Podcast on poker, with a focus on the members and friends of The Back Room, the participant-driven poker study forum. Hosted by Chris M., aka Persuadeo and Dean Martin. Visit us at persuadeo.nl
Poker Zoo 64: Greg Raymer on the Cardrooms
The question of what makes for a successful casino poker room has been on my mind because it has to be: I’ve been running the unusual Sahara deep-stack game and trying to reseed low stakes PLO as well. Hence this series of podcasts dedicated to questions about the industry including Steven Pique, Mason Malmuth, and Fernando Ortiz, each of whom represent a different but critical role in live poker. So, it’s a no-brainer to extend the conversation with Greg Raymer. The WSOP champ can’t help but have a wide and rich experience to draw from; even better, it turns out Greg is a game creator and host himself.
Over the course of the interview, I use some of Mason’s ideas to get at what matters in growing and sustaining live poker. In fact, the question of “luck and skill” that Mason Malmuth and David Sklansky think is at the heart of the game’s success has been specifically on my mind. As a general prescription, it’s hard to argue with or even dispute, but I think there are some wrinkles. After running a private game for years, and now games in the casino, I don’t think we entirely understand the poker economy nor do we give enough respect to the choices of the so-called “recreational players” who essentially fund poker. As I wrote in my update at Red Chip Poker:
The game has not cannibalized the 1/2 games at Sahara, which are on the rise, in spite of Mason and others’ concerns. In fact, what I have seen is players seem to behave like more or less rational actors, and include or exclude themselves without much confusion or regret. When it is the case that a noticeably weaker player comes in and gets stacked more than once, he/she tends not to return and potentially risk more. Games and stake levels, it seems, sort themselves out perhaps even more nicely than we might expect, despite fear over “recs” busting and leaving poker.
Thanks again to Mr. Raymer for coming on, and to Marc Reeves for helping make arrangements.
To be specific, David Sklansky and I feel that the proper balance of luck and skill will allow a strong player to win two out of three four-hour sessions, and the moderately weak player to win one out of three four-hour sessions. So, that’s a rough guideline when this book talks about a proper balance of luck and skill. And
for a poker room to be successful, this idea of a proper balance of luck and skill can’t be stressed enough.
But there’s another important point that statistical theory tells us. It’s the fact that over time the short-term luck factor will dissipate and the expectation (win rate for the experts and loss rate for the recreational players) will dominate, and this is exactly the way it’s supposed to be.
But when saying “supposed to be,” I’m also referring to those games in which the expectation of the experts and the luck factor is in sort of a balance. That is, to say it again, the experts will be sure of doing well after a reasonable amount of playing time, and the recreational players will have their winning sessions to remember. And when this is the case, you can expect the games to thrive in a well-run poker room. Furthermore, games like this are the type of games that the poker room management should strive for. It’s also the type of games that the experts should want to play in to maximize their long-term success, even if it means even if it means that their expected win in their current session might be lower.
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Poker Zoo 63: Mason Malmuth on Live Card Rooms
Twoplustwo publisher and prolific author Mason Malmuth joins the Zoo to discuss a disagreement on luck and skill and how it influences the games, but it quickly turns into a broader conversation about what makes casino poker rooms go. That’s in part thanks to Mason’s announcement of his new book, a work in progress tentatively titled Cardrooms: Everything Bad; An Analysis of Those Areas Where Poker Rooms Need Improvement.
We go over highlights of his concerns, from the microscopic (the angle of the poker tables) to the essential (what makes for a good promotion), and all of it adds up, in Mason’s opinion, to a successful or struggling poker room. Plus, we go back in time and catch up a bit on how his controversial Real Poker Psychology played out.
We didn’t go into the original basis of our chat as thoroughly as I’d like, but having agreed that there is a space for more challenging game structures, such as the deep stack 2/3 game I host at the Sahara, I’m glad we got into the big picture question Mason raises: what makes for an appealing and successful live poker room. After all, if Vegas can’t make poker shine, what city can? His book seems very timely, in the age of Covid, increasingly tough games, and rising rake and costs putting the live scene in peril.
As far as luck versus skill and deep-stack games, it’s true a higher stack to blind ratio is a harder one. However, what quantifies the ideal game, and is skill versus luck really only the only question? I would say no. First off, skill is less quantified than imagined – the deeper we play, the less “solved” or less often solved, the situation is. The binary view is not always as useful in the real games, where everyone is a fish to someone. Simultaneously, everyone thinks they have an edge – are we to deny them competitive opportunities to prove this? Second, 100 bbs is rather arbitrary. Who is to say 50 or 75 is really what the game needs? Should we really all be playing tournaments after all – that would involve some irony. Third, what if we simply don’t want to play what they tell us to? Where does love of the game enter the luck versus skill calculus? How do we allow changes in game culture if our baseline is worrying about losers who in fact often have more money to spend than winners? In other words, do we create the market or does the market create us? Finally, have we lost track of essentials – what about rake? Those short-stack games serve the regs and recs pretty well, true, but who, if anyone, really wins? As legendary live grinder DGAF has pointed out, the game I run is actually one of the best around for players in this respect.
For another recent perspective on what makes the games go, check live Austin grinder and ponderer Fernando on the Zoo.
Part One: Cardroom Procedures
Buy-ins That are Too Large
Transfers Bringing the Wrong Amount of Chips The Must-Move Rule
The Third Man Walking Rule
The Lunch Break Rule
Part Two: Cardroom Attitudes
Everyone Breaks Even
Going to Church
Adversarial Relationship Between Players and Management
Part Three: Dealer Problems
Dealers Selling Chips — Excessive Fills
Dealers Carrying Their Own Trays
Failure to Make Change From the Pot
Dealers Need to Deal
Part Four: Management Issues
Cardroom Managers — Missing in Action
Poker Zoo 62: Poker Room Manager Steven Pique
Today we get the perspective of the people who design and run the casino poker show, thanks to guest Steven Pique. Steven has climbed the poker industry ladder in classic fashion, starting with dealing on the WSOP circuit, moving to the Aria, and now running the Sahara Poker Room.
We go over the details a poker room manager cares about, including how he picks out games and promotions. Steven remains sunny about the future of live poker; our discussion covering Covid, the state of the poker industry, and getting the picky regs and mercurial recs into the seats doesn’t phase him. The coming wave of rooms moving to Poker Atlas comes up. We also get to hear a casino’s perspective on the controversy about Reserved/Private games which has flustered many pros.
I’ve worked with Steven over the past few months to create Vegas’ most interesting low to mid-stakes cash game blend, the 2/3 deep stack time game. We take another step together this week with a different target: making a highly affordable, but action-heavy, PLO game.
Since the Linq closed its room, access to low-stakes PLO on the strip has disappeared. The bait and switch of games with bring-ins keep true low-stakes players from being able to afford the Great Game played live. This has driven many PLO-Curious players to the app games.
To combat this, we’ll be playing 1/1 PLO with a low 50$ min starting Tuesday March 16 at 6 p.m at the Sahara Poker Room. That’s so you can get your feet wet and gamble and not lose too much. However, it won’t be just a game of short-stacks, because it will be no-max buy-in. I promise I’ll put down a pile of money, and you should try to come take it. Combined with a max rake of 4$, this should be good for everyone.
Hopefully, this one is more to Mason’s satisfaction!
First, a common promotion that many poker rooms have is a reward for making certain hands of value, usually four-of-a-kind or better, and sometimes the reward money goes up based on the strength of the hand. And who gets this money?
Well, if you understand how different people play poker, it should be obvious that in most cases the weak players play more hands than the tight strong players, and the more hands you play, the more likely you’re to make one of these strong hands. It’s also my guess, and again this is just a guess, that about two-thirds of this promotional money will go to the weak players. So, in my opinion, this is a good promotion for a cardroom.
Second, I’ve also been in cardrooms where they have seat drawings. I won one recently when my seat was randomly drawn (and the drawing occuring was linked to a casino slot machine jackpot being hit). While this was certainly nice for me, having the money go to me was from a cardroom’s perspective similar to putting putting the money in a wood burning fireplace and burning it.
Of course, live players can also win these drawings, so this is not the worst promotion there is, and I would give it a neutral rating. Not good but not that bad either. However, if it was up to me, random cash drawings would never happen since there are better ways to distribute the promotional money.
Third, many poker rooms have a promotion where in one form or another, they reward players for playing a certain amount of hours. It can be something like $100 for playing 20 hours in a week, and, if you play a full 30 hours, the reward will go up to $200. Another version of this is that players after putting in enough hours (and sometimes the hours will count double), will earn a spot in a free-roll tournament which of course has value,
The Poker Zoo 61: Uri Peleg’s Guerrilla Warfare
Continuing our recent tour of contemporary poker coaches, today the Zoo welcomes Uri Peleg, formerly of Run It Once and now founder and head coach at Guerrilla Poker. Joined by online poker strategy innovator Grindcore, Guerrilla offers a very experienced and compelling take on the GTO/Exploitation paradigm that we’re always working with in contemporary poker. I talk with Uri about several hot button issues, including simplifications versus full strategies, the reality of how strategy works versus how it is often perceived to function, the technology arms race in the game, and close with what Guerrilla is offering. Interestingly, Uri and the Guerrilla team are also applying their minds to the live game, and believe they can help in that sphere as well.
Uri Peleg not only comments on the Daniel/Doug challenge, but with unique insight, having been one of Doug’s sparring partners before the match. Here is a video where he reviews their play. The Guerrilla Youtube channel also includes some of Uri’s earlier videos, including this key piece on solver usage which should remain relevant for a long time.
For comparative insights on how the solver should be used, check out our interview with Thomas Pinnock of Zenith, or any of our interviews with Alvin Lau of Overnight Monster.
The first thing to notice is that QJ is solved as a mixed bet and check. It’s not at all a mandatory bet, and if we look at the villain’s range, we see that villain has a 15% check-raising range which is built mainly around AQ, with a few odd bluffs with hands like KQ or A8. This check-raising range is robust enough to cause the EV of QJ to fall close to 0. So our intuition was indeed correct.
On a superficial level, it may seem like there isn’t much more to say here. However, noting that PioSOLVER chooses the IP player’s bluffs from some low pairs and other hands that have some showdown value, and, furthermore, doesn’t necessarily triple barrel these hands on many rivers, we can see there might be more to learn from these choices than it might seem at first glance.
This brings us to the concept of “showdown value bluffs.” To better illustrate how these kinds of bluffs work, let’s take a step back and look at another example hand…
-from Showdown Value Bluffs on Guerrilla Poker
The Poker Zoo 60: Fernando in Texas
Episode nine guest FAO returns to give us the word on the live poker market. After being a Vegasite for most of post-Black Friday, he’s resettled in the suddenly popular state of Texas, where everything is growing – including the poker. Fernando describes his search for the way out of LV and the lure of the Texas games inflamed by the poker vlogging boom. He discusses the games there and how the desire to gamble big in bomb pots has led to excitement but also influenced the games and the game structures offered. He compares and contrasts the two cultures, Austin and Las Vegas, then closes on the state of our culture at large with an interesting analogy.
Here’s the DGAF interview Dean mentions.
It is a way of comparing how distribution of income in a society compares with a similar society in which everyone earned exactly the same amount. Inequality on the Gini scale is measured between 0, where everybody is equal, and 1, where all the country’s income is earned by a single person.
Gini developed his coefficient in 1912, building on the work of American economist Max Lorenz, who published a hypothetical way to depict total equality – a straight diagonal line on a graph – in 1905. The difference between this hypothetical line and the actual line produced of people’s incomes is the Gini ratio.
In 2012-13, the UK’s Gini score for income inequality was 0.332, as measured by the Office for National Statistics. Individual cities vary in their equality – London is the most unequal, as measured by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, while Sunderland is the most equal.
“The Gini has been around for a very long time, and it’s very technically sound if you want to measure income inequality across the whole population,” explains Andy Sumner, director of the International Development Institute at Kings College, London. “But one might say the Gini is oversensitive to changes in the middle, and undersensitive at the extremes.” – from the BBC
The Poker Zoo 59: Fausto’s Third Eye
Instagram chip pornographer Fausto Valdez returns to the Zoo; has he been following the rules? In any case, Fausto’s been splashing around L.A. long enough to get into the private games and see the real action, plus play some poker. He gives us the lowdown on his run to the high stakes, including a sweet hand where he makes the nuts on the turn versus four-high in a 60k pot: easy game.
We get an update on Fausto’s Blueprint Poker Coaching business, which is continuing to evolve into a solid live poker pathway. Fausto tells us a little about becoming a “lone wolf” as he moves out from the shadow of Solve For Why: not bad for some “old dust.” He sees the way the ahead for the true poker pro: diversifying his income, making babies, and enjoying this brief squabble called life. Shouldn’t be hard, perhaps, if only you can turn on your Third Eye.
Previous zoo installments with Fausto: episode 28 and episode 3.
Return of the 5$pkrclub: Update on the live, low-stakes, deep-stack cash game
As announced, the TBR community will be starting a (hopefully regular) live, low stakes, deep stack cash game at the Sahara Poker Room in Las Vegas. This is based on our popular training game on Pppoker (hit us up about about that if you are interested, as well.)
The basic idea is a low-stakes game with a minimum buy in of 200 bbs and incitement to play very, very deep. Here’s the deal, and it might be the best poker structure ever:
2/3 blinds, 200 bb min buy in, no max buy in, with a time rake of 5$.
Good luck beating that. I chose the Sahara because it is a hidden gem of the Vegas poker scene. Not only is it a nicely appointed, new room with comfortable chairs and tables, the Covid plexiglass apparati is not overdone – we can still have a great and social game.
The first game is scheduled for January 14th at 7 pm at Sahara.
Of course you can just show up, but to help us organize, reserving a seat would be appreciated.
As I discussed with DGAF, I think deep but affordable games are a part of poker’s future. Hope to see you then.
To close, Gerard S., who appears to be restarting his poker blog, on Fausto:
Fast forward two years to now. Fausto and I have attended two S4Y Academies together, played in a handful of 1/2 meet up games, and discussed poker strategy to infinite depths. His coaching has led to me using poker as my primary source of income. Meeting him has led to meeting tons of other poker friends, going to the Academy, and finding many more ways to hone my game. At first, he was just my coach, but then he became my mentor, and now, I’m glad to call him one of my best friends.
“Uhh… what just happened?!” Doug said. “That was like… a hurricane.”
After my second session with Fausto, I headed straight to the casino. I got there at around 5 PM, bought in for 1k, and four hours later, I was leaving with nearly three times that. I ran pretty hot, but I also know that Fausto’s philosophy of generating action at the table helped me get paid on my big hands.
Best poker podcast!
Interesting mix group of personalities. Give wonder poker life stories from farce of life. The host give a great in-depth analysis on hand history. Definitely the best podcasts for serious and casual poker player. A must listen!
One of the best poker podcasts available. Strategy, analysis, theory and interviews put together in a way that is neither overwrought nor underplayed.
Very Underrated Show
Persuadeo is not only an excellent poker mind but a prolific podcaster. He is smoothly articulate and he withdraws words from a massive vocabulary bank. Many great guests and excellent production value as well. Time to start listening to this one!