doesn’t like this so I have to back off.  I’m still in cuffs, of course.

Now, his authority smirked at, he presses me and asks me if I am in other games.  However, he’s not really a jerk, and we start to batter a little more after I tell him no, just passing through.   I think his mumbling and my foreignness to his lingo makes the conversation somewhat confusing. He makes a comment about knowing some lawyers who play, which is funny. In one exchange he says something about “25 dollars a pop” but maybe I hear “a pot,” and I interpret it as a reference to the rake.   I say I only play in small games.  My implication that they are overdoing their job does not go past him, but I smile and deflect my own challenge enough to satisfy him.  With your hands handcuffed behind you, confrontation doesn’t seem terribly useful in the moment, as much as I contradictorily wanted it.

Between chatting, another procedure is going down.  The junior officer gets on the phone repeatedly; the four of us in the room who have had our backgrounds check come back “good,” meaning no outstanding arrest warrants.  Each time he gets a negative he reports to Farina. I’m mildly surprised at the positivity of the language, but more surprised Farina’s reaction, who is genuinely relieved.  Then, I get it. No one likes paperwork, and he is in charge.  It is a Friday late afternoon, after all.  I remember when I was more worried, while scanning the listings for games, that a Friday seemed likely for a bust: the cops would imagine that the game would be more filled.  A positive warrant would mean hauling off someone to Rikers: effort, time, and yet more scribbling.

If I had been more of a nit, I could have skipped today: it’s Friday, the day I said I’d skip.  Of course the vice squad has the principle of it wrong- there are no more players today than the days before, as it’s time to see family and girlfriends, or head to Atlantic City.  In fact, two regulars have evaded trouble by leaving early; one to get ready for a tournament at the Borgata and the other for social reasons.  More bad game selection by me.

At last I am brought to the end of the procession, where one of the lead officers is seated at the host’s desk.  I am uncuffed.  Despite what you see in movies, and of course contrary to the poor finance guy’s experience, they did not bind terribly and there was no need rub my wrists: all the relief was mental.  He asks for my identity.  He is startled to find that I am from out of state, which in turn startles me: I don’t know where any of this is going or what it is going to cost.  It’s been a long afternoon of being threatened, handcuffed, and queries.  I still have the rest of my trip’s roll in my wallet and am not free yet.  I am imagining this is going to be an expensive episode in my life, aside from the money that has been confiscated.  He hands me a pink slip of some sort and explains to me that I have a summons and that I will have to appear at such and such a date.  I take a closer look, but see no mention of a fine.  Court, no ticket- this is going to be a disaster.  Will I need a lawyer?  I need to know just what this is going to set me back.

I ask him what the fine will be.  I hold my breath.  No Chips and another player look over anxiously, equally curious.

The officer leans back in his chair, enjoying his moment of moral gravity and informational advantage.  The punishment is going to be extraordinary, and he must weigh his answer carefully.  This is no time for stock, desk jockey answers.  Lives can be changed, justice done.  It’s moments like this that made him go into law enforcement and serve his community.  He puts his pen in his mouth briefly, then lays it down on the desk, furrows his brow, pushes his lips together thoughtfully, and looks me in the eye to prepare me for the terrible news:

“Seventy… five… dollars.”

Part 3


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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.