Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

Warning: Poker Content

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Right. This blog post is going to be entirely about poker, a technical series of cards and numbers, so if you’re not a fan of that then LOOK AWAY NOW.

But it occurred to me, this is something I would write a poker column about if my poker column wasn’t so short - luckily, on this blog I am queen of my own kingdom. So, this is a howl of anguish about a bad beat, followed by a hand I watched which I think makes an interesting comparison.

  If you’re a Twitter follower, you might have seen me post something a couple of days ago which said, “If I never get a poker beat as bad as that again, it’ll be too soon.” That might have been an exaggeration. But here are the details, if you’re curious.

  As often seems the case with me in Vegas, I’m getting lucky on the table games and unlucky on the poker. I don’t know why, but historically I have never done well in the tournaments here. I would say it was a European thing, except I’ve played the PCA twice and done well both times, so it can’t be that. Anyway, the misery of this particular hand might be compounded by having already played my total of three WSOP events and got nowhere in any of them.

  This was a $5000 tournament at the Bellagio, with a small field - just 93 players - and we were already down to about 39. So average chips was around 47,000 and I had 50,000. My opponent (let’s call him Mr X - no need to name him specifically, as I’m going to be critical but he’s a nice guy) had about 80,000. Blinds were 400-800.

  Second to speak, I raised to 2000 with AK of spades. Mr X called. Two more players called behind him.

  The flop came Ad 4h 6h. I bet out 5000. Mr X called. One of the remaining players called, and the other folded.

  The turn was 8d. I bet 8000. Mr X raised to 20,000. The third player folded. I moved all in for 24,000 more. Mr X called.

  His hand? 6c 7d. He hit two pair on the river and I reeled away from the table, more shocked than I have been in a long time.

  My friend Barny Boatman says that it’s not a bad beat unless the other player makes a mistake. So, for example, if you get knocked out with KK against QQ, he says it’s not a bad beat as long as the player with QQ played it correctly for the information available to him.

  In the case of this particular hand, I would say that Mr X made a mistake with EVERY SINGLE BET that he made.

  Before the flop, he called in early-middle position with absolutely no hand at all. That’s just silly. Raise if you think I’m a rock and can be pushed around, or throw it away. Don’t call.

  After the flop - I think this is probably the worst bet of all - he flat called 5000 with second pair, on an ace high board, plus two straight-flushing cards, with two players behind him. This is truly hideous. Everything’s wrong with it. Firstly, he must think I am some kind of moron to bet out into three players on this flop without an A in my hand. If he thinks I am this moron, he needs to raise and find out. Calling tells him nothing. Besides, he is incredibly vulnerable to a raise behind him if one of them has the ace, or a big draw. A call, in this spot, is like burning money.

  Then, on the turn, now holding third pair and a gutshot, he makes a tiny raise of 12,000 into a pot of over 40,000 - with two opponents! You can only do this with a really massive hand. Almost inevitably, one of his opponents (me) moved all in. Now he’s looking at 24,000 more. The pot contains 64,000. He’s priced his raise so horribly that he’s being offered less than 3/1 when he’s 4/1 to win the pot. But he calls anyway. Literally, he should have done something different EVERY SINGLE TIME it was his turn to act. Still, luck is always a factor in tournament poker and he hit the miracle. Urghh. Those who know me will realize how deeply traumatized I must have been when I tell you that five minutes later we were all given free tickets to the Bellagio buffet but I felt too sick to eat. For me, that’s serious.

  Now, I think this makes an interesting comparison with a different hand that I watched on my earlier table. Sifosis (a top winning online and live pro poker player) had a lot of chips and was being very active, raising most pots. At this earlier stage, blinds were 100-200 and both relevant players had big chips. Sifosis raised to 600. A young American on his left (let’s call him Mr Y) reraised to 1500. Everyone else passed and Sifosis raised again, up to 4500. Mr Y called.

  The flop came 3h 6h 9c. Sifosis bet 8000. Mr Y raised to 18,000. Sifosis moved all in for about 20,000 more and Mr Y quickly called. Sifosis showed a pair of kings, and Mr Y showed 5c 7c. Failing to improve, Mr Y was knocked out and wandered away. Several players on the table said “Happy Christmas” and “Must be nice” to Sifosis - they felt Mr Y had murdered his entire stack with no hand.

  In a way, that’s true. But there is a crucial difference between this hand and the one I played later: you can see a logical, defensible reason for every bet made by Mr Y. When he reraises before the flop, he’s simply trying to nick the pot off an active player that he assumes is raising with nothing. When Sifosis comes back with another raise, Mr Y calls to see a flop - he has a nice double draw, plus his hand is well disguised, so he thinks he can get paid if he hits well. On the flop, it’s not perfect but he does hit a double gutshot (he can make a straight with a 4 or an 8). When his active opponent makes a continuation bet, he has absolutely enough excuse to make a semi-bluff raise. The only fault I can really find is that his raise is perhaps a little too small here. Nevertheless, when Sifosis fights back all in (thus showing that he has an overpair rather than an AK, AQ type of hand), the pot is laying Mr Y over 3/1 to make the call, and he is LESS than 3/1 to make his hand. Therefore, it is a mathematically correct call.

  To the naked eye, both Mr X and Mr Y are lunatics. They certainly both play a very different style of poker to mine. But while Mr X makes a series of mistakes and gets lucky, Mr Y makes a series of absolutely logical bets and does not get lucky. Mr X was the one who ended up with big chips - he is in the final of the tournament as I type, is already showing a big profit on his money and may well win a huge prize. Mr Y walked away with nothing. But, people who wonder about the ratio of luck to skill in poker, take note: if you had to buy shares in one of these players for next year’s World Series of Poker, you should take Mr Y a hundred times out of a hundred.



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James Blessing at 9:38 am on July 11th, 2010

Have to disagree there if I was buying 100 shares, I’d put 5 into Mr X “just in case” :)

Mike at 10:31 am on July 11th, 2010

More blogs with poker content please!

Adam Pettman at 10:37 am on July 11th, 2010

That is a horrible bad beat, I can only guess that maybe he was trying to represent a massive hand without looking at your stack size and then felt he was priced in at the end.

Or maybe he’d got it into his head that he was going to outplay everyone on this hand, float you twice and hope you gave up on the river where he would move in and scare you off the pot. Makes no sense but I’ve done stupider things before.

Drew Johnson at 10:38 am on July 11th, 2010

I’d bet the lines ;)  Might work better for you as well Vicky, considering your past results in Vegas poker.

Malcolm at 10:55 am on July 11th, 2010

Hellishly horrible hand. Reminds me of the time I lost 34 key big pot hands in a row when I was a MINIMUM of 70-30% favourite (in 19 hands I was an even higher fav).  The maths involved here are truly stupendous - it’s a bit like buying every lottery ticket and still not winning the lottery.

Christopher at 11:28 am on July 11th, 2010

just yesterday, with pocket aces - preflop raise by another player who had 4 6 off suit and the river gave him a straight - poor play or riding his luck?  Either way, I lost large!  good luck and keep the poker blogs coming!

Rheale at 11:43 am on July 11th, 2010

So it was a double whammy, you lost to someone who didn’t know what they were doing and got lucky and then you missed out on the lovely free buffet. Bummer.

Third way through your poker book, it’s wicked, can’t put it down, i’m 28 and this will be only the second book I have read (Russell Brand’s book Booky Wook was the first). People have been trying to get me to read books for years but when I start reading them I just think up my own story and lose interest… Particularly enjoying learning all the poker terminology and think your style of writing is awsome.

Stuart Wicks at 12:03 pm on July 11th, 2010

Excellent blog post. More please. There can be nothing worse than going out to a lucky player making bad choices from good information.

Sounds like our 100 shares should go on Sifosis..

Also, can anyone direct me to other good poker blogs like this?

David B at 12:22 pm on July 11th, 2010

Why is he 4/1 to win the pot at the end? Isn’t a 5-outer much worse than that, like 9/1?

Most amused to find that there is a word ‘queendom’.

RHeale at 12:32 pm on July 11th, 2010

Also, how many times can you keep folding (...while everyone else knocks each other out the game, thus making your way to a final…) before it becomes unacceptable, anyone??

Dave Griffiths at 12:39 pm on July 11th, 2010

I’ve found over the years that when I play badly I nearly always get what I deserve, but sadly when I play well, not so much!!!!!!!!!

Smudge at 1:05 pm on July 11th, 2010

Would be good to see more poker content, as you say your Guardian column is too short for serious analysis and I enjoy reading ur thoughts on the game.  It is horrible to get fished out like that, on the other hand we all like to play against idiots like that, it’s where the easy profit comes from. It does make you sick tho when they do everything wrong and win.  Any plans for another poker book?

Dean at 2:48 pm on July 11th, 2010

Did you ever get a chance to talk to Mr X about his series of ill advised moves?  If I were in your shoes I’d not be able to help trying to get some kind of sensible feedback from him, even if it is a straight up admission of getting lucky in a hand completely out of his depth.

Nova at 3:25 pm on July 11th, 2010

Stumbled on this blog.  I feel your pain. 
I would have bet 7-10k on flop instead to push out draws.  If someone flatted me, I would shove turn if it missed any possible drawing hands as I would assume all better hands would have repopped me on flop (unless the one who flatted was the last to act on the flop), but as always, it depends on your read of the donk.  I understand that a 7-10k flop bet might not have gotten THIS donk to fold, but it certainly increases your chances of scooping the pot right then and there.

Russell at 3:57 pm on July 11th, 2010

Perhaps its a cunning tactic: When all else fails, play how they don’t expect you to play.

Victoria Coren at 6:32 pm on July 11th, 2010

Hi David - it’s 4/1 because it’s not quite a 5-outer, he can also make a straight. So he needs a 5, a 6 or a 7 (nine cards). Of course there are worse bad beats in the sense of someone hitting a one-outer, it’s just that the betting here made it feel so unjust to lose the pot!

Dean - by the old poker etiquette, when someone’s knocked you out (or even just won a big pot off you) you would never ask why they played the hand like that or suggest they played it wrongly, it would be ungracious. Maybe wait a few months and then ask! At the table: get it quietly, lose it quietly, is the best way to play - I’d never have heard his reply over the ringing in my ears anyway…

Bobby Crosby at 7:08 pm on July 11th, 2010

I agree with Nova about needing to bet more on the flop, but more importantly you had to bet a lot more on the turn.  You bet 8K into a pot of about 25K with two opponents still and a draw heavy board.  If you make a normal bet of 15K+, there’s a very good chance he folds.

RomanticRecluse at 8:08 pm on July 11th, 2010

You raised pre-flop, Mr X called and he got to see a four-way flop relatively cheaply.

Mr X liked the flop a bit (his hand improved) so when you bet he called and got to see a cheap turn.

Mr X liked the turn (gave him a straight draw and the chance to represent two flush draws) and when you bet he re-raised.  You shoved and he called thinking that he had outs but if he missed he’d still have chips.  He hit and knocked you out.

Mathematically Mr X may have been wrong but maybe his decisions were based on observation.  Maybe he knew your playing style and what you would do in that situation.  Maybe he got a read and (correctly) put you on a big ace with no flush or straight draws which he could beat on the river.  Maybe he was brave and fortune favoured him.

King John II at 10:57 pm on July 11th, 2010

I wonder, has there been any sign of the renowned poker joker, Leo, in Vegas this year? Never seem to hear anything about the old fox these days.

Lego at 11:55 pm on July 11th, 2010

Yeah, you got well donked out there, girl. I can tell you’re still fuming about it just by way you’ve wrote the blog.

You’ll know this yourself, of course, that I guess you have to be philosophical about it, because you want people playing you with hands like that, because they’ll fail to improve and lose more times than not. Sometimes I can resist calling someone a donk or whatever when I’m a victim of that sort of thing, but I know I shouldn’t.

I can only guess that he must have thought he had a read on you and therefore thought he was ahead. Either that, or he just had a random brainfart. I occasionally have one of those and go “WTF did I play that hand like that?!” I sometimes get into my head the other guy is bluffing or whatever and run with it - although luck never seems to come to my rescue.

I swear though,the number of times I’m the victim of the river compared to the times I luck out on the river seems ridiculous.Luck always seems to come to the rescue of the gambler in poker,it seems.

I’d have been a bit nervous of the spot you were in, though,with 3 callers, even with AK. I HATE more than 2 callers. Someone always seems to luck a set or a crappy two pair from 2 cards they were daft enough to call with when there’s that many in. He was plain daft, though. 3 other players in with an A on the board and he thought he was ahead with 2nd pair?! Someone’s BOUND to have an A. Perhaps he’d consulted Paul the Octo, who told him he’d luck it on the river.;)

Listen me, Mr freeroll & $1 load up, trying to sound like a shark n all :D

them at 12:57 am on July 12th, 2010

Stupid players like that led me to stop playing online. Almost annoys me more than millionaire ex sports stars who overnight start calling themselves professional poker players even though they are completely rubbish at the game. They’re everywhere.

Frell Me Dead at 1:43 am on July 12th, 2010

Obviously I would’ve needed to be at the table to have a better grasp of the scenario but here’s my analysis of Mr X’s thought process anyway:

I’ll say he was putting you on a big ace or pair. I think it panned out the way it did because he got completely set on taking the pot, if he had any piece of the flop, from the start.

If he lost the pot then, worst case, he would have had a minimum of 30K left which would still leave him in an OK position.

I suspect he thought you were weak and would potentially lay down top pair. Whether he had any basis for this, other than that you’re a woman, I don’t know?

Pre-flop: called hoping to find a favourable flop to trap a big hand and get a monster pot.

Flop: got a piece of it and was happy enough with the price to draw for 5, 6, 7 or 8. Turn: 8! He hit his draw! When your bet came, his strategy required him to either fold or put you all-in. Instead he made the weakest play of the hand by putting in the 12k raise. It was like he was running on auto-pilot, he couldn’t cancel his plans and fold, but bottled it when it came to the bluff; hence making the pointless raise.

When you came over the top he figured he may as well gamble because the pot odds were acceptable to him.

Maybe I’m giving him too much credit for having some kind of plan?

If you were in the mood to give away free information to your opponents it would be interesting to know the following. ;)

After turn bet you had about half your stack in the pot, did you consider yourself committed? What did you put him on? Would you’ve folded to all-in reraise?

Victoria Coren at 2:04 am on July 12th, 2010

Hi Frell. Interesting question, would I have folded to an all-in reraise. I think that would have been a better bet (if he was going to raise; folding is a better still), but I think I would have called anyway. I don’t mind giving away the free information: once I bet a third time, a quarter of my chips, into two players, unless it’s a total bluff (and in this case, with no hand, I wouldn’t have bet the flop), I am sticking with it. I wouldn’t invest chips like that in a “feeler bet” to see if my ace is good, and then fold.

  If the turn had brought a flush, I might well check and pass. I have got two opponents after all, not just one. But an offsuit 8… well, if one of them called me with 57 or 88 on that flop, good luck to them, they’ve hit their hand and they’re going to get my money.

  Those who say I didn’t bet enough to make him fold, why do I want him to fold?! I’m 1/4 favourite. All you can do in poker is get your money in at the best times with the biggest edge. If you lose anyway, well, you feel pretty sick about it but you don’t REGRET getting in the situation!

RomanticRecluse at 2:18 am on July 12th, 2010

I think Sifosis versus Mr Y is the more informative hand of the two.  The blinds were low and both had more than double their starting stack.  Sifosis had a big hand and Mr Y had a hand with potential but after Sifosis raised Mr Y reraised and was faced with a rereraise from Sifosis.  Mr Y called and the flop gave him outs but after Sifosis bet he got into another raising war, called an all-in and got knocked out when he missed the turn and river.

He started out trying to win a pot of 900 and ended up losing his stack of over 40000.  Why did he get himself into that situation?  Why didn’t he call rather than keep reraising when up against an aggressive player?  Did he really believe Sifosis would fold?  What was the point of getting involved in such a big pot so early?

Nova at 6:18 am on July 12th, 2010

why do you want to bet enough to get him to fold?
1.  Its a tournament and not a cash game and he has you covered. 
2.  It’s a 4 handed pot!  Once you get one caller on the flop, the opponents behind have pretty good odds to chase. 
3.  You only have 48k chips after your bet pre.  After your flop bet and Mr X’s call, there’s almost 18.5k in the pot and you only have 43k behind.  This is not an ideal situation.
4.  At the time you bet the flop against your 3 opponents, you have no idea whether you are a 4/1 favorite or not against any of your opponents.  Very easily one of your 3 opponents could be on a straight or a flush draw.  5k on the flop gives them decent odds to call especially if they think you may check the turn.

the dozza at 8:51 am on July 12th, 2010

Unfortunately that’s the problem with poker, everyones a hero, everyone thinks because they have read the harrington books they play like ivey, or you :)

Poker is the single most love and hate in my life.

I feel bad that it happened on your trip to vegas, however,  i’m not convinced it wont happen again.  Bad luck VC

RomanticRecluse at 12:37 pm on July 12th, 2010

Why would you want Mr X to fold?  Because if he folds he doesn’t get the cards which give him a hand which beats yours.  You were favourite and you got your chips in before the river but as he had you covered he could afford to be wrong about your hand and unlucky on the river.  He got lucky.

Is getting your money in at the best times with the biggest edge the only way to play poker?  Who wrote the following?

“The current vibe in poker – due perhaps to the dramatic demands of TV, or just the confident youth of most new players – is all about the huge bets.”

“TV commentators and their audiences applaud the suicidal all-in merchants, and damn the careful folders.”

“This is dangerous, dangerous.”

“Patience and caution are as vital to your poker armoury as vigour and guts.”

Jon MW at 12:41 pm on July 12th, 2010

The first hand is a very similar dynamic to the hand I got knocked out of the Black Belt Live tournament in March with.

The main differences were I had QQ and not the ace and I was HU against ‘my’ Mr X.

What was interesting was that I did get talking to him in the bar afterwards and he did explain his thinking, such that it was.

He had put me on the Ace - so a stronger hand than I actually had.
He stayed in despite having nowhere near the right odds; because he thought he might hit his 2 pair or gutshot.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the logic for ‘your’ Mr X was pretty much the same.

Saul at 5:31 pm on July 12th, 2010

I wouldn’t actually presume to tell a player as successful as Vicky actually how to play poker, think we should appreciate the insights she is showing us.

AK however is one of those hands that is horrible to play, would appreciate her thoughts on how she plays.

In my experience people will always play a random ace, say the flop comes A 9 2, a nice continuation bet goes in then you get reraised, you are very rarely winning, either running into a set or flopped two pair.

Or worse you miss the board, and get reraised off your continuation board, or you hit an A and hit a wet board, and can’t get rid of the flush str8 chasers.

My belief is the value in it is an AIPF bet, not that I advocate doing that all the time but I’d rather see all five cards rather than be forced to fold.

Saul at 5:36 pm on July 12th, 2010

This is actually a serious question for Vicky and would appreciate her thoughts.

Does she think that profressional poker players are any good or significantly better than others or is it the fact that they have money behind them, for instance if Tom Dwan bets 3 times flop turn river with air for maybe half a million dollars and wins with a bluff, is that a good play or is it the fact that he has the money actually negate that.

For example, Phily Ivey has gone out of the WSOP with QQ vs KK, he 3 bet pre flop and the guy 4 bet him and he moved all in. To my mind that is a bad play with QQ because you are almost certainly behind and best case scenario may be AK.

Wondered what your thoughts were.

Markjb at 6:07 pm on July 12th, 2010

It’s a sign
...time to give up poker.

Victoria Coren at 6:53 pm on July 12th, 2010

Saul - it’s an interesting question about AK. Obviously it’s perfect for going all in pre-flop if you have the right kind of chip stack. But not if you’re playing deep. There’s no need to go broke with it if you get outflopped. In fact, in many situations, before the flop I might flat call with it. Then, you’re the one raising the flop, scaring your opponent into worrying how hard you’ve hit - and if they seem unfazed by the possibilities, that tells you something.

  re your question about the “top pros”, certainly there is too much reverence for the high stakes, and many of these famous players play less well than “anonymous” internet players. But Tom Dwan and Phil Ivey are great poker players who both share a phenomenal sense of situation - it’s no good having a load of money and jamming it in if you don’t find the right spots to do it, then you’re just one of those whales that keep the game alive! Both those two are also very capable of making smaller, confusing, jabbing bets. When they shove, they’re using “power” for a reason. Course they aren’t right 100% of the time but they are truly great players, there’s no doubt about it.

Perry at 7:26 pm on July 12th, 2010

Yeah it is sick about your bad beat, but I kind of disagree with the view of his pre-flop call.

If you’re a rock, 3-betting is bad. You’re in early-position and your range is going to be big hands. Now calling means he gets position on you if it’s heads-up, and a nice multi-way hand if others call (though I would prefer a suited connectors). He has around 100BB’s, you have over 60, poker can be played here.

After the flop though, I don’t like what he does, heads-up against you is a fold as he has not hit the board well enough , so with the player behind him, it should be an easy fold.

So yeah, apart from pre-flop, I agree with you. So pat him on the back, say well done and when he’s finished invite him to the cash game you’re playing and win that tournament unofficially.

Sam at 7:40 pm on July 12th, 2010

Victoria that’s a horrifically bad beat, and one I feel real sympathy for. In situations like that, where you’ve outplayed your opponent at every turn and still get beaten by dumb luck and bad bets, I remind myself of the quote “Even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day.” Ungracious? Possibly. Cold comfort? Most definintely. But in the long run you’ll make far more money off these people than you lose, and one of them had to get lucky.

Frell Me Dead at 7:43 pm on July 12th, 2010

Hi Victoria,

Thanks for the insightful reply; duly noted for future reference. ;)



PS. I noticed that one of my comments was not worded very well and could be misconstrued as saying that women players are inherently weak. This is not a view I hold. I take each player as they come.

richard ellis at 8:18 pm on July 12th, 2010

i’m at the other end of the spectrum, new, eager and trying to learn and improve. i’m finding that at very low stakes games it’s hard to win with just good poker as most of the people i am playing do not understand pot odds, implied odds, table position, stack size, M zones etc and just call my raises with crap so often.
  i understand i am giving myself the right odds and them bad odds but seem to be constantly running into river beats against hands that should never be in the pot, i should, by the percentages, be making money, why then am i not??? ok, i make mistakes, we all do, but on the whole i think i’m playing good poker, why then do i seem to be getting beaten so often by players that seem to have little idea what they are doing and constantly getting lucky, its infuriating, gotta love poker.

FoxUK at 10:50 pm on July 12th, 2010

Hey Vics.  Couple of questions.

1) What was your table image when the above shenanigans occurred?
2) Did you really only initially raise to 2,000 or did you mean you raised by 2,000?

MarkP at 11:43 pm on July 12th, 2010

I know nothing about poker but I would suggest you avoid playing with anyone called Mr X or Mr Y. I’ve seen several court cases where these salubrious characters have been mentioned.
How about another entry about cakes. The chocolate cake was lovely, have you any other recipes?

Victoria Coren at 1:10 am on July 13th, 2010

Mmm, more recipes, that’s a good idea. But I can’t think about it here because it’s too hot to eat, never mind cook. Remind me in a couple of weeks!

  Fox - I raised to 2000. That’s a fairly small raise with blinds at 400-800 but I like small raises, especially in early position. In this case, it means that someone might feel inclined to reraise and then I can make a really big bet - or if not, if several people call and I don’t like the flop, I can just check-fold and I haven’t invested too much money.

RomanticRecluse at 1:34 am on July 13th, 2010

Is it a sign it’s time to give up poker as Markjb suggests?  No.  You still love poker.

But maybe it’s a sign it’s time to give up thinking like a poker player, raging against bad beats and the “bad” players who benefit from them.  You hate losing but losing in such a way is an occupational hazard.

Saul at 1:50 am on July 13th, 2010

Interestingly I played a 90 man MTT on stars after your AK comments. First hand AK in the small blind, 3 callers, I flat call, flop a friendly A 7 2 (2 spades), check from early position, 3 callers put min bets, I reraise to 520, this is on first level, blinds 10/20, get put all in, call and see he has 45 spades. He misses the flush draw.

Am one place outside the bubble, get AK again, have about 8K (in late pos this time), someone standard raises 3 x bb from early position, I put him all in, blinds 300/600, I push him all in as I have about 14 BB left, thinking he can’t call me unless he is well ahead.

He insta calls with AQ and hits two queens and I go out one place before the money. Doh.

DaveP at 7:34 am on July 13th, 2010

I hate tournament poker and one of the things I hate most about it is players making arrangements with each other to share prize money. 
I’m curious about how it would affect your view of this hand, if you discovered that your main protagonist and the third player who stayed for the turn had an arrangement to split any prize money they acquired?
I’m obviously not suggesting this actually was the case, I’m simply interested in whether or not you would view his flat call after the flop in a different light?

Wemann at 7:42 am on July 13th, 2010

Serious question couched in humour - will my CSE Grade 1 in Maths be a contributing factor to my lack of Poker prowess?

mike at 9:53 am on July 13th, 2010

Hiya Vicky,

To deviate from poker for just a few microseconds - your thoughts on your favourite recipes is a good idea indeed.  Maybe one every 2 weeks would be nice for lonely male cooks like me.

Perhaps BBC 2 would be interested in offering you a 30 minute series called ‘The Delicious Miss Coren’

Have fun in the desert.

richard ellis at 1:23 pm on July 13th, 2010

well, perseverence has won through and sticking to good poker principles have just won 3 $10 SnG’s in a row, bank balance starting to rise again, phew. i can cope with the bad beats, as was said, it’s an occupational hazard of playing poker, it’s just nice to be able to vent somewhere rather than tilting at the table. don’t know where else to vent, sorry. as for recipes, i love cooking but never know what to do, it’s hard been a sad lonely old man cooking for 1 lol, well maybe not old, am only 38 and in my 20’s at heart. but new ideas always welcome.

RomanticRecluse at 8:56 pm on July 13th, 2010

Here are some questions: what is the opposite of a “bad beat”?  There must be one because a bad beat produces a winner so what do they call what happens?  Does it even have a name?  Do poker players talk about the times they cracked someone’s aces, won a race in which they started behind or got away with an error or a risky play thanks to a lucky river card?  Are such wins a taboo subject because they challenge the received opinion that poker is a game of skill in which winning is due to good play and losing is due to bad luck?  Is such talk poker heresy or blasphemy?

I think there are enough questions there to inspire an article reflecting on the social psychology of the poker world and perhaps even one referring to Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”.  Who could write such an article?

richard ellis at 1:21 am on July 14th, 2010

is poker for real? continued following good principles and once again started running into bad beat after bad beat from bad call after bad call, bank roll gone. have to start again now. really concentrated played correctly and still lost, what’s going on. i can understand some bad beats but not time after time again. i’m losing my faith in both my ability and in the game now. please help me victoria, can you look at my hands and how im playing them and tell me if i am just the unluckiest guy in the world or if im doing something fundamentally wrong, im at a loss to how i can be rivered so many times when am so far ahead and not limping or slow playing, using standard 3x raises and 3x their bets reraises and still getting called and they keep hitting on the river, even when i bet the pot or +

Victoria Coren at 10:21 am on July 14th, 2010

I can’t help Richard, I’m sorry - other than writing my poker column, I never give lessons. There’s an awful lot of very useful advice, articles and videos on the internet. But maybe you’re playing fine anyway. People have bad runs in poker, it happens. Unlucky. The best thing is to stop for a while.

richard ellis at 2:10 pm on July 14th, 2010

thank you vicky, i didn’t actually mean give me lessons, i just meant look at my hands and say yes you’re playing fine and are unlucky or no you need to have a look at your game play cos you’re making fundamental errors.

a lesson i learned last night at my local pub redtooth tourny about implied odds: after calling a post flop raise (i was big blind with ks 10s) the flop was As Kd Js. from knowing the player raising i put him on AA or Ak so trips or 2 pr, i knew if i hit i would take down his full stack so i called. he checked turn slow playing. i checked, river was rag spade, he raised i shoved all in, he called and i took down his stack but what another friend explained to me later was negative implied odds: if he hit house or 4 of a kind and i had nut flush i would find it hard to lay down so could have lost my stack by negative implied odds.

what does everybody think about this situation, what would they have done? given i was on flush draw strt draw so about 27% chance of hitting and was given about 35% pot odds, my implied odds worked out around 20%, but with the negative implied odds aspect i thought this quite an interesting position to be in and thought it may be worth iescussion. i went on to take 2nd in the game after massive blinds heads up coin toss shove.

Patrick Fitzsimmons at 3:06 pm on July 14th, 2010

Not much of a pro poker person, play for fun, basic stuff, not like yourself, but in my life I have played poker with people so to speak, can’t explain. Anyway, losing to someone through luck is one thing, losing to a bad player and luck is quite another. Sounds to me, and I know you will think I am crazy, but sounds like he did know what he was doing. Just me though, listening to how you said it played out.

Playing the fool is a great game…

Sam G at 5:34 pm on July 14th, 2010

RR, your posts here are…special.

You can take a bad beat or put a bad beat on someone, and poker players are happy to laugh about one and whine about another.

And it’s human nature to assume when you win it’s because of playing well, and when you lose it’s because of bad luck, but it’s not taboo to talk about and is a well known and accepted thing within the poker world.

I suspect if you searched you could find an article on it, I very much doubt it referred to “If” but you never know.

Frell Me Dead at 5:34 pm on July 14th, 2010

@richard ellis

I’ll throw you a bone…

In my experience playing “by the book” is a slippery slope in NLH. You may have a primo hand that should win a heads-up 80% of the time over a long period. But there’s nothing to say AA won’t lose to 72 a hundred times in a row—nuking your bankroll. It sounds like you need to look into exploiting table psychology, table image, position, timing, stack size, etc. and not rely on primo hands to deliver. Of course it’s good to have a solid foundation, but you have to go beyond that.

Play low stakes games and think of it as investing in experience.

Don’t play if you can’t afford it or you are “playing scared”.

Develop a style that feels right for yourself.

My ideal is for the two hole cards to be the least of my concerns… ;)

richard ellis at 8:44 pm on July 14th, 2010

thank you vicky for your insight. maybe you could rewrite and use some of my rantings in one of your columns, the view from a novice. i don’t mind you using my intelectual property haha. i’ve done some more studying on bank roll etc. I think i’m not giving the game enough time for variances to play out and as Frell Me Dead says AA may lose hundred times in a row to 72 but in the long run it will win more often than 72.  thank you muchly to frell me dead.

  I think i am playing too high stakes for my bank roll, not necessarily my ability, and have not played enough hands or games to see a true pattern. wanting to make too much too quickly and been impatient. i’m learning massively quickly and think i am going about things in the right way. i take all info on board and act on it. thank you for all your feed back, it is appreciated lots

King John II at 1:35 am on July 15th, 2010

@richard ellis
Nice try, but you should realise that Vicky, like any self respecting poker player, is not in the business of assisting the game’s losers. It would be like trying to shoot herself in the foot. I recommend you read some of the passages from Vicky’s latest book, she likes to skin opponents alive at the table, money wise.
( or at least relieve them of their chips / money )
As a non poker player I have no such considerations.
Thus I recommend you (a) call it a day, or (b) budget to lose.

Victoria Coren at 1:49 pm on July 15th, 2010

Actually, my book says the opposite. A desire to ‘skin people alive’ is exactly what I don’t have! It’s a weakness in my game.

  The reason I can’t engage in one-on-one chat about people’s particular poker experiences and hands is purely a time issue - I just have to hope people understand that I juggle three jobs and receive a lot of messages about poker; if I got involved in personal analysis of everyone’s play, other than what I have to write about every week, I’d never get anything else done!

Phil at 2:48 pm on July 15th, 2010

Great post Vicky; I read your blog quite a bit and play a little poker, but don’t nearly have the experience of either yourself or some of the extremely erudite posters on this topic. Maybe you could dedicate one post a week here to a particular hand, either of your own, or one that you saw which you thought was interesting. That or just a general topic. You mentioned your guardian poker column; even if it just expanded upon your piece there it would be fascinating to read, and hopefully not take up too much of your clearly valuable time
Getting information on the thought processes involved (both your own and some of the people posting) would be invaluable to an amateur like me

RomanticRecluse at 4:44 pm on July 15th, 2010

Sam G, you may be right about the term “bad beat” and you’re wrong about human nature but I find the habits, language, imagery, structure and contradictions of poker fascinating.  To me poker looks like a religion.

And despite poker’s success and his own success within poker Peter Eastgate has left it and been applauded for doing so.  Even more fascinating.

richard ellis at 5:05 pm on July 15th, 2010

thank you vicky, i completely understand your position. that’s fine. as for the using my rantings for your use in a column, i just thought it might be of interest to people to see a different perspective on the game, that of a novice and newbie trying to get their head round so much info. as for budgeting to loose, i dont think so, i am intelligent, have loads of drive and am successful in everything i do (so far), have a degree, run my own business, race motorsport at british championship level and have competed in many sports at high level, therefore i don’t see any reason why i can’t be a successful poker player, i am just at the beginning of my poker career and therefore tbc.

just need time to take on board the masses of info that are needed to become good and give it all time to sink in. i also need the time, experience and practice to develop table skills like reading the players etc. i dont believe that all this is an overnight thing, it’s a development process and i believe i can do it. without belief you will never get there. therefore i don’t believe i am budgeting to lose, i believe i am budgeting to invest in my poker future to develop, and learn and in the long term not just make money but enjoy the game too. if i don’t try i will never know. let’s see where i am in a years time. will post my net poker profit or loss then as i am tracking it. so far, small profit lol. once again ty vicky and i do understand and appreciate how busy u r

Jon MW at 5:56 pm on July 15th, 2010

It’s an unusual feature of poker that good players very often DO want to help other players improve.

But generally it’s people they know socially, rather than because of any innately charitable nature I think.

Like Vicky says, her problem is that everybody knows her - so it’s not really practical for her to try and assist in random hand analysis. If Richard Ellis doesn’t already, he could look for some online poker forums where they would be more than happy to help analyse his game.

Saul at 8:00 pm on July 15th, 2010

@ Richard Ellis

I’d advise playing live, rather than on the internet, where I think you can actually regress rather than progress to get a feel for the game.

There are probably reasonable buy ins for MTTs and cash games at your local casino.

I Ching at 9:10 pm on July 15th, 2010

The whole purpose of games and playing, apart from just having fun, is that you are learning - about people, the world, yourself - but when you’ve learnt all there is from playing a game it is time move on - to apply your knowledge elsewhere.  If you stay in the rut of playing the game you are no longer in tune with the purpose of it all, and so your luck runs out or even turns against you.

Lego at 12:36 am on July 16th, 2010

I always try to be ruthless if I can be. I think I’ve got a fairly bloodthirsty streak to finish off my opponent if I can :D. I’d say my one failing sometimes tho, is failing to “pull the trigger,” more through a lapse in good judgment more than anything else.

E.g. I was just in some cr*ppy play money 9 seat tourney a few days ago. We were down to 3 handed, and I was fairly sure I was ahead of this guy, and it was nearly all in, but I decided to just check it on the river because I was 100% sure I was ahead, and left him with about 100 chips. I was ahead, & if I’d pushed him for his last 100, I’m sure he’d have called. Anyway, 10mins later, after a few all-ins from him (1 in which he got lucky against me when he was well behind preflop), he knocked me out in 3rd, just out of the chips.

So I’m sure as you know, not finishing a player off, whether it’s play £ or real, can come back to bite you on the backside.

I guess it might be different in real life in a real £ tourney, when you know the other person and you know they might need the cash.

The only time I have trouble being ruthless is if I’m a huge stack and bullying with it. I know it winds me up no end when a big stack does it against me, so I lack the heart to do it enough.

richard ellis at 9:35 am on July 16th, 2010

@saul i agree, am sure live poker is a better way to learn and am playing in a redtooth poker league and in 2nd place at the moment so on for a seat at the regional finals, woohoo so must be doing something right. @ching very good post, totally agree, poker is also about learning about people and yourself and the world. it’s a fantastic experience so far, like nothing i’ve experienced before, however i am far from having learnt all there is about all the above so poker for me will continue, i hope, to be a long term rewarding experience in all aspects.

  as for forums, I have browsed many but find them so full of conflicting advice and ideas and many posts from people that seem to be of dubious ability. Am just trying to pick the bones out of it all and apply what i think is sound advice to my experiences. so far i’m hooked and thoroughly enjoying this massive learning curve.

mike at 10:32 am on July 16th, 2010

Hi Vicky,

I have reached the end of chapter 16 of your excellent book.  You have just won several thousand pounds for coming second at the Vic Pot Limit Holdem and (in your own words) ‘can’t stop winning’.  I am not too sure which year that was but what an emotional roller-coaster you have had to get that far!  I do not wish to sound patronising, but you needed that boost to your sense of identity at that otherwise fairly low point.

Dan at 12:11 pm on July 16th, 2010

It isn’t THAT fascinating that Peter Eastgate has left poker.

62 comments and counting.  People clearly ARE interested in Vicky’s poker life, despite the Twitter naysayers!

Gary Brooks at 1:13 am on July 17th, 2010

Misery loves company so here’s mine. . .

I won’t go into hand analysis, but it was a heads up. I went all in with QQ. Called by 8 2.

The flop showed an 8. I’ve always felt bad luck in my marrow, heart and soul; and they all pulsed for me the sad message ‘that 2 is on its way.’

And there came that deuce on the river.

‘Number two’ is now a doubly filthy phrase for me.

rheale at 8:50 pm on July 17th, 2010

Hi, just finished your poker book, really really enjoyed reading it. Loved the way you likened the journey and the way you saw it all with Alice in Wonderland. Had Google on alongside reading it, so I could quickly ‘Google’ the characters and places. Think you are definitely from some other time and when I move to London next month I hope I get to meet a girl like you. You’re bloody lovely :)

richard ellis at 1:17 am on July 18th, 2010

Just ran my high strt into 4 of a kind, that wasn’t bad play on anybodys behalf, just bloody unlucky. Think i might put computer down for the night and go to the club, might get lucky there. knowing my luck will get drunk, will pull, and wake up with koyote ugly lady and have one less arm left in the morning when i have to chew one off to escape without waking her lol. Mind, we might both wake to find each other chewing our own arms off.

Now just to lighten the mood, a little joke i heard earlier, i liked it cos i love anything that plays on words and is slightly naughty. A man walks into a bar, the barman says “excuse me sir, you have a steering wheel hanging out of your flies!” the man replies “i know, it’s driving me nuts” hahah, well i thought it was funny anyway, but i was slightly drunk lol.

mike at 3:33 pm on July 18th, 2010

Hi Vicky,

Just like rheal has, I too have just finished reading your excellent book about your poker story.  I read the last chapters sitting in the warm summer sunshine in my garden this morning (Sunday) with a cup of tea and a sandwich.  Now the book sits with its various neighbours in my bookcase, and the bookmark will now be used to read your other book (with Charlie Skelton) which I guess will be a slightly different animal.

Take care Vicky, Stay positive.

Sam G at 8:00 pm on July 18th, 2010

RR, I am not wrong about it being human nature. I have a huge amount of poker playing friends/acquaintances and I assure you the vast majority of players blame luck for losing while citing playing well for winning. And I include myself in this as I played professionally for a couple of years. I would love to know your reasoning for outright stating I am wrong.

Peter Eastgate is respected more than he was applauded for his decision. He is a young man who has enough money to retire, and the poker world accepts that as he’s lived the dream of virtually every poker player.

Lego at 10:52 pm on July 18th, 2010

This comment section is in danger of turning into bad beats united. :)

‘tis a cruel game, but a very addictive game. The trick (in danger of stating the obvious) seems to be to make enough when you’re running good to offset when you’re running bad.

It’s addictive, but a frequently frustrating, monstrous waste of time for most (including me). I’m not sure I’d actually recommend ANYONE take it up, to be honest. :D

Eastgate gave it up? Pah, he’ll be back :). Didn’t Andy Black give it up, give all his money up and join a monastery? He’s back now. :D

John at 12:47 am on July 19th, 2010

Vicky, your bad beat wasn’t really a bad beat. It was a very safe person (urself) plaing against a gambler. If the ace didnt come you woulda made a contin bet and the gambler woulda then taken the pot off you. The fact that the ace came and he hit made it impossible for him to fold.

Victoria Coren at 10:52 am on July 19th, 2010

Hi John. If the flop was bad for me, I wouldn’t have bet out from early position into three opponents. I’d have bet any flush draw, straight draw or pair, but if I missed completely I’d either check-raise or check-fold, depending how the action went.

RomanticRecluse at 8:43 pm on July 19th, 2010

Sam G, I think you’re wrong about human nature because there’s no such thing as “human nature”, no constant psychological characteristics found in all humans.  There are opposites within humanity, races, cultures and even families and a person’s nature can change dramatically.

Poker players may share the same attitudes to winning and losing you describe but they are a self-selecting group, not a cross-section of humanity.  Poker players may share certain characteristics (which make poker attractive to them), attitudes (which show in behaviour like raging against bad beats) and dreams (such as winning big and retiring) but not everyone plays poker.  Some people play other games and have different attitudes to winning and losing and some people don’t care whether they win or lose.

Sam G at 2:13 pm on July 20th, 2010

Ahh, you’re trying to push a technicality. Whether or not human nature exists is something I don’t know (and something neither you nor anyone knows), but there are undoubtedly traits that the majority of people share. One of these is a tendency to view our successes as the product of our hard work, and our failures as the result of bad luck.

richard ellis at 1:14 pm on July 21st, 2010

just to prove us poker players don’t just moan about bad beats. i went out of a tourney last night after playing only one hand.  1 and a half hours into the game and hadn’t seen a hand, i made a stupid mistake - marginal hand, played it bloody awfully and went out. needed more discipline argh, oh well, mistake learnt from. It’s cost me the lead in the league though and possibly my seat to the regionals.

richard ellis at 8:58 pm on July 24th, 2010

well, poker is going good, bankroll building, but god, how many times can i have big hands taken down by marginal calls, if not diabolical calls? All in a’s cracked by 79 offsuit, kings by AK, QQ by A7 etc etc and was way ahead on all occasions, that’s just a few to mention. Doing really well at bricks and mortar though, loving it. You never know, maybe time to have a go at apat or ept, mmmmm well it’s worth a punt. this is all your fault victoria lol, maybe see you at a table one day, that would be good. Could put you off your stride with my inane drivel hahaha

RomanticRecluse at 12:23 am on July 25th, 2010

Bad beats, bad players, bad cards: all this unhappiness caused by random events that you don’t want to happen happening.

If a game which is based on probability theory is getting you down why not play a game which is based on the laws of physics?  Probability theory will tell you what the chances of something happening are but the laws of physics tell you what will happen and if the circumstances do not change the same thing will happen every time.  If you have enough skill you can make luck irrelevant to the outcome of the game and the best player will always win.

That sounds much better.

richard ellis at 11:02 am on July 27th, 2010

RR, i think you get me all wrong, the game isn’t getting me down at all, quite the opposite. I love it, the highs and lows etc, and despite all the dubious players there are online I’m actually making half decent money, bank roll steadily climbing, woohoo.

Mr "X' at 5:37 pm on July 27th, 2010

My friend sent me this telling off….

I.O.U an apology and $5000 by the sounds of it…..i blame the 2 bottles of vodka for the play.

I wont do it again,

cubs honour

Victoria Coren at 6:15 pm on July 27th, 2010

Oh dear, I never thought you’d see it. How did your friend know it was you in the hand??
  Assuming this is legit - nothing personal nothing personal…. apart from the knockout, it was nice to see you, it’s been a while!

Mr "X" at 9:20 pm on July 27th, 2010

nothing personal taken, my pal is a poker nut and reads all these sorts of things, he texted me to have a look at it and was crying with laughter.. He was at the bellagio sitting on the next table at the 5k, and verbated me at the time for knocking out the only attractive woman left in the tournamnent with such a horrid play and a crap hand… (sorry jennifer )

next time you play the 6,7 off suit, you can call it the vodka redbull ,and think of me :-)

see you soon…


Victoria Coren

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