Damn Liberal Media

Tuesday, May 25th, 2004, 10:44 am

First of all, I finally have my link list working, and if you don’t see yours there and are INCREDIBILY insulted just chill out. I just figured out how to get the links to show and I’ll be working on getting my link list up to date and all-inclusive. There are so many blogs out there now that it’s hard to keep up, and hard to keep on top of all the interested content out there. I’ll try my best.

Second, Paul Phillips doesn’t quite agree with my stance on cutting Andy Glazer and Max Shapiro some slack for their reporting on Full Table Poker. Phillips might be a bit less accomodating because Shapiro criticized his play and because the report of a final table Phillips appeared in was, apparently, riven with errors. Paul’s post is, shall we say, a wee bit sarcastic. I doubt his mood was helped by getting bounced early in the WSOP main event.

Third, coming home from work yesterday I was listening to NPR and on their business show Marketplace they had a commentary by a “professional gambler” named Lee Austin Brown (which we learned afterwards is a psuedonym) decrying online poker players. He lambasted online players for using a program called PokerTracker to monitor their opponents betting patters, and as soon as he said that I started yelling, “PokerTracker! I use that! Wowzers!” Made me feel all special.

Brown said that poker used to be a game you played in person, man to man, lying to their faces, taking their money, and then running for your life afterwards. I think he has a bit of a insanely romantic view of the old-time road gamblers. He talks about Doyle Brunson being a tough guy, but I think even Texas Dolly and other top shelf alpha males like T.J. Cloutier prefer games where they don’t have to bring a gun to the table and the odds of getting to their car without getting robbed are better than the odds of drawing to that gutshot straight.

I have to say that he has a bit of a point about players who use programs to accumulate info about the betting habits of their opponents. He talks about a friend who makes a living playing online and that he usually playes 6 tables at a time. Unless you’re some kind of savant there’s no way really to keep track of 50 opponents without help, and is that really poker? When you watch poker on TV and see Paul Phillips deciding whether to call that $250,000.00 bet, he’s calculating odds in his head and reviewing in his mind’s eye the previous play of his opponent. He doesn’t have laptop propped on a chair giving him the exact numbers. But some folks playing online can and do have that info right at their fingertips. And it can gives them a HUGE advantage, obviously.

I use PokerTracker, but mostly to analyze my own play, not the play of others. And that means I’m not using it to nearly its full potential. It is a way-cool program, it never ceases to amaze me with the amount of data it can crunch and spit out. Whether it’s “fair” to play while using PokerTracker against opponents using only the computer packed in their skulls is perhaps a naive question, but it does pose an ethical dilemma. If collusion is an absolute no-no, as virtually all online players would agree, how about using computerized crutches like PokerTracker? Is playing six tables at the same time really “poker”, or is it merely an exercise in stripping money from people who are technologically overmatched?

Will online poker breed a new strain of player who knows that information about their play can be easily obtained, broken down, and analyzed, and will therefore dramatically change their play to prevent anyone from accurately predicting it? Today’s top players are considered “hyper-aggressive”, betting relentlessly, putting the other guy to the test over and over again. Might the next wave of top players be “hyper-irrational”, their play so flying in the face of convention and rationality that even intensive computer modeling can’t predict it? You’ll know that poker has radically changed when you start seeing rounders talking about how they’ve incorporated chaos theory, quantum mechanics, and superstrings into their play. And when that day comes, I’m outta the poker scene. Wonder if there are any good cockfighting blogs out there?

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2 Responses to “Damn Liberal Media”

  1. Sean Says:

    Playing six tables at a time clearly isn’t Poker (the romanticized, capital-P-type) and I half agree with those people. All you’re doing is playing ABC poker, and taking money from people that have zero business sitting at a card table, virtual or no.

    Poker Tracker, however, is no more unethical than running endless simulations with Turbo or something else. What has happened is that, much like that which happened to chess, any game that is intellectual and halfway mathematic and/or theoretical, will be devoured by geeks and nerds worldwide. It took longer to happend with poker, mainly due to the fact that most geeks fear the old, leather assed road gambler. But the advent of the PC has allowed these brainy-types to begin to nudge their way into the world of poker. It’s changed the game, making it less romanticized and more theoretical, but I’m with you. The first mention of Stephen Hawking at a poker table, and I’m cashing out.

  2. LordGeznikor Says:

    Heh … I mentioned Stephen Hawking on BG’s blog the other day.

    Ignoring the morality of it for the moment, you really should use PokerTracker’s player notes. I have the program generate five key stats and export them out to PartyPoker, which lets me know whether to call that raise with AJ or to let him have it. In fact, I’ve come to use the shorthand method of ranking someone’s play higher just by the fact that I have notes on him.

    The morality of it? Most casino pros keep book on their opponents anyway. But at the casino, they have to run out to their car to read what they’ve written, and then remember it in the cardroom. PokerTracker just shortcuts that, and I’m all for it.

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