Deep Underground with Raul Groom

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Return of the Groom

Due to overwhelming popular demand, I have unretired. The political stuff is being ably handled by my IRL avatar, freeing me up to talk about what really makes Raul Groom tick - gambling. Or, in this case, fake gambling.

For the last few weeks I have been cultivating a mild poker addiction on the ESPN website, where they will allow you to play for free. There you have a good shot at winning a massive array of crappy prizes and a crappy shot at winning three or four good prizes. So far I have cashed in my shot at a crappy prize (poker flash cards) without getting even a sniff of any of the good prizes.

If Chris Moneymaker (the amateur guy with the bad sunglasses who won the WPT a couple of years back) taught us anything, it's that one thing the Internet is good for is that it allows you to play a ridiculous number of poker hands in your spare time. And playing a ridiculous number of poker hands is really the only way to improve at poker.

What's kind of fascinating is that I'm pretty sure, based on my experience at ESPN, that you could program a poker bot with an extremely simple algorithm that would be able to consistently beat at least half of the poker players out there. Now again, at ESPN the money is fake. At pay sites the ratio of fish to actual players is probably lower. But I would bet that a poker bot could still break even against most people.

Now, that's not actually what fascinates me. What fascinates me is that at least at this point in my poker career, I think I would be one of those people that my hypothetical bot could beat. The reason I think that is because when I make a mistake, I usually know at the moment I'm acting that I'm making the mistake.

The other day I was playing some No Limit Hold 'em and I was holding a pair of sevens, which is usually a pretty good money hand for me. I had called pre-flop and three other players limped in as well. The flop came K J 7 with two hearts.

For the non hold-em players out there, such a flop is very dangerous because while I almost certainly have the best hand at this moment, if I let these three opponents see any more cards, somebody is likely to draw out on me. At this point the only cards that help me are the remaining seven, the remaining three kings, and the remaining three jacks. The cards that hurt me are so numerous it's almost impossible to list them all, but they include all the hearts in the deck and basically every remaining card above a seven that I didn't mention before.

So obviously what I need to do here is make a bet so big that it will knock out anyone who hasn't already made a hand. And this is what I normally would have done, but for some reason here I got greedy and decided to wait and see what came on the turn, so I just called some small bet from the first guy to act.

The turn card was the ten of hearts. This is a monumentally bad card, probably the worst card in the deck actually, because now anybody holding pocket hearts has me beat, anybody holding AQ has me beat, and anybody holding 89 has me beat. Meanwhile it's reasonable that someone could have AQ of hearts, meaning they are holding the absolute nuts and even if I make my full house I can't beat them.

But I'm in late position, and my opponents check around to me, so I decide to make a big bet to bluff them off the pot.

Let's revisit my earlier decision, shall we? I didn't make a big bet when I almost definitely had the best hand. Now I'm betting when I have no reason to believe I have the best hand. Sure enough, now the guy in first position raises, and I have to fold.

Except I don't fold. Why? Well, I guess I figured I came this far...

Anyway, he had indeed made the nut flush with A6 of hearts or something like that. So in a hand when I could have taken down a small pot, I instead lost all my money.



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