Questions and Answers

If you have a poker related question just send it by e-mail to guywest at ozmium dot com dot au (written long-hand to avoid spam)

The following answers were provided by Andrew LeRoy, a Melbourne based poker expert.

With a BSc in mathematics from Melbourne University, Andrew is well versed in the probabilities and calculating skills required to play high level poker. He is one of the minority of strong players who are equally comfortable in both cash games and tournament play and can often be found playing Holdem at Melbourne's Crown Casino.

Andrew finished second in the Crown Series 1 in 2004 and third in the Melbourne Pot Limit Holdem Championship in April 2005. His profile can be found on the Australasian poker site

Joseph Hachem

Q. Do you know much about Joseph Hachem and what are your thoughts on his win in the 2005 World Series main event?

A. Yes, I've played with Joe. He is a very good tournament player. Tight and tough. Excellent judgement. Also an absolute gentleman. He is a true champion for that alone.

His win is beyond comprehension. The implications are large. We have to accept that the 'very best' poker players are not much better than the 'very good' players when it comes to competing in a multi-table tournament format. If you want tournaments to run more to form you need single table Heats/Semis/Finals with large chip stack to blind ratios and long levels. Unfortunately in multi-table play, chips won from poor players are worth as much as chips that are hard won, and players who get lucky keep their advantage all the way to the final table.

The vagaries of the normal distribution curve have a large impact on multi-table tournament results. In a Heat/Semis/Final format they would be greatly reduced. You might get a soft heat or a lucky draw out, but next round you start even again against a stronger group of players.

Also 10 handed v 2 handed and everything in between requires a large number of adjustments and much more skill is required to cope with those than just sitting back and waiting for AA, KK, QQ and AK for 3 days at a 10 handed table! (I'm being a bit facetious here, but a Scandinavian player did just that in the 2004 WSOP and finished around 14th of 2000. I mean, the guy was clearly a fish and got a looong way.)

To wear sunglasses or not to wear sunglasses?

Q. At the top level it seems that some players wear sunglasses or caps to cover their faces and others don't. It would seem that if it is a real advantage to conceal your eyes that all the pros would do it, but they don't. What is your opinion on such accessories?

A. I wear sunnies and a cap. The cap stays on and the sunnies go on when I'm in a multi-way pot. The fact is you don't get bet into as much when you are in position and wearing sunnies. Its intimidating.

However, the main use of sunnies is so that my opponents don't see me watch them watch the flop. I point my head at the flop, but my eyes watch my opponent.

Caps reduce the light levels from above and as such have a pacifier type effect. The main use of the cap is that when you look at your hole cards your opponents can't see your eyes. The peak obstructs their view. Also the forehead is a very reliable muscle group in regard to tells and the cap covers it.

Poker table talk. Is it allowed?

Q. At Crown Casino in Melbourne I thought I heard a dealer reprimand a player for asking his opponent in a hand whether he wanted to be called. This sort of table talk seems to occur regularly in TV televised games. Do you think it is illegal (as the Crown dealer did) or do you think it is just part of the game?

A. You can't talk about the hand, as in the actual cards you hold. You should be able to ask if a player wants a call. If you can't, then you can't. Just ask, if you think it gets you a read. At worst you will be reprimanded and you will have to desist.

If it's illegal to talk where you play then just cut out your chips like you are about to call and gauge how your opponent feels about it that way. Also, it's never illegal to ask the dealer to count down the opponent's stack. Just watch him react to the question. Again, sunnies help. Your head is facing the dealer but your eyes are watching your 'mark'.

Editor's note: It is only illegal to talk about the actual cards during a hand, as it might convey advantageous information to another player still in the pot. The 'talkers' may may fold at some point but the comments may have given information to someone still alive in the pot. That's why it is also very poor form to show any emotion about the flop or subsequent cards, even if you are already out. It may be possible to guess what you held and this could provide crucial hints to players still involved in the pot. If for example the flop came K K 5 and a folded player banged his hand on the table and yelled out, "unbelievable, I knew it", it's fair to assume he held either a king or a pair of 5s, which could be very useful information for of the remaining players.

The merits of poker software as a playing aid.

Q. There is a lot of poker software for online play available now, from histories of potential opponents' results to software that calculates all the odds for you. Do you think it is too much of a disadvantage to play online without software aids? Are there any you consider indispensable?

A. If online play is your bag there is some great software to assist. Poker Tracker is such a product and seems to be the one that most use. There are others though, so check those out too. There is no doubt that such products are worth the investment.

Apart from anything else, the types of info they track get your mind thinking in the right direction. For instance it tells you how each starting hand is performing for you, and from various positions and against various numbers of opponents. This gives you insight into the nature of the value of each hand and helps you 'plug your leaks'. It tells you how many hands you played, and how many your opponents have played, again with starting hand details. Also betting vs raising & folding is also tracked for all players.

This gets you thinking about how to beat the opponents. Are they loose or tight. Are they passive or aggressive. After the session you can add all the loosies and the passives to your Buddy list and sit with them next time they are playing at the site. You can also avoid those players Tracker tells you are tight & aggressive.

Personally I don't use such software. This is because my focus is on live play and I want to maintain the discipline of tracking these things for myself. But if I decided I wanted to sit in a room and play 3 or 4 tables at once for a living I would set it up so that I could use the statistics to good effect. It really is like having an assistant or spotter who is watching the game in detail and advising as required.

There are literally hundreds of players grinding out a living in the low stakes internet games using this methodology. Essentially these 'Multi-table Grinders' are Rocks who play AA, KK, QQ, JJ, and AK. Note who in your game is barely playing a hand and don't call them without a Group 1 or 2 hand. Give action to the live ones who play lots of hands and by so doing you will profit by about 2 Big Bets an hour. The multi-table grinders are only making 1/3 to 1/2 a BB an hour using their formularised approach, your advantage is that you are fully present.

If you want to improve your game, play one table at a time. Use software, but only consult it after you have formed solid opinions of what is occurring by your own observations, then see how accurate you were. Nothing substitutes for paying full attention, but there is no doubt that tracking software is worth the purchase price.


Public Forum

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