01/06/2009

It Maybe Time to Refresh

Carl Sampson 'The Dean'

Anyone who has spent a considerable amount of time on the betting exchanges will not have failed to notice how relevant news has an almost instant effect on the prices. For instance some of the well respected pundits on Racing UK tend to be able to shift the prices based on what they say.

These price shifts are only brief and then they correct themselves by slowly drifting back to their optimal level. This is no different to financial traders who also trade on news and use that as their method of operation.

But what we are looking at here is momentum and there is an almost pendulum like motion most of the time. The same can be said of gambling systems and strategies, something that I have done a lot of work on in the past. Some of these work and work well for clearly designated reasons.

The problem that users of these systems face is that they don’t understand the underlying principles for why these systems work and only understand the basic rules of how to implement them.

The problem with this is obvious in that you can then fail to notice when a system is failing to work due to various changes in the reasons for why it has been working in the past.

This is exactly the same with poker as poker is after all just another form of intelligent gambling. But there isn’t a poker player alive who doesn’t have some sort of system. Also, a system doesn’t necessarily have to be something that is rigid or inflexible or even simple for that matter. Yet the word “system” seems to bring up images in most peoples minds of set rules that must be obeyed at all times.

Some simple systems do operate in this way but systems can be as simple or as complex as you wish. After all, even Doyle Brunson had a “system”……he called it Super System. If you are a very advanced poker player then you will have a system, it may be so complex that you may find it difficult to teach this to someone else in a relatively short time frame but it will be a system all the same.

But all complex systems share a rather interesting dynamic in that they are more prone to going wrong almost like an F1 car. With a field as highly complex as poker then it is stupendously easy to start drifting into playing negative EV poker (even if this is only temporary).

Subtle shifts in the game dynamic can mean that you are –EV for say a thirty minute spell or an hour. This may not be easily spotted especially as these periods can be lost in very large sample sizes that show a healthy BB/100.

Take continuation betting heads up as an example. If more and more people were not looking closely at their opponents making continuation bets against them then terms like “floating” and “stop and go” would not be so common. Continuation betting (especially on certain flop textures) is not an automatic line anymore but this is because of shifts in the dynamic that makes continuation betting a far more “expected” play in the minds of your opponents when they see you do it after raising pre-flop.

Am I saying to never continuation bet after raising pre-flop when heads up... certainly not. That would be shifting too far in the other direction. But as with all gambling systems and sub-systems, once information is too widely circulated then it lessens the effect of the said system or tactic/strategy.

Once upon a time, continuation betting heads up would have been an automatic play... I don’t think it has been this way for some time at many levels. But any system however complex eventually becomes stale and needs to be refreshed for various reasons. This is why football teams change players during the season, you will hear managers saying about how they “need to freshen things up”.

F1 teams do the same when they re-design their cars and you should too or at least analyse how things are going. With the variance in poker being so great then it can take a very large sample size in whatever form of poker you are playing before you realise that something is wrong. Variance and a “faulty system” are almost impossible to tell apart in the short term and you need to possibly guard against that if you can.

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