Headphones and Plastics

Headphones and Plastics

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

To win any tournament nowadays you need a lot of luck and you need to be running well. In the past it may well have been enough to avoid bad luck in order to prosper, but not any more. There are now so many good players and even the bad players tend to be aggressive these days.

It would be great if there was some way to measure just how well you are running so you could know whether to enter the biggest tournament you can afford to play that day or just stay at home and watch TV instead.

Recent results can be a good indicator but “form” can change so quickly you just never know. Last month at the Green Joker tournament, for example, I returned for Day 2 only to spot an unfortunate omen: my name was misspelt on the official chip counts as “Paul Kackson”, and my Day 2 ended up right down the toilet.

At the London GUKPT, could there be a more negative omen than to find yourself seated next to the kind of person who would be right at the bottom of your list of players to be sat next to? I‘d say that right at the bottom of my list would be a camp, bouffant-hairstyled individual who never stops talking drivel, and repeats each mind-numbing sentence seven times in case you missed one of the other six excruciating utterances. And here he was. If ever there was a good reason to wear headphones this was it. Although please note: I have no issue with campness or a bouffant hairstyles; these terms simply describe the individual concerned, and I have no problem with what he may choose to do himself when nobody is looking.

What made it worse was that he was actually quite a nice guy, although that did not reduce the tortuous experience of having to listen to him, and, paradoxically, I would have felt insincere asking him nicely to be quiet when really “STFU” was all you wanted to shout.

He started to tell me, in broken English, about some journalist that he wanted to beat up in the streets of Berlin, so in an attempt to get some enjoyment back into my life, I decided I could take advantage of the very strong possibility that he would not understand everything I said or appreciate the tone and inflexion of what I was intimating. Not politically correct, I know, but not many enjoyable things are.

I asked him to confirm that he wanted to hold down the journalist and “give it to him hard”, which the players around me found quite amusing, somehow choosing to associate this innocent comment with either his general campness or his bouffant hairstyle, or both.

Ironically, he was wearing earplugs, which he claimed was because the noise of the chips irritated him. I found quite that bizarre as the clatter of chips seemed remarkably soothing. I suspect his earphones were a cunning business ploy and, had I stayed in the tournament long enough, I am sure he had an accomplice waiting to pounce on the table and sell a job-lot of such earplugs to the other players at the table.

He was very tight, in the card-style sense, but still managed to check-call James Dempseys’ attempted three-barrelled bluff, and afterwards mentioned that beginners like James did not realise how experienced he was. Perhaps he will visit James in Brighton and give him the benefit of his experience.

His droning went on and on and he seemed to assume that I was very interested in everything he had to say. The reality was that I would have been happy to receive a punch in the face so that I had something more pleasant to think about.

I did not last long in the tournament after. With blinds at 100/200, an opponent managed to get 8,000 chips into the pot with virtually no fold equity, holding pocket twos. He had apparently “read me” for a “big ace” and, to be fair, he was close in that I actually had a big king; two of them, in fact. He was rewarded for his fairly accurate read with a two on the turn.

If he had been a “flairy boy”, I am sure he might have spouted some rubbish about hand ranges and how he was “ahead of my bluffing range”, as many of them do when they don’t quite know why they took the action they chose and feel the need to justify it.

It actually seems that several legitimate concepts have been hijacked by “Plastic Poker Players” who can’t actually play but like to talk a good game. They always feel the need to justify their actions, particularly when it gets them into trouble.

Players often have limited information on which to base a decision and may choose to go with what they feel is a “long term wining play”, a perfect victim for the PPP’s as the “long term” can never be determined at the point the action is taken.

This concept is also a favourite of the lazy players (this obviously excludes recreational players and those simply having fun) and those that do not have the intellect to properly analyse the information available to them. After all, if in any given situation it was correct (if you knew your opponent’s hand), to make what you would otherwise consider a “long term losing play”, then you would surely make that play in that instance.

The “long term winning play” strategy should primarily be used when all other information is insufficient to enable you to make a reasonable determination as to the strength of your opponent’s specific hand. If you are unable to do that then go to the much vaguer but valid concept of what is likely to be a “long term wining” action.

The PPP’s simply bypass any attempt to analyse their opponent’s likely holding and make the action they wish to make and, if they feel the need to justify it (as they often do with little encouragement), they say something that includes the words “long term wining play”, or another valid concept that they like to hijack, “hand ranges”. They also use this to justify their actions as they are usually, regardless of their or your hand, “ahead of your range”.

The many quality young players that now inhabit the tournament circuit use these concepts to refine their actions and they are fearsome opponents to encounter.

It is important to ensure that you can quickly identify these real players from the plastic ones.

Tags: Paul Jackson, Strategy