April 2019
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Math is not idiotic

Math – or, if you prefer, maths – is not idiotic, despite what Barry Greenstein might say.

I’m referring to an incident on last week’s episode of High Stakes Poker.  In a nutshell: Greenstein sucked out on Tom Dwan’s pocket aces in a hand he played horribly, then made a meal of spitting out his supposed new catchphrase: "Math is idiotic".

A couple of years ago, posters on the 2+2 poker forums pledged money to Greenstein’s charity if he’d say "lol donkaments" on TV.  He did it - and made over fifty grand for Children Incorporated.

For an encore, he decided to go again this year.  But this time, instead of a ubiquitous internet poker phrase he plumped for something more obscure, which his son came up with.  It’s a phrase that hardly anybody outside of the Greenstein family’s own poker site seems to have heard of, is not funny and doesn’t even make sense.

Nothing against his charity work, it’s a fine cause, but seriously – that’s the best he could do?

Here we have one of the best and most respected players in the game saying not to worry about whether you’re in a good spot or have sufficient pot-odds to draw to your hand, just go with it if you have a feeling.

I know the luck vs skill debate will run and run, but there can’t be many viewers of High Stakes Poker who would actually think they are watching a programme that showcases the world’s best guessers pitting their gut feelings against each other for hundreds of thousands of dollars?

The way this hand played out has rather spoiled High Stakes Poker for me.  I find it very difficult to believe that Barry would gamble $240,000 in such a poor spot (actually a 3-1 underdog after the flop, which is about as good as he could hope for) just in case a miracle happened so he would get to crowbar in his new catchphrase in order to try to raise a few pennies for the kids.

His EV on this hand is roughly -$200,000.  The charity would make, hopefully – and if the economy wasn’t shot to buggery - another $50,000.

The subsequent clip (which, notably, wasn’t necessary two years ago to explain "lol donkaments") with Greenstein talking about his charity and his lucky feather and how we know math is idiotic while Dwan can’t keep a straight face just makes me more sceptical that there must have been some funky off-camera shenanigans and the whole thing is just a set-up the magic of television.

Anyway, as if I needed to prove it, here is one of the best examples I’ve ever seen that maths is indeed anything but idiotic.  This is taken from a book that Claire bought yesterday, under the guise of being something she can use in class.

The book is "A Passion for Mathematics" by Clifford A. Pickover, and its main selling point was that the author appears to have been on acid when he wrote it.  Questions include "how many digits of pi can you display using a deck of cards?" and "could Jesus multiply two numbers"?

The protagonists in his problems are often rabbits, robots or aliens.  Or robotic alien rabbits.  He writes very colourfully, setting them in scenarios that have little or nothing to do with – frankly – anything at all, and frequently embellishing with oblique conjecture and unnecessary levels of irrelevant detail.

This one, despite being relatively down-to-earth, was my favourite:

You work for a computer company.  Suppose that about 2 percent of the people in your company have AIDS.  A nurse named Julia tests all of the people in your company for AIDS, using a test with the following characteristics.

The test is 98 percent accurate, which we define as follows.  If the individual has AIDS, the test will be positive 98 percent of the time, and if the person doesn’t have AIDS, the test will be negative 98 percent of the time.

You are tested, and, sadly, the test turns out positive.  You lose your health insurance.  Would you conclude from this that you are highly likely to have AIDS?

The significance of the nurse’s name, the type of company you work for or the response of the insurer?  Who cares?

It’s almost certainly the most outrageously tasteless probability exercise ever to grace an actual maths book, yet it still has a grounding in (an albeit grim) reality and shows how mathematics can be applied even in a horrifying life-changing situation.

The answer (look away now if you want to work this one out yourself):






It’s a coinflip.  Precisely 50-50 whether you have it or you don’t, given the criteria in the question.

You can read the explanation in full here:  It’s answer 5.30 on page 365 of the book (page 381 of the document).

Anything but idiotic, I hope you’ll agree.

Want to stay at the Rio for free during WSOP?

All you have to do is take me with you.  I still have oodles of room comp, including 5 free midweek nights at the Rio throughout the Series.  I’m open to offers :)

The 2009 World Series Of Poker schedule is here.

Multitasking man

I’d been meaning to fish out this clip for a while but forgot all about it until I started to hear the results from the WSOP final table.

Craig Marquis is awesome.  He can like do twelve things at once cos he like grew up with computers man.  If you’re struggling to multi-table at online poker, the reason is probably that you’re not young enough.

Steve Friess from The Strip podcast was not impressed. (3 minute clip, direct link)

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Craig finished ninth.  Say it ain’t so.

Brag: In Hendon Mob database – twice

Sort of.

This is me, with the results from some real tournaments I played in and a little England flag, but no mug shot.

Then there’s this geezer – an American who dares to have the same name.  Apparently he cashed in the WSOP Circuit Event in New Orleans last year, so I know it’s definitely not one of my results!

I’m sure the other Christopher is delighted that the picture adorning his achievement is actually yours truly.  This was taken at the Liverpool GCBPT last month.

My staredown missed.  Wide left.

Why I went broke with one pair in level 1

I guess I should talk about this.

For one thing, I can’t leave that embarassing ski-slope graph as the top entry on my blog.  I only need 14 more posts to push it off the bottom completely…

I lost my stack with one pair in the first level of a major tournament.  I completely suck.

It was actually the very last hand of level 1, for what that’s worth, and I had realised this as I’d posted my small blind for 25 just before the clock ticked over.

That’s only significant, because I’m not sure whether or not the villian has also realised this as he made an early position raise to 300.  Was he looking at the clock to see how much to raise, or at the blinds on the table?  Did he think that 300 was three or six times the big blind?  I really can’t be sure.

There were two callers ahead of me before I looked down at pocket queens.  I’d already lost a couple of small pots and was down to 8600 in chips.  Everyone else involved covered me.

I didn’t like the idea of just calling out of position in a four-way pot with a hand that is very vulnerable, but still probably best.  With a nice chunk of cash in the pot already, I made it 1500 to go, hoping to take it down – or be able to lay my queens down if a better hand did decide to speak up.

No such luck (well, obviously).  Villian just called and the player on the button also called.

The flop couldn’t give me a tougher decision to make: 852, all different suits.

First to act, what to do?  The pot is already way too big (4,850) for a pair of queens.  I really hate the spot.

I can’t check/fold.  I just can’t.  But check/raise might not even be an option, and if it is I’m only called if beaten.  That leaves taking a stab at the pot, and I fired 3,000 - leaving me with 4,000 and a remote possibility of getting away from the hand if the other two players go nuts.

The original raiser immediately moved all-in and the button got out of the way.

So I have an overpair to a very low, uncoordinated flop.  I only have to call 4,000 to win about 15,000 but surely I can’t be ahead?  I really really hate the spot now.

So what does Villian have?  The game’s only been going an hour and I don’t have much information, but he seems to know what he’s doing.  And he has a pair of sunglasses.

Pocket 8s, 5s and 2s are all crushing me and would be glad to get it all in right now, but I give him enough credit to be able to pass those hands to my pre-flop re-raise, even if he had raised with them in early position.

OK, there is a possibility but only a very small one, and any set here is a huge enough hand that just calling to try to keep the 3rd player around would be a better play anyway.

Bigger overpairs have me in big trouble too.  Aces and kings would all raise from early position, and may over-raise (if he did so knowingly).  But in this pot, I would expect him to put in a third raise to force out the other two players.

Why would he want to take either of those hands against three other players, especially when he only has position on one of them?

Could he have pocket 9s, 10s or jacks?  The big pre-flop raise is a particularly popular weak-ass move with pocket jacks, and those hands all look pretty good here.  But are they worth going broke with?  Not really.  Maybe if he gets to do the betting or raising, but they’re certainly not worth a call all-in.

But he might figure I can fold some hands that beat his, or factor in the chance that I’m making a play with AK (which I would often play exactly the same way).  He could even be making a move with AK himself.

The pot is simply too big and what I thought was a worthwhile pre-flop stab and a compulsory continuation bet has turned the hand into a disaster.  I should have just mucked those queens, or just called to try to flop a set, then waited another couple of hours for a better spot.

But what matters now is this decision.  Can I be ahead often enough to justify calling for the nearly 4-1 pot odds I’ve ended up with?

Obviously I decided yes, and I obviously was wrong.  He had two kings.

I blame the other players in the hand.  If they hadn’t called along pre-flop, I could have made my re-raise smaller and the pot would stay under control.  Also, if they hadn’t been involved I’d have given villian much more credit for a big pocket pair.

Oh my god it’s an awesome trap.  Oh noes he got me.  He got me good.

But although he won my chips which clearly makes it genius, I hate the smooth call with KK there.  Talk about giving yourself the best possible chance of losing.  Either I have pocket aces or I don’t, and the flop made no difference to whether his hand is best or second best so why wait until then to get the money in, after giving two other players a chance to catch up?

He has much more information pre-flop about my hand than I have about his.  With some certainty he should know that I don’t have 2s, 5s or 8s and so, by that reasoning, I should have been able to narrow his range for making this play down to almost exclusively AA.  If that was the case, I’d gracefully admit that I got it wrong and fell for a clever trap and write "nice hand".

As it is, I’m just going to say "Kings? What the fuck?".

It’s not a great deal of consolation to be honest though.

Live updates: GCBPT Liverpool £500 Main Event (Day 1a)

I suppose a rock’s out of the question

This could be the most paranoia-inducing vending machine ever.

"Please dont rock.  Your being watched".  The terrible grammar just makes it even scarier.

I’m not surprised they’ve had rockin’ issues in the past though, having found out the hard way just how much coffee you get for 50p.  It’s barely half a small cup.

In other interesting back-stories that I can only imagine, there’s this sign on the bed:

Bunk beds?  You don’t get them in those regular hotels, but I’m staying in France’s favourite unmanned hotel chain, Formule 1.  Except this one fails in the virtually human-free department because you actually have to check in at the Ibis next door with a real person, rather than just swiping a credit card and hoping all the right automatic stuff happens.

From my room, I have an excellent view of the skate park.

But you just can’t beat a self-cleaning toilet.  They’re pretty impressive, and how they manage to wash down the cubicle but leave the toilet paper dry is still a bit of a mystery.

Live updates: GCBPT Liverpool £200 Freezeout

BYO Chips

So the first tournament didn’t go too well.  The structure actually sucks pretty bad, which is a shame because the next one is exactly the same.  They skip right past 75/150 and 150/300 to get right up to a level where half the players are short stacked in under two hours.

By the time I busted, blinds had just ticked over to 400/800 with 100 ante and the average stack for the 80-something remaining players was about 10,000.  I had no cards and very few stealing opportunities (with several other players already pushing any two cards) so I ended up with little else I could do than move all-in with junk and hope that hands like TJ and 63 would fold.  They didn’t.

I haven’t recognised any poker celebs yet but I was briefly graced by the presence of the Betfred Women’s Poker Tour Champion 2007, Lynne Beaumont, at my table.  I know this because it said the title on her shirt, and I used Google just now to find her name.

Clearly an achievement to be proud of, this award had also netted her an absolutely unpatronising cash prize of one thousand pounds, as well as the chance to be a human billboard for the next year.  Taking full advantage of her free ride, Lynn arrived at the table two hours late and busted on her first hand.

Anyway, as seems to be necessary in all the best trip reports, I won my buy-in back on blackjack/roulette/The Cash (* delete as appropriate).

I had been scoping the blackjack game, and depending on how quickly you earn "Fortune Points" (Gala’s slot club, which also tracks table play) it could be a good gamble, but today it was The Cash.

In fact, this was my first ever foray into live cash games at an actual British casino that is really a casino.  It surprised me a little that the game had a "BYO Chips" policy and was therefore played mostly with folding money.  The dealer didn’t have a rack and the card room wouldn’t sell chips so you had to go and buy them from another table game.

Or you could wait for a sucker like me to change up his entire roll and buy them from him.  Which is awesome, because I love handling cash given to me by strangers in a casino.

I would like to think I was responsible for one mega-tilt hand after my two pair beat another two pair.  He clearly thought his A6 was way ahead when I just called with AJ on a JT6xA board.  With one more player still to act, I was going for the overcall rather than shoving for less than a full raise into a possible made straight.

Next hand he straddled on the button for £4. I think this is a Mississippi straddle, never seen it played that way before and not really sure how it affects the action, but it didn’t really matter here.  The big blind was having none of it and immediately re-straddled for £8 and the pissing contest began.  It went £16, then £32, then his remaining £46 all-in and called.

Finally they let cards get dealt.  Nobody had a £46 hand so we saw J6 race against 52, with a 5 on board to send Mr Tilt off to see if the cashier would let him exceed his ATM limit.

Live updates: GCBPT Liverpool £100 Freezeout