reviews

All Vlogs Revealed: Sheils

A new generation of poker players is creating thousands of hours of previously rare poker content: The personal poker video log, aka vlog. In this series, I will attempt to review them all.

“It’s difficult to talk to the camera,” admits Brandon Sheils, a once and now again aspiring poker vlogger. Watching his videos “My Very First Vlog,” “My Poker Journey,” and now another, with the Grand Reopening title of “Life of a Semi-professional Poker Player – #1 How I Won £27K,” one can’t be sure Brandon isn’t done clearing his throat. However, I’m reviewing Brandon because it looks like this latest first video is the one that might stick, and more importantly, it’s an incipient vlog that already contains many important lessons for other aspiring vloggers.

This vlog’s pattern of images – all every visual media is – primarily features extended close-ups of a young and attractive young man, youthful and soft to the point of extreme boyishness. His eyes are amandine and their brows sweeping and heavy. He is the classic handsome young subject, with features from the empire’s various corners: an apparent item of the great isle of cultural intersection but still unabashedly naive.

Critically, Brandon is not shy about relying on that image, however recalcitrant his initial pose – it’s clear he has self-esteem at core and overall appears to be the healthy beloved of a normal family. Brandon seeks out footage of himself from tournaments to include, doesn’t mind dropping a name, calls himself “Wonderboy,” and apparently has aspirations to be a comic. The unstated, possibly unrealized assumption and argument of this pattern is that he is interesting. His camera finds his face and he, in return, loves the lens. One skims through the videos, and one finds for long stretches only the narrating vision of that face. This fixation thus eventually becomes receiving but not giving: it turns out that lens is not often enough the eye of the viewer, who naturally seeks out more and more, but instead a mirror. Compare this to the efforts of Owen to entertain or Neeme to show.

This he will likely overcome. After all, Brandon has a bit of a head start in this little business, with a referenced following on 2+2 in his corner, a formerly well-attended blog, and the natural charisma his appearance affords him. He’ll be able to fade these rough early videos, and so get advice and help should he want to make a real go of it. What he and other new vloggers should learn or remember is that that eye of the viewer is a smart and justifiably fickle one: Brandon’s audience is at present small for a reason. Further, the visual medium, so conducive to easy consumption, is one that inspires higher and higher standards very quickly because the baseline is so minimal and the technical elements long since mastered by the film industry and its market forces.

No matter what you do or what avenue you go down, though, everything always remains of a piece. Part of Brandon’s story, both thematically and in plain fact, is growing up. There are signs Brandon is taking this latest effort more seriously. He looks older, only a few months later since the first piece. The toys, figurines, and childhood paraphernalia which marked the first vlog’s background -and even some expository cutaways – have been noticeably reduced. He is changing: we find Brandon at the beginning of the story in every way and can predict rapid developments should he proceed.

The quirks of Brandon’s personality and life provide real relief to some of his more monotonous personal litanies, a style which has carried over from his blog, a very serious effort but one which is mostly a shopping cart of goals and experiences. (It’s worth noting that the blog is also indifferently formatted, an attractive but endless scroll of images and bullet points burying the reader rather than serving him. Our poker and our life and our art always interweave themselves.) In the first video, he apparently takes one to three hours to pursue some unidentified activity with his cat(s). Despite replaying the stream five times to try to pick up on his verb, I could not make out from his dead enunciation whatever this likable oddity was. He shows us what he loves: candy, his girlfriend, all things soft and cuddly. Of course, as with all seeming teddy-bears and nice guy personalities, the polarization of intolerance is just a brush of the polyester tag away. In one spot he criticizes middle class shoppers for enjoying some upper end alcohol from a public market as pretentious. My, my, not up to the Brandon Sheils’ standard of authentic living.

Narrative details also amuse. He captures his girlfriend Kelly with hints of both pride and teasing. He pays respect to his parents by featuring an English rag’s funny article about their family of “professionals” who crush the games with a “mathematical formula” for winning at poker.  With a certain amount of charming enthusiasm, his eyes literally shining from happiness, he makes observations such as “it still hasn’t sunk in” while his face actually gleams with the full knowledge of winning a recent tournament: self-knowledge is not Brandon’s forte, to a nice effect. He then adds that winning the tournament “was on my bucket list.” Well, yes I would hope that a tournament player’s dreams might include one of those!

Some details really do try the viewer, however. The inane arpeggio which Brandon uses to brighten up his presentation is almost too silly to be annoying; however, he continually stops this repetitive soundtrack to make emphasis, like a bad dancer who can only pause on the one beat, all to remind us that the dreadful claptrap is coming right back for more carousel vengeance. Unlike many of the successful vloggers, who make a distinct effort to amuse and engage the voyeur – to stay ahead of the spectator’s game, in other words, the very mark of the directorial spirit – this unwitting disrespect of the audience is one of those things that mark poor filmic experience. It will be hard to watch much more should this canned treble – the musical version of the candy he comforts himself with- peek out in plastic rainbows from the speakers again. What the audience wants to hear are the sounds that mean something important to the vlogger, or, even better, to the piece itself: caress the details, as Nabokov advised.

One of those details that Brandon is truly good at, unlike many vloggers, is poker itself. Here Brandon is at his most authoritative and interesting. While he gets mildly trolled by Liv Boeree and does not seem to recognize it, Brandon shows us that his skills on the felt are indeed sharp. His hand histories are refreshingly low tech and thoughtful. In fact, in footage provided by Pokerstars – more documentary – the boy seems to be more than just that. Grave and less self-conscious, Brandon focuses well at the table and reveals to us, far more than from all of his chatter, his potential place in the poker world. In his true work, the man always announces himself: Brandon is a poker player.

Poker is also where Brandon is at his most compelling as narrator because now we finally have conflict. Getting beyond his more tiresome bragging quarter-cloaked in tepid self-consciousness, Brandon talks about getting staked: “I have no risk at all.” I’d be uneasy if I were the stakehorse and heard this, and that is good news for Brandon’s vlog: conflict is interest, interest is conflict. Either he has a generous non-markup deal or he’s just indifferent to the mental toll poker and a stake will take on him. The obliviousness of youth- something Sheils has in spades, to be sure – may simply carry him far and the viewer may simply be seeing it in action. (That’s good documentary, but he’ll need to continually open up more to get our attention, a la Robert aka the “Poker Monk,” who took a flagging if good-humored, over-shy poker vlogging trope and made it instantly more compelling by talking about his serious mental and emotional challenges: vulnerability and greatness are inextricably linked in all art, even one as seemingly minor as a video blog.) Brandon’s opinion could also lead to trouble, as he has gone “broke” before – at least as much as a young man who appears to be living at home can be “broke.” His vlogging stakes, in other words, are very often not high enough and are a big part of the unearned interest which he attempts to capitalize upon. The viewer wants more of these real thoughts of this, this real meat about his “semi-profession,” as he calls it. What the viewer doesn’t need is more moralizing on accomplishment, his report cards from the donkament scene (we’re not his parents), or snark about people who he’s too green to understand or have empathy for.

This brings us to the central formalistic test of Brandon’s vlog, and the absolute master key for many others who are attempting to make something of the genre. Butting up against the entire wave of successful poker vloggers, Brandon gives the audience history when what the viewers clearly crave is exploration. (The medium is the message, naturally: this explains the need of the vloggers to show us their commute compulsively if not religiously.) This is an important lesson for all the aspiring video bloggers who want to understand the backbone of, say, Andrew Neeme’s appeal. Now, anything can be made to work, and choosing variations leads to creativity and greatness, but Brandon, in taking this all too easy tack of history rather than investigation, gives the rest of us only the most tenuous hold on his importance and the why that should make our interest in him a more natural one. What world does the vlogger take his lens – the eye of the viewer– into? A retelling of the past or into the present ambitions of an advantage gambler? Which is naturally more suited to the poker situation, its sketchy narrator, and his humble equipment? This is and will be his – and many others’ – great personal challenge as amateur filmmakers.

Brandon’s vlog beyond its formalistic element is a tentative review of the self but not a particularly conscious one. We are instead seeing a young man’s first steps at finding what he wants and what he is good at. This will interest many, especially others in his situation. Compare this to the Boski vlog, whose interlocutor is stringently editing what he knows about himself and giving us only hints – ameliorating interest through mystery – about what the underlying truth is both in narration and in image pattern.

That matters. Brandon’s real story arc, if he can pick it up and then refine it, definitely lies here, because it is in fact gloriously unencumbered and oddly pure compared to many other poker vloggers: the player and his development. What will come of Brandon in poker? Is it all trophies and candy and kittens and Kelly? Where will his next misstep be and will he have the strength to share it with us? What happens without Kelly? Or without _____?

This would be worth the audience’s time. Brandon is at the start, once again, and he and his vlog have the opportunity to become interesting. One has to wonder, though, at Wonderboy: He’s just informed us that he’s going to Thailand “so I won’t be able to do a vlog.” Yes, an adventure in a distant, beautiful, alternately impoverished and luxurious land would definitely not be a good vlogging subject!

However, when the underlying story is that everything good is still to come, it’s hard to go too wrong. Good luck to Brandon and all others getting their vlog off the ground. Now is apparently – and always – the time.

sheils and cat
Hero and cat.

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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.

Analog
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.

Balance
Choosing to support either value bets or bluffs with their converse.

Bet
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.

Block
To remove combinations of hands from a range based on cards in your hand or on the board.

Blockers
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.

Bottom
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.

Bounded
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.

Capitalization
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”.

Capped
A range is capped when it represents little to no nutted combinations as confirmed by prior action.

Cbet
A continuation bet. A bet made by the player with initiative as a continuation of their initiative on a prior street.

Clarity
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.

Combinatorics
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.

Complete
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.

Condensed
A capped range that contains only middling value hands. A range without the polarized portion.

Construction
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.

Deviation
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.

Downbet
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.

Efficiency
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.

Elasticity
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.

Equity
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.

Felted
The result of losing your entire table stakes. All the way down to the felt.

Float
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.

Formation
The convergence of positions, stack depths, and preceding actions at a given decision point.

G-Bucks
A mathematical formula developed by Phil Galfond for calculating the expected value of one’s range construction vs. an opponent’s holding.

GIGO
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.

Initiative
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.

Isolate
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.

LAG
Loose aggressive player type. Generally overused and inaccurate.

Lead
A bet made from out of position after a passive action. Often referred to as a donk bet on the flop.

Leveling
He knows that I know that he knows I know.

Leverage
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.

LFI
Limp First In

Linear
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.

Merge
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).

Nit
A player who will not put chips into the pot without a very strong and sometimes only nutted hand.

Nuts
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.

OMC
Old Man Coffee. Typically an older, retired player that likes to play bingo with ATC, but will only continue with the nuts.

Open
The first voluntary action. The first action or bet to voluntarily enter the pot.

Overbet
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.

Polarized
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.

Protected
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."

Raise
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.

Realization
Taking a hand to showdown and realizing its full equity.  Generally used with regard to passive actions.

Reciprocity
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.

Retention
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.

Robustness
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.

Runout
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.

Smurf
Any one of many possible poker archetypes found at low stakes games.

Squeeze
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.

Stop-N-Go
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.

TAG
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.

Top
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.

Upstuck
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.)

Unblock
A hand that has no negative card removal effects on the target range.  Bottom set, for example, unblocks top pair top kicker.

Uncapped
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.

Unicorn
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”.

Warmer
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.

WIFSUWO
“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.

YMC
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.