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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.

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Categories: Sports

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.

Discmember

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

Vancouver Ultimate League Summer 2013

May 17, 2013 2 comments

Just wanted to say that I’m excited for this summer’s VUL season :). For the first time, I’m playing two nights a week so I’ll be getting plenty of exercise this summer (the past three seasons I played only once a week).

After the first week of games, I’m feeling pretty good about myself physically. In previous seasons, the first few weeks are tough for me since I’m out of shape from the lack of physical activity during the winter and spring and it takes a while for me to regain the same level of conditioning that I’m accustomed to playing at. However last spring, I played ultimate in a hat league so I’m already in shape for the summer.

This is also the first time since I was introduced to ultimate that I’m playing with new people (it’ll probably be the last time too). We played two games and won both of them by one point so that’s a good start to the season. We had good team chemistry even though most of us hadn’t played together before and everyone received the disc several times which was great since I was afraid some of the new players weren’t going to receive the disc at all during the game.

There are two things that I’ll be working on this summer:

1. Watching my language
Yup I’m serious about this. Whenever I make a bad pass or fail to catch the disc, I usually let out an expletive or two. This detracts from the spirit of the game. Last week, our team got only a 6.7/10 for our spirit score. I’m not sure why, but I’ll assume that part of the reason was due to my swearing.

2. Hucking
Throwing is my weakest area. I’ll be playing handler a lot more this summer since one of the teams I’m on has more inexperienced players. This will give me more opportunities to practice hucking the disc (those who have seen me play will realize that I’m not much of a threat to huck the disc when I have it).

I’m hoping to win the keg of beer at the end of summer. I’ve never been close to winning it, but I’m expecting great things this summer >:)

Categories: Personal, Sports

What I Learned From Ultimate

March 25, 2013 Leave a comment

It all started in the summer of 2008 when my friends and I casually tossed the frisbee after our organic chem lectures. To make a long story short (after all I did spend a lot of time learning about the wonders of Grignard additions and Claisen condensations), I enjoyed that activity so I signed up with my friend’s ultimate team when he invited me to join the following fall semester. Four years later, ultimate has become my favourite sport and I’ve learned a lot from playing it:

Self-confidence

Being able to compete at a high level against other players is a huge confidence booster since I realized that my height isn’t that big of a detriment as I had initially thought. My biggest highlight is when I caught a callahan (ie intercept the disc in the opponent’s endzone) when my check was a 6’0 200+ lbs man. Also I’ve had to mark a 7′ player once during a game which was an interesting experience…What I lack in height I make up in speed and awareness so many times I can beat my check to any spot on the field to receive a pass from a teammate.

Awareness

As mentioned earlier, I have good field awareness meaning I know where the other thirteen players on the field are and what they are doing. On offence, I have to look for open space then make a cut to that space without getting in my teammates’ way if they are making their own cuts. On defense (especially for zone), I have to keep an eye on the disc, shift my position accordingly to how the cup moves and intercept any passes thrown within ~15 ft of me. This has helped me outside of ultimate too since I’m generally aware of my surroundings. For example when I’m out with friends, I’m usually the one mentioning to the group if we are disrupting other people or causing them any inconveniences. More on that on a future entry…

Put the team first

The team’s interest collectively takes priority over one’s own personal interests. Our team had a game one weekend, but couldn’t field enough healthy people. Many guys were injured (minor though, nothing serious) and I was gimpy too from an injured knee. We didn’t cancel our game in time and therefore were expected to show up so my injured teammates and I still had to come and play ultimate. It was one of the strangest sights since our team was down one player and all three guys were limping around the field :P. Btw our team still ended up winning that game (and by a respectable margin) 😀

Women are the MVPs of every game

A co-ed game requires three males, three females and one more person of either gender. Due to this, whether games are played or not depends mostly if a team can field enough women since there are much more men than women playing the sport. I have played countless games where my female teammates had to play the entire game without subs or only one sub and they still play just as hard as the guys. This applies to most other teams too. I’ve also noticed that differences in skill levels among males don’t have as large an impact as differences in skill levels among females. Many times the team that wins an ultimate game is the one with the more-skilled women.

Categories: Personal, Sports, UBC

Swimming

May 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Just wanted to say that I love swimming a lot and everyone should do it more often especially since summer is just around the corner 😛

It’s an excellent exercise to tone your entire body since you’re working all your muscles at once. You’ll get that sexy beach body in no time.

Most importantly for me though, it’s also a way to get a peace of mind whenever I’m feeling down or stressed out. There’s also a sense of serenity since you don’t have to think about anything else unlike other sports and activities.

Categories: Personal, Sports

Poker 101 – Beginner Basics

March 15, 2012 1 comment

Hold’em is a relatively easy game to learn, but difficult to master because your actions depend on the current situation (ie your position at the table, stack size, your opponents’ playing styles etc…). I won’t cover specific situations here (maybe for another entry), but just random generalizations for beginners.

Ideally you want to sit directly to the left of a professional to minimize his or her advantage because for most of the game, he or she will have to act before you. If there’s thing to take home from this long entry, it’s this: POSITION IS POWER. If you’re the first to act, then you’re at a big disadvantage because you don’t know what the people after you are going to do. Information is critical because the best players are the ones who make the best decisions.

For beginners, it’s best to play a tight-aggressive strategy. This means you play few starting hands (again maybe for another entry), but the ones you do play, you bet aggressively. This allows better control of your chip stack so you can grasp the flow of poker until you feel comfortable varying your style. I follow two basic rules when playing starting hands:

1) Don’t limp in if you can’t call a raise preflop. I usually fold weak ace (ace with a ten or lower kicker)  in early position because if someone else raises after me, then I’m already at a disadvantage before seeing the flop. If I hit the ace on the flop, I won’t know if my kicker is strong enough (many times it isn’t) so it isn’t worth the trouble playing that hand.

2) Don’t play a suited hand if you wouldn’t play the same hand unsuited. Chasing for flushes or straights isn’t a good idea. If you miss your flush, you won’t win the pot and if you hit it, other players will notice the potential flush on board and may not pay you a lot so it’s not worth the investment.

On a side note, yes pocket aces is the best starting hand, but sometimes overrated. Many beginners will win very little or lose very big with this hand. If you’re holding two aces, then chances are that no one else has an ace so they likely won’t see the flop. I usually raise with pocket aces. You actually want to limit the number of players who see the flop and minimize your chance of getting bad beat by a player. Against a random hand, pocket aces will win 83% of the time. That means against four other random hands, pocket aces will win the pot only 47% of the time. No longer impressive right and I guarantee you that anyone calling to see the flop won’t be holding any random hand.

Bluffing is very profitable and an integral part of the game. If you bluff $100 to win a $300 pot, you need to be successful only 33% of the time to break even. Don’t bluff to steal a small pot because you are risking your chips to win very little. Likewise, don’t bluff for a large pot either because the people are already pot-committed meaning they will likely call whatever you bet. There are two important considerations to bluffing: what you think other people have and what other people think you have. If you suspect someone has a big hand, then they will call your bet. Likewise you must also consider what other people think you have because if they don’t think you have a strong hand then they can call your bet even if they have a mediocre hand. Here’s an example of a bluff:

An average player will think only about the cards other people are holding. If you want to be a good player, you have to think what other players think you have. Go up one more level and you’ll have to think what your opponents think you think they have. Every action you make gives away some degree of info and good players will pick up on that. There’s no avoiding that so you have to take advantage of it. You have to think about what your opponent is thinking. Let’s say you limp in and the flop is K-5-3 with two diamonds. You check, your opponent bets and you call. Now your opponent is putting you on a flush draw so you have to play like you ARE on a flush draw. If a diamond comes out on the turn, you bet so other players will think you hit a flush when in reality you are bluffing. If a diamond doesn’t come out, you can’t bluff because your opponent thinks you’re on a flush draw so if you bet, he or she will call your bluff.

Categories: Sports

Sundodgers 2011

January 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Last November I went to Burlington, WA and played in the Sundodgers ultimate frisbee tournament with the UBC Men’s team. It was an eye opening experience since I was playing against good teams, with many players having participated in the CUC and a couple going to represent Canada at the World Championships. The weather was terrible the long weekend, it was raining and very cold the entire time. I was hoping we would get away from the Vancouver weather, but we didn’t travel south enough.

On Saturday, we had to wake up at 7 and get on the field early which was fine since I’m used to waking up early after 4 years at UBC. I had a free breakfast meal at McDonald’s thanks to credit card roulette with our group. We played four games and won only one of them. I wasn’t happy at all with my defense since on the very first 3 points I was on, I got beat deep on huck plays which rarely happens to me. Fortunately that was the last time it happened. I don’t know why the other team didn’t keep running those plays, but I stayed closer to my check after those defensive breakdowns. Another first for me was the second game. I’m still amazed, but everyone on the other team was dressed nicely and by that I mean they were wearing cardigans, dress shirts, khakis etc… In the rainfall, they were still diving for discs on the muddy fields. Hands down they were and will be the best dressed team I have ever played against. After 2 more games (much of which I have forgotten), we went back to our hotels, cold as fuck and all our clothes muddy.

After getting cleaned up, we had dinner at Olive Garden (credit card roulette would have been interesting with our group of 20). Being a rookie, I had to make the reservations, but the restaurant doesn’t accept reservations on Saturdays. They still asked for a name so I told them to write down Genghis Khan (apparently the waitress didn’t get the joke). We had to wait for 30 minutes for a table after arriving and that sucked cause I couldn’t drink at the bar to pass time since I’m still underage in the states.

On Sunday, we woke up at 7 again to play 2 games. Everyone was late cause of all the drinking the previous night and no one touched a frisbee until the other team pulled to us. It wasn’t a surprise that the other team quickly built an 8-point lead although we eventually got break points and lost the game only by 3 points. The second game, although meaningless, was a one-sided affair with us dominating with our zone defense. We had a third game, but had to wait for 2 hours. No one wanted to wait so we all went our own ways home. My group went to have lunch at Wendy’s (another free meal for me thanks to credit card roulette) then went to Nike so I could get new cleats and socks. Didn’t know this until a week later, but the UBC Women’s teams placed 1st and 2nd in the tournament!

Overall the tournament was fun and I learned a lot. One thing that occurred to me is whether I should be marking the tallest person on the other team and if that could relieve some pressure off my teammates. That happened a few times during the tournament accidentally when I ended up marking the tallest person after turnovers against a zone defense. My rationale is that it’s not going to make much of a difference whether I’m marking a 5’10” or 6’5” person in terms of having to fight sky battles. However, it may make a bigger difference if a 5’10” person is marking someone his height or 6’5”. FYI I have scored a callahan while marking a 6′, 200lb man and I have marked a 7′ player once so I can take on anyone hehe.

Categories: Sports