trip reports


I’ve been playing poker a long time – too long. While life events took me off the path of guns and glory, greatness and bracelets, when I do stray outside my routine of being the unknown in games small and big all over, it’s mostly to return to the play in the game. Because I remember enjoying poker, enjoying it maybe too much. That bug that unites all of us in the poker community – I had it as much as any of you.

Red Chip Poker has been a big part of keeping that flame burning for me. You see, poker can be a miserable experience when your life is out of order. And I’m not just talking about lack of community or socializing or whatnot; all that is important but there is something more essential.

The truth is, the games continue soft at most stakes. We see this in our local haunts. We see this on television. We most of all see it in poker vlogs, where we get almost shocking up to date proof that we’re all limited, no matter how much training or computer assistance we get.

So what’s the problem, you say? Well, that state of affairs can be… boring. We’re not robots, especially those of us past our youthful love of repetition. Taking my wins from the dull regs who never fight for the pot, or even worse, are now partaking in the new, quasi-correct culture of nittiness inspired by GTO mythologies is not interesting. (That it is currently hip to be nitty – I’ve never seen so many YMCs – is grim irony for those of us who remember more exciting days.) There is no flame to be had here.

That’s why I like playing with students of the game, friends, and long-term rivals more than anything in the world. More to the point of this article, that’s why I attend every RCP meetup and create more of them on my own. Poker is a relational game, meaning if the optimal contract is broken by any player by design or accident, the flood of exploits comes tumbling into the possible. When we play with people we know, we are probing these limitations to the extreme, wide awake. We are compelled to play our best. So large game or small game, this is where the fun is, where that flame is.

I remember the first RCP meetup well. The next year, we moved on not only to the best event in RCP history – the LATB game, one which begs for some sort of revival, but to meetups in other spots in the country. Some were covered by Zac, some discussed by vloggers, some only in my forum at this point. However, each of them without exception yielded the kind of excitement and interest that you had when you first caught the bug.

Everyone has their own storylines in these meetups. I can’t even pretend to know them all, but that’s what you want. Me vs. Fausto is always a good one. After having his number for most of our time together, this summer at the Nugget he smashed me up, using some new, completely unbalanced lines that I was a hair behind in recognizing. That’s going to make our next match up all the more interesting. That’s a lot more enticing than extracting “value” from Limp-Call Carl at the local degen palace.

Current case in point: My former student and associate Porter has it in for me – and with good reason. I’ve stayed a step ahead of him in our battles, so he’s always looking for revenge. It’s a great storyline to have in your poker life – the grudge match. This summer I took him down again, inciting his eagerness to once again drive to vegas for our most recent meetup, which I advertised on RCP (and will always do so, to let you all get into the fray). We tour the rooms of vegas as the 5$pkrclb, a codeword we use sometimes. We have mixed games, too, to broaden the appeal and expand our reach. In fact, we had a great time at the now-defunct Treasure Island poker room, playing dealer’s choice with Red Chip, TBR, S4Y, and even School of Cards members – thanks to Steve “ChipXtractor” Catterson for bringing in his boys Blake and Matt Vaughan.

We like to play deep stacked when we play no-limit. All bets are off (seems like a dumb expression in a poker article) when we put 500 bbs on the table at the uncapped Nugget one two game, or when we can convince a floor manager elsewhere to do our bidding. We want to play for that perfect stake – you know, the one where it hurts enough to matter but you’re bankrolled to play on forever. After all, poker isn’t really even much of game until you’ve got enough on the table to make meaningful decisions for, when every street is painful and there’s more to go.

All of us who play bigger have taken some big losses in these small games, and, amusingly, go back to 5/10 to make up it up – both Porter and I had to do this in 2018. Yet the games are easier at any bigger stake after you’ve dealt with strong players who have it in for you. The cycle of learning together is always a good one.

Sometimes, it is the simple congeniality that matters. On our latest gathering, just a few weeks ago in Las Vegas, I had a day to wait before the games. Being fresh off an early, early plane, I wasn’t quite in the mood for cards yet, and instead hung out with one Joe Offsuit. I followed this intermittent RCP member to downtown, where he showed me some advantage gambling while I partook of the free drinks. His discipline was extraordinary, and made it look easy to capture black jack and video poker money, while he talked about his life and interests. Gambling isn’t my bag, and maybe not yours, but a fruit of treating poker as a social game is learning about the people that compose the scene. (Plus I just love Joey’s handle – what nickname could possibly be better!??)

Of course, mainly you want to get better at poker, that is why you are here, no doubt. Nothing is better than drinks after the brawl to discuss the strategy. That’s de rigueur. Since the WSOP, Monte Christo at Caesars has become a favorite spot. It can be hard to get a good drink almost anywhere – I suffer immensely at the Borgata – but they can handle the task at this agreeable, tobacco-infused salon. Some meet-up discussions are legendary – no will will forget chatting with Limon for hours at another cigar spot, Casa Fuente, about the present and future of poker while he drained mojitos. And of course, it was a fellow Red-Chipper who invited me to take part in the Wednesday Discussion Group at Ricardo’s, which gave me something to scribble about.

There’s always a dinner or two, as well – why go to Vegas if you aren’t going to partake? For this trip, it was Lotus of Siam, where we squeezed in twenty players for all the varieties of food that fish sauce and lime juice can support. Fernando ordered a whole catfish which was cooked into jerky. (Well, win some lose some on that front.) But Christian Soto and several attendees of the most recent Solve For Why Academy joined us -tt can’t help but be a good time. The threat of credit card roulette keeps things interesting. (I run really well at that, so watch out.)

It’s also a time for a bit of business. Fausto and I discussed some potential plans for 2019, which will be of significant interest for those who enjoy his style. Often I meet players who want to discuss their issues in person and who are potential candidates for coaching. Choosing a coach can be difficult but it’s naturally a lot easier when you get to actually play and talk with them.

A bonus on this last trip was my student Moldyfish’s appearance on Friday Night Poker. It’s not only good news whenever you see someone in your circle move up, it’s important to support them. So, before Lotus we all went to the Pokergo studio to root for him while he butted heads with the poker elephants and media darlings. Solidarity makes for a better poker experience, especially when you take it on the chin.

I can’t say I’ll do this forever, but the meet-ups give me something else to look forward to. Between events, I enjoy coaching and apparently do it well. In fact, I’ll be running my fifth Easy Game study group once we add a couple names to the wait-list. Easy Game is a special book, maybe among the few that even Christian Soto wouldn’t want to burn. After all, this is where ideas of capitalization, polarity versus the merged, and other exploitative, counter-cultural poker concepts were first put down on the page.

Easy Game is a special book, a kind of half-journal, half-notebook of an actual high-stakes player. This is a rarity in the literature, which is mostly composed of low to mid stakes players capturing and reordering the thoughts of greater performers. Seidman existed right on the divide of the poker development timeline, when quantifiable game theory was beginning to take over. Seidman looks forward and backward, predicting many of the developments we now think of as cutting edge while not having the benefit of the solver in front of him. His thoughts are searching and can help any player improve, both as thinker and performer. He can be funny, too. His essential mental game advice is basically, “I play in softer games than you and so I’m happier than you.” A prescription for the ages.

We can’t always be playing against each other of course. However, solidarity can still be a key to a player’s survival. You may not be able to guess just how connected the poker world is, how the player you admire is secretly staked and coached by legend X, how they all consult each other when they babble about “hitting the lab,” but you can take part in the same togetherness. This is why I run my coaching practice as I do, insisting on participation over payment for forum membership (yes I kick people out all the time), and keep an endless chat of what seems like a billion messages running, day and night.

After all, it’s only one player per hand at the table, not off. Join the fray next time you can.

This piece appeared first on Red Chip Poker. Find me on skype, through a contact form on this site or simply on gmail (persuadeo@) for Easy Game or meet-up info.

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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.