Creating Your Own Luck at Poker

October 14, 2017 Leave a comment

Poker is a game of skill and luck. It’s hard to quantify exactly how much luck is a factor. The luck aspect helps draw new people into playing the game because everyone has a chance of winning. Put an average person in a 1v1 basketball match versus Lebron James and you can predict how the game will turn out. However put that same person in a heads up poker game versus Phil Ivey and it’s a different story. Still there are ways to influence the luck factor so will naturally find yourself winning more chips when you have the best hand and losing less chips when you have the worst hand.

Pick a Good Seat

Position is really important in poker. Being able to see what other players do first gives you valuable information with which you can use to make better decisions. Similar to most games, turn order proceeds in a clockwise manner. As such chips will tend to move in a clockwise manner too meaning, all other things being equal, you will lose chips to the players on your left while you will win chips from the players on your right. Hence a good seat is one where the better players are on your right and the weaker players on your left, one where the players on your right have a lot more chips while the players on your left have less chips, and one where the players on your right play more loose while the players on your left are tighter.

Make a Multifaceted Plan

Let’s say you are dealt 9♠8♠. Now compare how both a beginner and expert player would plan out their actions for the hand.

Beginner’s plan:

Plan A: limp preflop, hope nobody behind me raises and flop a huge hand

Expert’s plan:

Plan A: raise preflop to win the blinds
Plan B: c-bet on the flop to win the pot since mathematically it’s hard for anyone to flop a good hand
Plan C: bet again on the turn to win the pot if the card gives me extra outs or is a scare card
Plan D: bet again on the river to win the pot if the card completes my draw or is another scare card

As you can see, a beginner will passively put in chips (by calling) with non-premium holdings in the hopes of winning the pot when he or she flops a huge hand (hint: it won’t happen often). On the other hand an expert will aggressively put in chips (either by betting or raising) in the hopes that other players will fold and in the event they don’t, he or she still has back-up options. For the multifaceted plan to fail, Plans A-D have to all fail (which is much less likely to happen) while all it takes for the beginner’s plan to fail is one bad flop.

Play Your Blockers

Let’s say you’re holding A♠Q♡. The board is Q♠8♡7♠  3♢  2♠. You just checked and the other player moved all in. Now you’re contemplating whether he hit the flush on the river or is trying to bluff you because the river is a good scare card for him. You will have to call some percentage of the time with your range (ie bluff-catchers) to prevent other players from exploiting you. However not all bluff-catchers are equal. Consider the same situation as earlier, but this time you’re holding A♡Q♡. Yes you have the same hand, but there is a huge difference in these two spots. In the first scenario, you’re holding the A♠ which means there are far fewer combinations of flushes the other player could be value betting. Hence when you call with A♠Q♡, you will run into a flush much less often than when you call with A♡Q♡. Even though both hands beat all bluffs and lose to all flushes, one hand will run into a flush a lot less often than the other, making it a better hand to bluff catch with.

Leave Chips out of the Rack

Let’s say you’ve made $300 the past few hours and decide to play only one more hand since you have dinner plans after. How much would it suck to lose all (or a significant portion) of your profits on your final hand? A lot. That is when loss aversion has its biggest impact. Typically players aren’t going to commit a lot of chips without a very strong hand to preserve their profits and go home on a high note (I’m sometimes guilty of this too). Knowing this what you should be doing is looking to play a pot with that person with the intention of bluffing very often. The corollary of course is you shouldn’t telegraph you’re leaving soon (by racking up your chips a few minutes beforehand) or else other players can take advantage of that. When you play with chips in the rack you might as well wear a sign that says “Please bluff me because I’m going to fold”.

When you have AA, you will lose to KK eighteen percent of the time. When you shove with a flush draw, you’ll hit it thirty-five percent of the time. Not even Phil Ivey can change those odds. However when I talk about getting more lucky at poker, I mean creating situations where you are more likely to win chips. In a way this luck depends on one’s skill level so this post’s title is a bit of a misnomer (#clickbait). Improve your skills and you will find the cards that come out will be more in your favour.

Categories: Sports

Poker Goals

October 27, 2016 Leave a comment

I’ve been playing poker on a regular basis for a while and unfortunately I don’t think I’ve improved significantly over the past twelve months. Even though I’m still a winning player (not that it means much since I’m playing at the lowest stakes available), I’m not winning the maximum I could. After talking to some friends and doing some reading, I realized there are three key areas I can work on that would help me improve:

Paying Attention

I barely pay attention at the table because I’m usually on my phone. I’m either browsing through social media or catching Magikarp on Pokemon Go (yes I’m fishing in more ways than one when I sit at the poker table). When I don’t pay attention I miss out on valuable information. It’s much easier to pay attention when I’m involved in a hand, but that happens what I estimate to be less than twenty-five percent of the time. The other seventy-five percent of the hands I’m dealt I fold preflop and either zone out or go back to my phone. When I’m not involved in a hand, other people are still playing their hands and it’s important to take mental notes when hands go to showdown.

One thing I can work on is to look left preflop before I act and see what other players intend to do. When I’m dealt a hand I don’t look at it until it’s my turn to avoid giving tells as to what I want to do. However most players I play against look at their cards immediately and many blatantly give away their intentions such as holding out calling or raising chips or doing the “fold hold” (cards pinched between their thumb and index finger). It goes without saying knowing what other players want to do before I act makes my life a lot easier at the table.

It also goes without saying if my phone is distracting me at the table then I simply have to stop using it while I’m sitting at the table. I don’t want to delete Facebook or Instagram from my phone, but I recently read online one little trick you can do to limit the amount of time you spend on mobile apps is to move them off your home screen. Move the apps you want to use often to your home screen so you’re more likely to use them.

Recording Hand Histories

All the successful players constantly stress about how important it is to review hands and study away from the table. I barely study and it shows at the table because very often I find myself in spots where I’m not sure whether I should call a bet, value bet or run a bluff. When I record the hands I’ve played and analyze them at home, I can see my mistakes and whether or not I’m profiting. For example if I want to see the flop with a small pocket pair, I need to make on average at least ten times the amount I put in preflop. That’s only a general rule, but it makes the math easy when I’m figuring out whether or not I have the correct odds to call a bet at the table. If I’m not making ten times the amount I put in preflop with pocket pairs, then there’s something with my play I would need to address.

To put this in SMART goal terms, it would be to record at least two hands per hour each session and to post on Two Plus Two at least five times a week. I have a voice recorder app so all I have to do if I want to record a hand is to narrate how it played out then when I get home I can input it in Poker Hand Replayer. This saves me brain power from having to memorize hands for several hours. When I’m sitting at the table, I want to devote my energy towards making the best decision in the current situation, not having to mentally keep track of other things technology can do for me. Posting hands online allows me to get feedback from other players and that’s valuable. I’ll also comment on hand histories other people post to practice articulating my thought process throughout a hand. This leads to the third area I want to work on:


This is very broad since everyone can improve their strategy. My goal is to be able to articulate the reasoning behind every decision point. Two simple questions to ask myself is what’s my value or bluff target? When I value bet, I have to be able to say I’m betting because I put villain on a range of A, B and C and I want him to call with A and B since he puts me on a range of X, Y and Z. When I bluff, it’s because I played that hand consistent with how I would play a monster hand and villain’s range is largely weak one pair hands that will fold often enough for me to make a profit.

Planning ahead usually answers the question of why I’m taking a specific action. To quote an old proverb: failing to plan is planning to fail. Before I make a bet on the flop, I know the other player has only three options: fold, call or raise. I also know there are only forty-seven different possible turn cards, some of them good for me, some of them not so I can begin formulating profitable plans. A simple one involves bluffing the flop with 8h 9h on a 7h Ts 2s flop. Even if you get called, there are a lot of good turn cards for your hand. Any 6 or J will give you a straight. Any spade or A or K is a scare card for the other player (they always put you on AK when you raise preflop) so you can continue bluffing. Furthermore any heart or 8 or 9 gives you more outs. That’s seventy percent of the deck which is a really profitable situation to be in.

I consider these goals to be basic and on paper they seem very easy to achieve. I want to build these habits first so things like picking up physical tells and articulating my thoughts become natural. Then I can work on more advanced stuff like equity calculations, range analysis and game theory optimal plays in different scenarios.

Categories: Uncategorized

VUL Summer 2016 Recap

August 31, 2016 Leave a comment

The biggest thing I look forward to each summer is ultimate so when the season ends, it’s somewhat depressing for me. Nevertheless it has always been fun playing and meeting new people every season. In previous years, I’ve warmed up for summer by playing the Spring Hat League, but didn’t play this spring. Instead I worked on my cardio a few times each week in April. By cardio workout, I did only two minutes of jump rope and five minutes of suicides (#HIIT) each time. It doesn’t sound much, but it somehow helped and I felt physically better than in previous years.

For the third summer in a row, I played on two teams:

Butterfingers (Summer Edition)

It’s been too long so I lost count, but I think it’s my sixth season playing with this team? Not gonna lie, this was the most disappointing season in recent memory. Part of it was we won only two games the entire season although we were initially placed in a higher division than the one we registered for. I didn’t organize as many team socials (I’m sorry) and there wasn’t as much activity on our team’s Facebook page as in previous years  😥 This isn’t to say the season was terrible (the only thing terrible about this season was our record and goal differential). It’s just I enjoyed the previous few seasons a lot more than this season.

There are two things I’d personally like to do differently next summer: spend more time playing cup instead of mid and give the ladies more under cuts instead of dump cuts.

I’m one of the faster people on my team and have the stamina to keep up with the demands of playing cup so it only makes sense I play cup instead of my usual position at mid. In a zone defense, cup is the easiest position to play so we usually let the newer players play that role. If the cup makes a mistake, the mids can bail them out. However if the mid makes a mistake, well that’s GG (#YouHadOneJob) which is why ninety percent of the time I’ve played mid.

Most of the time when a female receives a disc, I immediately try to give her a dump cut to receive an easy backwards throw. It looks harmless since everyone receives the disc often, but I recently realized the females (or anyone else) on our team aren’t going to get better if they don’t learn how to fake their mark and throw forward more often. After all I didn’t get to where I was today if all I did whenever I received the disc was throw a backwards dump pass to a handler.


It was my first season playing with this team and despite our record, I consider it a success. Many people were playing this sport for the first time and I’m pleased with how much people have improved despite our team not scheduling any practices and having to learn everything on the fly. Again we barely held team social events which was a bit disappointing although I think a big reason was everyone had completely different schedules.

So I legit handled the majority of the time with my new team (those who’ve played with me should realize that every time I said I’ll handle, I always end up cutting ¯\_()_/¯ ). As such I’ve been hucking a lot more with a moderate degree of success. By success I mean that many times my throws didn’t go to my intended target, but a different teammate still caught the disc so they made me look better than I actually am.

For next summer (I assume there will be a next time), I’d say the priority is to schedule practices. It’s important to understand the fundamentals like pivoting, throwing and marking (#UseTheForce) first. Looking back I should have spent five minutes before each game running drills with the team. Also I’d like to work on improving team defense as well. It’s frustrating when we’re playing person-defense and opposing cutters catch an easy pass for significant yard gain when their mark is nowhere nearby. You hear it all the time in professional sports how important pitching is in the MLB and how defense wins championships in the NBA. Ultimate is no different. At the elite levels, there are very few turnovers so the team that wins is the one whose defensive line can force more turnovers.

The season might have just ended, but I’m already looking forward to what next summer brings. In the meanwhile I might play Fall Turf in October since it’s a bit different from traditional 7 v 7 ultimate. The only thing stopping me is weather (#raincouver), but we’ll see.

Categories: Sports

I’m Back!

August 25, 2016 Leave a comment

So I randomly logged back on my WordPress account and didn’t realize it’s been over three years since my last blog entry :O

I plan to blog on a somewhat regular basis for the next while even though my life will get a lot more boring once summer ends. I still have some drafts I never got around to posting and can go over my IAM notes for ideas. Let me know if you have topics you’d like me to blog about!

What’s new with my life these past three years?

Short answer is nothing.

Slightly longer answer is I’m still chasing a piece of plastic across the park, dodging two-out draws and building prosperous farms. I’ve been playing billiards (8-ball) and recently learned how to play Magic:the Gathering. Unfortunately I’m still the same height. I still think my growth spurt is coming soon. Oh and I’ve had my first coffee in almost five years just last June.

Word of advice: don’t play Pokemon Go. It’s dangerous and addicting. I hurt my knee from playing that game D:


Categories: Uncategorized

On Spec Work

August 3, 2013 Leave a comment

Speculative (spec) work, as defined by the No!Spec campaign, is any kind of creative work made and submitted by a designer to a prospective client/employer before securing a means of compensation. Common examples include contests for a company logo where thousands of designers submit their entries, but only one person or a small percentage will win any kind of prize. At first glance, this seems to be a win-win situation for both parties because designers publicly showcase their portfolio while clients pay the minimum to see numerous designs.

Campaigns such as No!Spec and AntiSpec argue spec work is unethical because designers who submit their entries to such contests usually lose all the rights to their work and not get paid at all. However these designers have a choice. They are aware they may not be compensated for their work and no one is forcing them to participate. If people choose to work without compensation, that is up to them and there is nothing wrong with exercising that freedom. As Nick wrote, spec work exists because people choose to participate in it.

Spec work forces designers to undercharge themselves to try and stay ahead of the competition, thus devaluing the profession. Again there is nothing wrong with this as it’s simply the reality things are valued differently. For example if I was hungry, I could choose to eat at McDonald’s for five dollars or spend fifty dollars at a more elaborate restaurant such as The Keg. If everyone didn’t value the nutritional quality a steak provides and started going to McDonald’s for food, The Keg might go out of business. We wouldn’t say it’s unethical to choose cheap food over a gourmet meal. Saying that, it’s up to the clients if they want to pay for a cheap design through spec work.

Although I agree many times it’s not in the designer’s or even the client’s best interest to participate in spec work, I do not see anything unethical about this practice. The success of sites such as Crowdspring and 99designs suggests spec work will be around and designers should find a way to adapt to the system.

Categories: Global, Life

A Simple Question to Get Closer to the Truth

July 3, 2013 2 comments

I think I read this in either Janine Driver’s book You Can’t Lie to Me or somewhere online a while ago, but I didn’t think about applying the concept until recently. We’ve all been in situations similar to where we want to know who ate the last cookie or who broke the vase on display. There is a group of suspects, but no one will admit to it. One question to ask that can give you plenty of information is who do you think is innocent?

When you find yourself among a group of people suspected of something, you expect to be asked questions such as who do you think is guilty or where were you two days ago? Of course the culprits will have some response planned out (ie a lie) if they have no intention of admitting to any wrongdoing. When you ask an unexpected question, people (innocent and guilty) will be caught off guard and tend to respond in a more natural way. Thus it is less likely the culprit can deceive you.

A guilty person will want to establish innocence and/or make someone else look guilty. However when you ask who do you think is innocent, you remove both that person’s ability to establish his or her innocence and to make someone else look guilty. An innocent person will have no problem establishing someone else’s innocence, whereas a guilty person will be uncomfortable with it knowing it increases the chances of the guilty person being found out when he or she helps establish someone else as innocent.

In my (limited) experiences, I found guilty people have a hard time naming one person who they thought was innocent. It’s important to establish a baseline to see how far a person tries to establish innocence though. Furthermore if you ask the same question to everyone in the group there may be patterns in the responses you can pick up. Let’s say Ann, Brad, Claire, Derek and Eva are among a group of suspects. If everyone thought Claire is innocent, chances are she is actually innocent. However if everyone’s name except for Brad’s was mentioned when you asked the question, that could very well mean Brad is guilty.

I like this question because it’s non-threatening. You aren’t making any accusations or implying anything when you ask that question so if you notice unusual patterns in the responses or someone uncomfortably answering that question, it should trigger a red flag. It doesn’t always mean that person is guilty, it means you should investigate that person further.

Categories: Bulletin

On Celebrities as Role Models

June 26, 2013 Leave a comment

A role model is someone who by his or her actions sets an example for others to follow. One reason we look up to other people is that modeling our behaviour after others is common. There is an evolutionary advantage to it. It is important for infants to adapt to the environment by mimicking the behaviour of others in the same setting. Furthermore psychology studies have shown we mimic others to increase the chances of their liking us and hence facilitate smoother social interactions.

Usually society looks up to celebrities as role models because they’re famous. We want to be as rich and successful as these people so it’s only natural for us to want to emulate their behaviours. They make all their money and achieve celebrity status because the public willingly pays to see them perform so they owe something back to their fans. As a consequence society demands these people to constantly behave perfectly.

Saying that, I believe celebrities don’t have any obligation to be positive role models for society. They are humans with their own shortcomings too and they have the right to pursue what makes them happy. In 2009, Chris Brown assaulted his then girlfriend Rihanna. However today, they are back together. Since then she has received a lot of criticism from the public because the message Rihanna is sending to young women (many of whom look up to her) is domestic violence is ok and it’s ok to continue dating someone who physically assaulted you. Rihanna is an autonomous individual with her own needs, desires and emotions and they should be respected as such.

Secondly their lives are very different from ordinary people since only a handful of the world’s population will become rich and famous. It would be unrealistic to expect to live the glamourous lifestyle we see celebrities enjoy today. One problem is many celebrities receive more lenient sentences (relative to the rest of society) when they break the law. This suggests to the public the consequences for committing misdemeanours are minimal. However that is a different problem involving the legal system, irrelevant to whether those people are celebrities or role models.

There is also the issue of personal responsibility where people should be taught how to think for themselves and accept the consequences of their actions. Even though celebrities have a strong influence on society, they can’t be held accountable for the actions of others. If Megan Fox wants to continue smoking marijuana or Mel Gibson continues making homophobic comments, that’s their choice. I can’t blame them if I do the same thing and find myself in trouble with other people.

Lastly for celebrities, it’s not their job to be positive role models for society. Sidney Crosby’s job is to play hockey, Brad Pitt’s job is to act and Selena Gomez’s job is to sing. They make all their money and achieve celebrity status because the public willingly pays to see them perform. When I buy a ticket to an Eminem concert, I understand I am going to listen to him rap about sex, drugs and shoving a gerbil up his own ass, not hear him give a sixty minute anti-bullying speech.

I agree with Brande Victorian not everyone is suitable to be a role model. For many people, their role models also include family members and friends. It’s not a title we automatically give simply because they share a close personal relationship with us or are constantly in the media. Being a role model is a distinction one has to earn, not forced to accept due to certain lifestyle choices and celebrities are not any different.

Categories: Global, Life