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Getting Lucky

Hey folks! Let's get right down to business. Thanks for those who took a shot at the free $11 Mookie buy-in. In a tip of the hat to Heroes 5 years in the future storyline, I mentioned three comic book visions of the future and asked you where they were from:

1. You fail to stop the Sentinels from taking over.
2. The Justice League failed to teach the newer generation of heroes about restraint, causing an explosion in middle America.
3. Your future self, who incidentally is grey-haired and balding, has combined your two personalities to become an evil despotic ruler.

The answer sheet is as follows: (1) X-Men in "Days of Future Past" [kudos for Matty Ebs for getting this one right], (2) DC Comic's "Kingdom Come" [kudos to Hoy for Googling it] and (3) the Hulk in "Future Imperfect" [kudos to Alceste for at least getting the comic character right]. Sorry, though. No winners, since no one got all three correct.

Out of the three, I'd only really recommend Kingdom Come, an ingenious take on a future where Superheros run rampant and people live in fear. Probably the best part is the amazing art by Alex Ross, with an example of Ross' work below. I swear, that man is the second coming of Norman Rockwell.

Ah, hell, while I'm at it, I might as well mention my little (very little) side project, High on Comics. It ain't much, yet, and I only expect to update once every week or two, but its something I hold near and dear.

So, back to poker. I went on a freakin' online tear last night. I first played a HU tournament for a $26 token on Full Tilt and won in under 20 hands. I then played the same guy again and whooped him in 35 hands or so. I immediately signed up for a single table turbo for a $76 token and won that too, seeing Smokkee go out somewhere near 5th. And this was all without breaking a sweat. I did, however, lose the 2nd Chance WWdn HORSE tournament, so I guess you can't win them all. My big error was ignoring stack sizes, which caused me to bet a bit too freely when everyone at the table (and in the tournament generally) were shortstacked. I guess you have to lose sometimes.

With those tokens, I'm now ready to tackle upcoming blogger events. Unfortunately, the Mookie will be unlikely for me tonight. I have dinner plans with some friends and then Lost plans with wifey Kim. I'm still contemplating playing, but it would involve sitting out for a significant period of time. Damn your allure, Battle of the Blogger Tournaments! It also looks like the next Big Game is inconveniently located on the night I get back from Vegas. Maybe I'll find something else to do with that $76 token in the meanwhile.

Let's delve into some targeted but otherwise trivial abstract thought on the role of luck in tournaments and cash games. I have to give props to the social butterfly of poker bloggers slb159 for getting my brain in gear on this one. Thanks slb.

By blogging, now two years plus running, I always run the risk of repeating myself. Hell, I do this in real life too. Wifey Kim has probably heard all of my stories thrice, and I've caught myself telling Matty Ebs a story only to realize that he read it here earlier in the day and left a comment. So, with that said, this may be territory I've treaded over before.

In his most recent post, slb quoted a line from doubleas' book Pressure Poker. Paraphrased, the concept was simply that to win tournaments, a player MUST get lucky. slb pontificated that he had heard of players winning tournmaents without sucking out on anyone, so this may not be an absolute truth.

But, my friends, I am here to set the record straight. To win online tournments, doubleas is correct. You MUST get lucky. The flaw in logic comes into the definition of luck.

All too often, we think of luck as beating your opponent when you are the underdog. It's easy to think of luck this way. In a very real sense, this is the type of luck most readily apparent. You push with KK, you get called by AA, you are only 20% or so to win it, but you get lucky and hit your King, thereby sucking out. No one is to argue that you got lucky, but what of the flipside?

Let's say you have a high pocket pair, and on 6 different occassions, you get all-in against players with lower pocket pairs. Each time you are 80% likely to win, but overall, you should expect to lose at least once. If you don't, guess what? You are lucky again! It's just not as obvious.

Okay, neither of those things happen. You don't suckout on anyone and you don't win a disproportionate amount of your hands, given the odds. But what if you are getting a lion's share of big pocket pairs? Its luck, baby, and it can help you win a tournament too.

Now, you don't suckout, you don't win a disproportionate amount, you don't get high pocket pairs too often, but you keep on flopping decent hands, like 2-pair, when you are playing crap cards. Luck.

None of those things happen, but when you get big pocket pairs, another player inevitably has a high pocket pair just under yours? You are lucky.

You are card dead very early, so you fold deep into the tournament, and then get good cards late, allowing you to jump up the leaderboard just when it matters? The timing of your cards is also luck.

It goes on and on. There are 1,000,000 ways to get lucky in poker, including getting great cards in the blinds specifically or on the button when people think you are stealing. Luck is such a central part of the game, yet we sometimes think of it as merely what happens once all the chips are in the middle. Luck isn't just what comes on the river. It's what you are dealt preflop, when you are dealt it, and what everyone else is dealt simultaneously.

Can you win a tournament without any good luck? How the hell could that possibly happen!

That is not to knock tournament poker for its luck-element. It's just looking at luck in a broader way. Its a lot like life. I may not win the lotto, but I'm damn lucky to have met and eventually married wifey Kim.

And this is where I muddy things a bit. My all-encompassing definition of luck applies to you cash gamers too. I sometimes think that luck is more needed in tournaments, but I don't think you can overestimate the role of luck in cash games either. How lucky are you to get a particular seat in position on particular players, or to get the cards you need to exploit your table image. I would argue that you don't NEED disproportionate good luck to win in a cash game. You may get by on reads alone, especially live. But a little bit of luck can go a long way, especially when looking at individual sessions. "But its all one long session?!," you whine. Yeah, but the same is true for tournaments. An individual tournament is just one part of a long session of tournaments, and we are talking about the micro aspects of poker. It's not, you need to be lucky to be a top tournament player. It's, you need to get lucky to win a tournament. Likewise, you don't need to be disproportionately lucky to be a winning cash game player, but in any given session, a little bit of luck can mean the difference between a winning and losing session.

Sure, this is all theoretical semantics, but that's what we are all about at HoP, and by we I mean me. In the end, I don't mean to suggest that poker is all about luck. Hardly! But luck is one helluva friend to have on your side and can make the difference between a winning and losing session.

Until next time, make my pontificating poker!

posted by Jordan @ 4:36 PM,


At 1:20 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

LOL Luckaments

At 3:31 PM, Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Anybody who doesn't think you have to get lucky to win a large mtt just doesn't understand. All the things you mentioned are all part of luck. And, you forgot winning 75% of your races in the tournament, that is also luck that basically any and every big tournament winner experiences.

At 9:59 PM, Blogger MHG said...

Yup, better to be lucky than good!

Heck, sometimes even getting crappy cards can be lucky. Last week at the casino I rode the roller-coaster with pocket pair after pocket pair, while the old geezer to my right only got one hand all night. He didn't have a tough decision all night, while I was sweating from the get-go. I'm pretty sure he ended up more than I did, too.


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