trip reports

NY, part 3

“Loitering for Gambling” is the citation, handwritten and barely readable on the pink carbon copy.  It’s a shameful one, not for the gambling, but for the “loitering,” which is anything but what I was doing.  Or is it?  There are many other things to do on a bright day in the city, and I left the museum of Natural History before it closed.  I’m here to continue to earn; I’ve beaten the game soundly up until this point, despite its high rake and one tricky player who has taken from me with some judicious slow play.  Ultimately, poker is on the low end of the societal productivity range and the title of my crime irritates.  The gambling part is accurate but hypocritical.  Poker players did not cause the great depression or the housing bubble, and nor would I ever play a pure game of chance.  Four blocks south, chess players hustle out games for a few bucks in broad daylight.  Do they know they will win every match?  What odds are they laying on their mastery of the game? Poker is about wagering, not gambling, and we who would win press our skill in all our chosen trades, not merely empty headed bets.

However, I’m not worried about the money at the moment, and except for this ridiculous charge, I am amused at the situation.  The loss of my seven hundred dollars, confiscated for who knows what purpose, will not sting until the next morning.  I have no other income but poker for the moment, and could have lived on that for weeks.  I also have to worry about the cost of the crime itself, because even though the apparent ticket is small, I am supposed to show up to court on a day long past my New York vacation.

I also wonder about the officer who delivered the bad news to me.  Does he wish he could charge more?  Why is he ever so slightly defensive, and where is the bullying attitude of the first hour? Does he not care because the confiscated money, probably upward of six thousand dollars from the table, with an unknown amount held by the host, is paying for something he wants?  He has answered a simple question with a moral, high handed tone, but it only demanded more questions.  Now I pass from ironic contempt for the law into exasperation, because I’ve realized I have been seated in the first row to a bit of off-Broadway theater.

I have one more concern. While I was sad about the money, I was positively frightened at the prospect of having my bag taken, as it contained a priceless journal of my notes.  I ask for it but won’t let me go back to the living room.  Instead, the junior officer I had bantered with grumpily rises from the host’s bed and retrieves it.  He sets it on the bed and rifles through it, asking if there are any illegal substances.  I give him a pointlessly florid “no,” obviously still anxious about getting it back.  When at last he hands it over to me, Farina reappears.  He ushers me into the hallway, where he indicates he wants to ask a few questions before letting me go.

While we pass through the entry into the small staircase we had all used to sneak up to the game, and which was apparently used by the police as well, I notice the crumpled door and have a moment to think about the host. No doubt the management was or will be apprised of the break in, and the host’s worries will not include a only new door, but finding a new place. While scouting out the New York scene, I noticed his brother’s poker game had been busted. Who knows how many times they have gone through this. With an observable rake of up to ten percent taken from all preflop pots that aren’t chopped, it’s likely they are pulling past $200 off the table per hour, a lucrative home business that seems to be good enough not only to provide income for the host, but for dealers and prop players.

Farina, it turns out, is less interested in the economics of the game than in a very specific query: the detective wants to know exactly what happens to the player money once he buys in. I’m not much use, however. I never saw where exactly it ended up, and in the moment, may have even forgot that there was a brown box on a desk near the door, away from the game. He makes reference to a safe or some other holding; clearly they want details about where the final take goes.  I thought they had gotten it by raiding the safe, but he is unconvinced, perhaps, that they’ve taken it all.  The recent bust of Wendy’s Club in mid-town made reference to over ten thousand. In truth, aside from the relative secrecy, the fancy setup with a nice, backlit table, Paulson chips, and a wide screen LCD, my comfy and completely legal game back home often has more money on the table despite smaller stakes. We get past a hump in the conversation where I give a wrong answer (clearly they’ve been observing or the host told them how often I’ve been coming), and then Farina gives me a sly send off. “Sorry you got caught up in this.” Probably a relief to some, but sorry might include a receipt for my confiscated money. I don’t bother to ask.  Maybe that was a mistake, but what I discovered is you don’t really want to be around people with guns and handcuffs, no matter who they are.  (With time away from the adventure, I have become convinced that Farina was simply flummoxed by how small the game was, and was trying to figure out if he had been tricked out of what he expected to find.)

Amused by the experience, I head out into the New York City sun. It’s a beautiful day, one intended for a little loitering. I’ve made a habit of celebrating the evening’s take at the food truck in Union Square. The secret, I think while I walk, is the fried plantain, a thick and sweet slice that matches up with the juicy beef festively. Everything here can take a little roughness and gusto; we’re all sweating and the city streets are hard and brutal, so street food, when it’s good, is the best way to go. Unfortunately, because the game has broken early, and the truck is there but unready for service.

I want a drink and a substitute for the amazing Peruvian protein, so within a block I run into the end of good looking happy hour at a casual bistro near the New School. The same World Cup game Farina and I watched is now in the second half, with the score still tied. I settle in for white wine and six oysters. The game is an excuse to socialize, and soon an adroitly dressed and smart woman in her fifties is talking football. Her hair is long, as it probably always has been, and pulled back into a ponytail.  Her skin is fading into age but it is still supple, the benefit of lotions, cleansers, a good diet, but most of all, success. Our conversation, in turn, attracts a young pretty thing with a heavy blotch of lipstick. She is thin and dollish and pale, a sweet human being who laughs out of nervousness, and also when the bartender flirts with her; perhaps I’ll have a chance, too. The three of us talk about the city and the people and brown hair versus blonde for a bit, when Lipstick has to go meet the ever-waiting “friend.”

It’s not the end of the afternoon for me, however, because the older woman, a lawyer and a successful denizen, is curious as to why I’m in her neighborhood. After all, I do look badly warmed over and haven’t shaved since I left home a month ago. I probably smell. I decide she really wants to know, and I tell her the story, from battering ram to oysters. I hadn’t brought it up, because it is a seedy thing, poker, and explaining being stopped by the police for an illegal activity is not always a social lubricant. Good conversation and new people often hinges on a sort of confidence that something fun or useful or exciting is being shared or learned or done, and further, that no one really wants to use their emotional energy on your problems.

However, it turns out I have a surprisingly sympathetic audience, even an empathetic one. She used to gamble and play a little poker herself. She tells me she knows quite a few lawyers who play (do they know Puerto Rican cops?  Small world.), and she reiterates, as I need to be told, clearly, that it’s the poverty of the game that got me in trouble. While going on in this vein, she announces she’s going to give me the best legal advice I’ll ever hear.

“Stay in the middle, the in-between, if you want to continue with this thing.” She means that the low stakes and easy access to the game is what got it busted, and I point out to her that recently a very high stakes ring of play was broken up. “Exactly,” she says. “Don’t go too high or too low. The games I know will never be broken up. They are hard to get into and no one knows about them and the police don’t worry about them.”

Sound advice. “We have to find you a better game.” I write my email address on a napkin, and push it toward her. She folds it up instantly in an act of discretion she is obviously familiar with, and promises to see what she can do before I take my leave.

I walk home to Chinatown in the bright city twilight and the slow sunset of intoxication.  My summons to court is in August- maybe a trip and a game are waiting for me.


Meanwhile, in the Annals of Gambling Justice


Leave a Reply

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.