Thursday, July 20, 2006

It's All About Hold'em

Ah, isn't it strange how things come full circle in the poker world? Predictions, both good and evil, come to pass. I'm elated when they work out well (Max winning a bracelet), I'm horrified when they go fubar (WSOP under Harrah's ownership).

I remember a few years ago telling Glenn that probably, eventually, O8 would be my best game. Yeah, here I sit, nut peddling. O8 is my best game as far as low limits go, PLO8 online, playing mixed games, tournament play, etc. It sucks to be the king of the special olympics ;)

I also told Glenn that if I decided that I wouldn't quit poker when Stud died (and it's just barely breathing), eventually Hold'em would likely be my favorite game.

In Stud, there is only so much, psychologically, one can do. Trickery is great, but deception only plays a part to a certain extent. You can't fake quads or a straight flush on sixth when three cards on your board don't match up! Your hand, and therefore your strength, is exposed. Laid bare for all to see. Stud games can be the ultimate frustrating games, whether your forte is Stud high, Stud 8 or Razz. Seven card is much better than five card, but you are still only able to do so much. You are hand tied.

Closed card games, draw games are really awesome because you can completely manipulate your opponents. But draw games aren't popular or widely played. Even the high variance action games like TDL aren't spread much, and are usually in a mixed game rotation. So deciding to make yourself a draw game specialist is even worse than being a Stud specialist.

So that brings us back full circle again, doesn't it? And that is what it always comes back to. Hold'em.

Hold'em is the perfect poker game in so many ways. I have always said that. People read what they want to read and are right now thinking I've gone mad, or am saying the exact opposite of things I've always said. That is simply not true. I have always said that Hold'em is going to be the most popular poker game for the foreseeable future, and rightly so. Hold'em mechanics are easy to learn. A beginner can sit in a game with five minutes of instruction. Limit Hold'em has an expectation which keeps the good pro afloat, yet has a high enough luck factor so that the fish is not wiped out. Max buy-in NLHE is a sort of protection for a fish, yet good players can grind out a win virtually every session.

There are absolutely NO downsides to hold'em, other than boredom. And boredom does come. It makes poker more like a job than a hobby, and we have to take frequent breaks from it.

When it all comes down to it, the only game in which I have a true chance of becoming a successful player at any stakes, as well as a successful tournament player, is Hold'em. Even O8 becomes almost HE at the higher limits. The low hands are an aside, additional outs, something good to have for an emergency back-up if things go to shite. If we get caught in a big pot bluffing. If a bad drawing hand gets some miracle. But it's pretty much about Hold'em when O8 hits the higher limits. Even high stakes pot-limit games are virtually all PLO, that is high, not eight or better. It is truly rare to find a live, high stakes PLO8 game, much less a tournament. It almost literally doesn't exist.

Which brings us back to Hold'em. I have a huge love-hate relationship with it. It is the perfect game for poker. Perfect as a cash game, both limit and no-limit. Perfect as a tournament, especially pot or no-limit. Stud is a bad tourney game. Stud, Stud 8, Razz. No Stud variant makes a good tournament game. The five betting rounds are killer. Playing 16 hours straight having to endure that kind of concentration, usually on a huge Hold'em table where one cannot see the board cards on the opposite side, can be a nightmare. I have never advocated Stud games as great tournament games. If the structure is fair, long, with a lot of chips, it turns into a race for endurance. If the structure is short with no chips, it turns into a card catching contest. There is no good way to run a Stud tournament. It sucks no matter which way you look at it. It's not a good heads-up game, either. It just bites on so many levels. Which is one reason it is dying. One of the many.

Okay, so once again, we come back to Hold'em. Where I really, truly have a chance, but no heart for it. I am totally FUBAR in every respect.

And this, my friends, is your introduction to a new series that I hope to get underway before the main event. A series about taking your game to a whole new level. By using psychology, gaming theory and simple blueprints to become a chameleon in the poker world.

I may never be a world class player, but I am going to try my best to make YOU one, if you so desire.

Stay tuned,

Felicia :)