Für Otto, seine Lohn

Otto doesn’t win much at the bigger games. If you were to mention his name to me, the image that would form in my mind is that moment when he pushes his chair back while leaning deftly to his left (he’s thin and young and dexterous), grabs his remaining one dollar chips, wishes everyone good luck and spins to the cage. He has a very good attitude and smiles; regretfully, of course. Good night, Otto.

Fortunately for him, Otto doesn’t invest much cash in the games. A poker detective could track him, possibly from a dorm room or shared apartment, to the casino bus, where he finds a seat far in the back. He would plug into his music and listen quietly, I think: I doubt our detective would observe him starting any conversations. Otto might put his bag on the seat next to him to be sure no one takes it. Arriving at the Village, he’d head straight into the short stack games, not even buying in for the full amount. He might grab a sandwich to go from the cafe: I’ve never seen him eating anywhere but in the poker room. This is fun and a diversion for him, and he’s put up with inconvenience to get here. I’m not saying he doesn’t take this diversion seriously – quite the opposite: dinner at the casino before poker is for old people. Real players, the ones like Otto, anyway, put action over nutrition, for good or bad (actually, mostly for bad, ha.)

Otto usually does fine in the small game, I’ve noticed, and our detective could take some useful notes on him. Opens reasonably often. Positionally indifferent. Little or no consideration for SPR. Stacks off with his draws aggressively. Bet sizing small. Makes too many big calls. This recipe, however disturbing to read, can run up a stack, for sure, especially in the Village, where managing action, not creating it, is the issue and challenge for those who want to win consistently.

So, when the entry level tables have been kind to Otto, he will have more money than he came with, plenty for a shot at the main game. It’s part of his plan, actually: His name will already have been on the 5/5 list. He thinks ahead.

It just doesn’t end well.

However, when all those things you do wrong work out, it’s a sweet deal, and tonight, still licking my wounds from my half-hour meltdown and doubly focused, I got to see Otto’s play rewarded. It was bound to happen eventually.

An action, “table captain” type had been attempting to establish dominance, but his opponents weren’t on the right level for this to work out. His raises were greeted indifferently, and the table was basically just donkey chaining him to death, calling a bunch and wrapping him up in the rusty links of their protective, rake paying, team poker style. You can’t bludgeon tables like this very easily, especially without better sizing. Stubborness in poker is not a clear virtue.

After adding on again, our bruised Table Captain (I salute you sir) raised over a limp. From mid position, Otto called.  It’s just not a good call in so many ways, but we can go down the dectective’s list to see how it fits Otto’s modus operendi.  First of all, he exposes himself to the UTG limper, who does have back raises in his game. Second, the kind of hand that plays well against our Commanding Officer is not the kind of hand Otto flats here; in other words, there’s just no strategy here. Third, even if the stars were aligned, and Cap’n Punt does have a monster to crack, there is so much action behind, including the original limper, that the SPR is going to be pretty much unplayable. Good work detective, let me write you a check.

However, I won’t need your services again. Yes, observing this one call is even more revealing than a full report from our p.i., and from this single action I can see Otto’s poker past and future… except, except, except that tonight, it’s the one that proves the rule.

We see an 843cc flop, and unsurprisingly, the UTG limper had a hand he wanted to play, if not reraise: he leads. This should be worrisome, as he’s been silent and tight since joining our table. Our UTG is the angry type, which I gathered from some foolish accusations he was making at two friends on the table behind me. Angry people definitely like to make moves between repressions, but leading into two opponents is not the spot for a pure airball. It’s very likely he has a big draw or the vulnerable top pair, hands that would fit all preflop handreading filters. I doubt UTG leads sets, which would probably be a good play given the players involved.

In any case, Cap’n Punt raises the lead. This is interesting, because he knows most everything I know about what’s going on here. This also means he is skewed toward value. It is very likely his has nines or better: very likely. This bet is protection.  He’s got action behind; calling does not clarify his equity. It’s the right play.

Which brings us to our buddy Otto. What’s in his head is unclear, but maybe it’s the tunes he listened to on the bus, because it’s not poker strategy. He finds a very strange overcall of Cap’n Punt’s raise. This dual action earns a fold from UTG Angry, so there’s that, I guess.

The turn is another eight. A fun card. This second eight hit Angry’s range; maybe he can stay mad if he let go of A8s. It didn’t hit Cap’n Punt, almost certainly. Could it have also hit Otto? Yikes, I don’t even know. However, after the Cap’n checks, out of real caution, Otto finds a bet. Not a large one. The Cap’n comes along, but he’s as confused as I am.

The river clears things up: the three pairs, and neither of them have one, most likely. The Cap’n checks, and Otto ships it for a reasonable amount – remember we were never that deep to begin with. I guess he did have an eight! So crazy. It’s just such a stinky call on the flop, a real plopper.

However, it takes two to tango, or less catchily, funk up a poker hand: Cap’n Punt pays him off with what must be the overpair we deduced from the flop action. Otto turns over 87hh which is just… yeah.

Rewarded, somehow. All those poor decisions and feltings make sense now, I guess, to our friend Otto. I ruger oopremember my college roommate, a brilliant young man with a sense of humor. He had a sweet tooth (we both did, clumsy aspiring intellectuals who spent a lot of time around books, coffee, and pastries), and late at night he’d sometimes hit the vending machine outside our room. We’d hear the clunk of a candy bar dropping, and like Pavlov’s snack assistant, he’d go out and bring back the chocolate layered wafer cookie seemingly conceived in Germany: Ruger. My roommate, well dressed even into the evening and ostentatiously bearded, would flash the package at me and also flash his eyebrows, intoning with deadly seriousness: “The Reward.” He’d then leave a long, almost judgmental pause, as if I was not merely required to respond to this absurdity, but that there was some deep implication in repeating the cookie’s amusing slogan.

You got there, Otto. That eight from space was something else, and you earned the reward of all your confidence and stubbornness in your play. Something about this hand, like my roommate’s performance, makes me smile.

With some grumping and muttering, the Cap’n added on and the game continued. However, Otto was not long for it. He even agglomerated another player’s buy-in to his pile, and looked set for a monster night: surely he must stay and play with the big stack, running well and confidently? Yet, instead, I got to see that familiar rise and push of the seat (a lot more than a few ante chips to pick up though). Otto was taking off prematurely in the middle of a sweet Friday night session. Perhaps the bus was due to leave? Perhaps he had a date?

I don’t think so. I glanced at him and he looked very full, this thin youth, as if he had overeaten and was stuffed. Odd, but I think I understood. He had finally found that satisfaction he had been craving- perhaps very badly.  This wasn’t about what was happening later, it was about what just happened. Better than just a quick snack at the Village café or some fried trash from the poker room menu, tonight, he’d finally sat down at the main restaurant he usually skipped, experienced the full course, and finished with the sweet dessert he’d been wanting.

Otto’s reward.



Dark Star of Vegas


  1. That was a fantastic essay/short story. I loved the way you establish Otto’s character using that familiar image of how the polite among the felted tend to depart and followed it up with further details using the the phantom detective. The best of the blog. Seriously. This is great writing.

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.