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Which is True?

Hey folks. Let's have a little fun with Poker Theory. I am going to pose two statements, both of which I have read from professional poker players (although the specific sources allude me). The two statements are exactly opposite, but I would like your opinion on which is more true and why. I think the distinction between cash game vs. tournament play may affect which statement you believe is true (i.e., Statement A might be true for Tournaments, whereas Statement B might be true for cash games), so include which game you are applying the statements to when you add your 2 cents. Any other explanations on why A might be true in one situation, but B is true in another will also be greatly appreciated.

Let's see if we can get at least 10 comments on this, not because I'm a comment whore (although that is largely true), but because I think that the answers will likely be split and I want to get an idea of how the split works out. Here we go:

Statement A
Great poker players will suffer an inordinate amount of suckouts, due to the sheer fact that they are better players and therefore tend to get their money in with the best of it.

Statement B
Great poker players will often appear to get lucky more, because as they accumulate chips, they put themselves in position to make marginal plays and "get lucky."

There it is folks. Looking at it, I am fairly confident that Statement A will take a large lead in the polls, so to make it a bit more even, let me just suggest this about Statement B: The general concept is from Doyle Brunson's Super/System.

posted by Jordan @ 3:43 PM,


At 5:22 PM, Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

I believe Statement A is factually accurate, I don't know that the logic of that one can be disputed. However, I also think Statement B could be correct, in that I don't necessarily see a contradiction between the two. Isn't it possible that the best players will get sucked out on the most, but will also be in a position to "get lucky" the most?

That said, Statement A is as I said I think a factually true statement. Statement B I think is arguable either way. FWIW I don't think that's exactly the way Doyle said it in Super System. But he did say something like that. I believe he was talking about himself personally, and how a lot of people have said he "gets lucky" a lot because when he plays a big pot, quite often he has the worst hand, but is just freerolling with his opponents' money because of all the small pots he's picked up from them along the way. And when he's in with a worse hand all the time, that gives him more of an ability to "get lucky" because he does have some odds of winning in those situations. Ironically then, I think Doyle was talking about getting into big pots with the worst hand for why he is said to "get lucky". I think his point was that, if he has picked up 3000 chips from his opponent in pots he's stolen over the past hour, say, that then he can afford to be just a 33% dog in a large 3000-chip pot and he's already taking the best of it.

At 6:35 PM, Blogger gadzooks64 said...

Both are absolutely true.

Better players will get it in with the best and get outdrawn more than marginal players who regularly get it in with the worst of it.

As well, marginal players will think that better players are "luckier" because they "get" better cards and make "better" hands.

Of course, it all depends on which side of the coin you are. Even good players make bad plays and "get lucky".

Better players are just as entitled to get lucky as the next guy/gal.

There's my 2ยข.

At 7:01 PM, Blogger t said...


First, Doyle does advocate using your poker skills to accumulate the larger stack so you have more to "gamble" with on marginal hands in Super System. BUT this is more of a cash game philosophy.

I agree with what Gadzooks said just about word for word.

I'd like to add that I do think statement A is more true in a tournament setting and B is more true in a cash game setting, simply because of the nature of each beast.

For A, you are more likely to be in an "all in" situation with a big favorite of a hand and get sucked out on two streets later by some dimwit that called with bottom pair and runner runnered a 4 card straight.

For B, you are more likely to be able to see flops with marginal hands, in position, in a ring game and take a lot of money from people that are playing bad poker. (ie: they didn't raise pre-flop with their Aces)

But, even more so with this philosophy (B), you have to remember that only bad to marginal players would look at you and say "omg what a lucktard" because they have no idea what they are doing. Putting yourself in a chip position to make marginal plays is part of playing a smart game.

At 7:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both statements are facts in my mind.

Statement A: The players who get their chips in while ahead will suck out less then the players who get their chips in while behind.

Statement B: Good players will often get their money in from behind in situations where they either have +EV pot odds or the shot at knocking a player out with little risk. To win they'll have to get lucky, but it's still the correct winning play. - Layne flack being on the extreme side of this example.

At 8:13 PM, Blogger TripJax said...

I think this is a great little angle you've created here. I think they are both true, but Statement B interests me much more. If you steal pots and build your stack the hard way, you then give yourself ammo to take shots with hands that tend to be more difficult. I recall that vividly when reading Super System.

Very good idea for a with it again soon...

Also, I wrote a really long comment last night for your earlier post and it wouldn't take...I was pissed cause it was hilarious. Damn the man!

At 9:12 PM, Blogger Pokerwolf said...

Both are true. Both apply to both cash games and tournaments.

Statement A is a fact because that's what good players do.

Statement B is also true because not only is this the way quality players make a large stack, so they can bully other players, but the corollary to it is that when a quality player plays a marginal hand and he can't get his money in with the best of it, he'll fold.

At 9:26 PM, Blogger SIF said...

The one thing I haven't seen brought up in this thread is that they are both true, but regarding pots of different sizes.

Statement A applies primarily to big pots. In those, you've manipulated the action to make the pot bigger while you had the best of it, and with one or two cards to come, you just get unlucky and lose a big one.

Statement B, by contrast, applies more to small pots, but in a specific way. Namely, good players make semi-bluffs and similar plays that either will win them the small pot immediately, or put them in a situation where, if they get lucky, they will then be able to build a huge pot. Their opponents generally aren't driving the action, and they slow play when they shouldn't. So, these opponents put themselves in positions to get unlucky while the pot is still small, and the lose a subsequently big pot after the luck has happened. By extension, the good player looks like he just gets lucky a lot, but people look only at the semi-bluffs that get there and lead to big pots, but miss the times the small pot is won by the bluff or the careful fold when the bluff gets raised.

Brunson's original Super System chapter in NL HE has a lot of insanity in it. He really believed in luck as a force in the world in those days (due in no small part to surviving cancer amazingly), and, while he had a deep understanding of the game that kept him winning, he also loved to gamble it up, so some of what he says in this regard (the whole thing about the "freeroll" of getting it in with the worst of it because you've been stealing pots for hours) is just goofy thinking. The only bit of truth in it is that his semi-bluffs succeeded a lot in those days, more than they could ever succeed today.

At 11:24 AM, Blogger Patch said...

Like everyone else, I think both statements are true. And I think A applies more to tournament play, B more to cash games where the blinds aren't continually increasing, making marginal plays too expensive.

Statement A does raise a question which I posed in one of my first blog entries. What exactly is a suckout? We see the term used all the time, often, and I think incorrectly, to simply indicate somebody caught a card to beat another player. I think there's a feeling in the term suckout such that it should apply only in situations where a player who was at a great disadvantage wins the hand. Simply catching one of the cards you need on the river in a hand that went all-in as a coin toss is not really a suckout. Catching the case jack on the river to fill your inside straight draw, that would be a suckout. Somewhere between these two extremes lies a dividing line between true suckout and simple unfortunate outcome (for one player, at least).

If the term suckout is used as I think it should be used, to refer to truly unlikely outcomes rather than to simple slight disadvantages, then I'm not sure great poker players suffer any more true suckouts than any other players. Getting your money in with a 55/45 advantage may, in the long term, be smart poker, but a loss should come as no surprise and, in my opinion, hardly qualifies as a suckout.

At 11:33 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

Great point about the definition of a suckout, Patch. I may use that for a future post. As you can see, I posted about all of the responses, and I guess yours came in as I was publishing. Thanks for the commment.

At 3:00 PM, Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Btw in my view it's not a "suckout" unless the money got in when the favorite was at least a 2-to-1 (66%) favorite, and ended up losing. So a 55-45 favorite losing is clearly not a "suckout" -- as Patch points out, that is barely something to be surprised about at all. And, it's also not a suckout if you have AA and I have 55, you raise 3x and I call, and the flop comes A55. You push and I call. That's not a suckout in my eyes, because all the money wasn't in the middle before the offending luck took place. That's just a tough beat for the guy with the Aces. I think it should need to be at least a 66% favorite hand to be considered a "suckout" per se. I would even buy that it needs to be closer to 70% to be a real suckout.

FWIW I don't know how significant this distinction really is, other than questioning the use of the term as you obviously see it in blogs and such. If you got beat when you were ahead, you got beat when you were ahead. Calling it a "suckout" is to me no different from calling it a "fairbanks" or a "snaff". The point is, whatever name you call it, the further ahead you were when the money got in, the more pissed you might be about it.


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