A Decade After Chris Moneymaker

[LL] “Who’s your favorite World Series of Poker Main Event champion?” Leroy the Lion inquired of Roderick the Rock.

[RR] “Chris Moneymaker. His win inspired me, like a lot of people, to play Texas Hold ‘Em”, Rod replied. “I didn’t know he had won right away, because I was watching the tournament1 on ESPN’s recorded broadcast, but I was rooting hard for him for the last few tables as if I could affect an event that was 2,400 miles away and had already happened.”

[LL] “Truth is stranger than fiction. I’m sure the conspiracy theorists had a field day when a charming but financially struggling Tennesseean with a wife and newborn daughter, got in through a satellite he didn’t want to be in to enter a second satellite he didn’t want to win to earn a buy-in into the Main Event he didn’t want to play. Moneymaker then sold off part of his action to a guy named Gamble, somehow got picked to win it all by a guy named Diamond, and then outlasted 838 opponents through five days of play to win the most coveted bracelet in the poker world.”

[RR] “And the unbelievable name! M-O-N-E-Y-M-A-K-E-R. Unreal. His German ancestors2 may have created silver and gold coins, but Chris popularized a new way of chasing the American dream.”

[LL] “Some people say that the boom was coming no matter what because of the enlightenment of hole cams, the proliferation of shows on TV, and the convenience of Internet poker. But there’s no way that Sammy Farha3, as charismatic as he is, would have had nearly as big an effect.”

[RR] “Yeah, he was already a professional poker player, so the big jump may have had to wait another year, when amateur Greg Raymer won the main event.”

[LL] “Wouldn’t have been the same. Fossilman4 was a *lawyer* ;-). Maybe Jamie Gold if he isn’t too smarmy for people.”

[RR] “But who knows what else would have changed if Moneymaker hadn’t won. Maybe Gold never gets involved in the TV show where he meets Johnny Chan, who then tutors him in Hold ‘Em, and doesn’t enter the 2006 tournament.”

[LL] “Hard to believe Moneymaker’s win was ten years ago. The size of the Main Event field peaked three years later, when Gold won his wheelbarrow of money, but has withstood the shutdown of the major online poker sites in the U.S.”

[RR] “This year there were 6,352 entrants, roughly what it’s been every year since 20075, and I expect it will stay around there until the U.S. government legalizes online gambling again.”

[LL] “States are starting to, so my fingers are crossed that it’ll be in the next few years.”

Footnotes:

  1. The end of the tournament was broadcast on ESPN in prime time two weeks after it happened.
  2. The family’s last name was Nurmacher until they moved to England and translated it to Moneymaker.
  3. Sammy Farha finished in second place after a bathroom discussion failed to complete a deal to split the top two prizes. Moneymaker credits that discussion with giving him a big strategic edge as he figured Farha would want to keep pots smaller because of his perceived skill advantage.
  4. Greg Raymer is a fossil collector and uses one as a card protector.
  5. 6,352 is within a thousand of 2010’s 7,319, the highest total of the last seven events and only six below 2007’s 6,358, the previous low of that period.

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Rounders Last Hand

[RR] “Heads-up has so much more psychology than full-table games”, Roderick the Rock asserted. “After enough hands, you can really get inside your opponent’s head, and in the last hand in Rounders, Mike pretty much understood Teddy perfectly and was able to use his aggression against him.”

[AA] “Well, it’s always nice to flop the nuts”, Al the Almost diverted, “but the key was extracting maximum value from his straight, which, having minraised preflop1, he did by checking the flop, turn, and river.”

[RR] “Teddy might have bet that way with almost any two cards, but I think he had a real hand, probably a set of some sort, and quite possibly a set of Aces, as he claimed, ‘That ace could not have helped you’.”

[AA] “Since he’d been playing so aggressively, he might think that Mike could put him on almost any two cards there and call with just a pair. And Mike’s actual holding seemed pretty unlikely to Teddy, so he expected to win the hand almost every time, whether Mike folded or not.”

[RR] “As much as the movie helped fuel the Texas Hold ‘Em boom, it’s unfortunate that it also portrayed string bets, pot splashing, temper tantrums, and cheating without nearly enough discouragement of those actions from the hero.”

[AA] “It was a movie, not a training video.2 I’m sure Miss Manners Guide to Etiquette at the Poker Table is a best-seller at Amazon.”

Footnotes:

  1. KGB was dealing and must have called from the small blind, although that isn’t shown.
  2. We covered Table Manners a few months ago.

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Flash replayer version of the hand (estimated chip stacks)

Full Tilt Poker formatted version, suitable for inputting into various poker analysis tools

Full Tilt Poker Game #0000010022: Table Teddy KGB's Place - 50/100 - No Limit Hold'em - 00:01:01 EDT - 1998/09/11
Seat 1: McDermott (41,400)
Seat 2: KGB (18,600)
McDermott posts the big blind of 100
KGB posts the small blind of 50
The button is in seat #2
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to McDermott [9s 8s]
KGB calls 50
McDermott raises to 200
KGB calls 100
*** FLOP *** [6d 7s Th]
McDermott checks
KGB bets 2,000
McDermott calls 2,000
*** TURN *** [6d 7s Th] [2c]
McDermott checks
KGB bets 4,400
McDermott calls 4,400
*** RIVER *** [6d 7s Th 2c] [As]
McDermott checks
KGB bets 12,000, and is all in
McDermott calls 12,000
*** SHOW DOWN ***
McDermott shows [9s 8s] straight, Nine high
KGB mucks
McDermott wins the pot (37,200) with straight, Nine high
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 37,200 | Rake 0
Board: [6d 7s Th 2c As]
Seat 1: McDermott (button) showed [9s 8s] and won (37,200) with straight, Nine high
Seat 2: KGB (big blind) mucked
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Rounders First Hand

[RR] Roderick the Rock reported back to Al the Almost, “I finally got around to watching Rounders1 again, and I definitely enjoyed it more the second time around, even though I knew how it would end. Maybe it’s because I know how to play Hold ‘Em better now.”

[AA] “Watch it a couple dozen more times like I have, then you can really understand its brilliance”, Al insisted.

[RR] “What I certainly appreciate more now then fifteen years ago was that the poker hands weren’t over-the-top straight flush vs. four Aces hands like other in most other movies.”2

[AA] “Yep, the biggest hand they showed was only a full house. Realistic.”

[RR] “That first hand against Teddy KGB seemed far-fetched to me when I saw it in the movie theater, but now I realize that it was just an unavoidable cooler.”

[AA] “Zeebo’s Theorem.3 Especially four-handed, there’s no way Mike can fold his full house. With A♣9♣, he raised from the button preflop and got called by Teddy in the big blind. Overbet his top two pair on the A♠9♠8♣ flop to make it look like a continuation bet and steal attempt. Slowplayed by checking behind on the 9♥ turn, which gave him his boat. And then bet and reraised all in on the harmless 3♠ river, which he hoped gave Teddy a flush.”

[RR] “The betting was too big — double reverse psychology or whatnot — but there’s no way to get away from a big loss there… unless he’s spotted a reliable tell.”

[AA] “Ah yes, the tell. People complained that no pro-caliber poker player would have such a blatant tell, but we’ll call that artistic license. If all Teddy did was twitch his nose, it would have been too subtle for most viewers to notice. I forgive them for the exaggeration.”

[RR] “What was far worse than the tell was Mike showing off his cards when he could have mucked them after folding because of the tell.”

[AA] “Yeah, laying down two pairs on the flop heads-up is pretty extreme. He might as well have admitted that he’d spotted the Oreo-eating tell, and Teddy didn’t take long to figure that out and smash his cookie rack against the wall. But Mike’s narration explains his rationale, claiming that the tilt factor was worth more than the tell.”

[RR] “Except that a good poker player shouldn’t be that easy to unhinge.”

[AA] “Maybe Mike expected Teddy to realize it out on his own anyway at some point. Rather than depending on a tell that could become unreliable and cost him a lot of money, he cashed it in for what he could get right then and there.”

Footnotes:

  1. Al and Rod previously discussed Rounders in The Basics of Texas Hold ‘Em.
  2. For example, The Most Famous Hold ‘Em Hand.
  3. See the previous discussion of Zeebo’s Theorem.

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Flash replayer version of the full house hand (estimated chip stacks)

Full Tilt Poker formatted version, suitable for inputting into various poker analysis tools

Full Tilt Poker Game #0000000022: Table Teddy KGB's Place - 100/200 - No Limit Hold'em - 00:00:01 EDT - 1998/09/11
Seat 1: McDermott (50,500)
Seat 2: Player3 (21,000)
Seat 3: KGB (62,500)
Seat 4: Player4 (16,000)
Player3 posts the small blind of 100
KGB posts the big blind of 200
The button is in seat #1
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to McDermott [Ac 9c]
Player4 folds
McDermott raises to 500
Player3 folds
KGB calls 300
*** FLOP *** [As 9s 8c]
KGB checks
McDermott bets 2,000
KGB calls 2,000
*** TURN *** [As 9s 8c] [9h]
KGB checks
McDermott checks
*** RIVER *** [As 9s 8c 9h] [3s]
KGB bets 15,000
McDermott raises to 48,000, and is all in
KGB calls 33,000
*** SHOW DOWN ***
McDermott shows [Ac 9c] full house, Nines over Aces
KGB shows [Ad Ah] full house, Aces over Nines
KGB wins the pot (101,100) with full house, Aces over Nines
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 101,100 | Rake 0
Board: [As 9s 8c 9h 3s]
Seat 1: McDermott (big blind) showed [Ac 9c] and lost with full house, Nines over Aces
Seat 2: Player3 didn't bet (folded)
Seat 3: KGB (button) showed [Ac 6h] and won (101,100) with full house, Aces over Nines
Seat 4: Player4 (small blind) didn't bet (folded)
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The Most Famous Hold ‘Em Hand

[EE] Elias the Eagle interrupted the clacking of chips, “You guys ever see the comedy version of ‘Casino Royale’?”

[SS] A mixture of yeses and nos came from around the table before Stan the Stat grumbled, “It couldn’t have been any worse than the Daniel Craig version!”

[EE] “Well, it had the original Bond girl, Ursula Andress, and lots of great actors: Peter Sellers, David Niven, and even Orson Welles and Woody Allen. Not a usual 007 movie (non-canonical, I think they call it), but I liked it.”

[EE] “But why didn’t you like the remake?”

[SS] “Are you kidding me? The Texas Hold ‘Em hands kept getting more and more ridiculous until the final hand set a new cinematic low for improbability.”

[EE] “It was a James Bond movie! His whole existence is based on the unlikely meeting the unimaginable striking the inconceivable (oops, sorry, wrong film1).”

[EE] “The 1967 version featured baccarat (or rather Chemin de Fer) from the Ian Fleming novel. Modernizing that completely boring, skill-forsaken betting game to Hold ‘Em, allowed for more complexity, excitement, and suspense.”

[SS] Stan objected, “But c’mon, that last hand…”.

[EE] “Let me find it”, Elias interrupted. A moment later, he had the hand summary on his iPhone screen.

[EE] “The movie picks up the action with 24 million already in the pot and an A♥8♠6♠ flop showing on the board. The turn is the 4♠, and all four players remaining in the tournament check.”

[EE] “The river is the A♠, and Bond checks. Fukutu bets 6 million, all in, Infante calls with 1 million less, and the antagonist LeChiffre minraises to 12 million. Bond thinks a bit then reraises all in for 40.5 million. LeChiffre considers, but not for long, before calling for all his chips (Bond had him outchipped by a million).”

[EE] “Fukutu2 flips over the K♠Q♠ for the nut flush. Infante excitedly tops him with 8♣8♥ for a full house, Eights over Aces. Then LeChiffre reveals a bigger boat with A♣6♥ for Aces over Sixes. Finally, Bond completely unsurprisingly shows the 7♠5♠ for the Eight-high straight flush and the win.”

[SS] “Horrible poker.”

[EE] “Look at it more closely, it wasn’t as bad as you think. Let’s go back through the action now that we know everyone’s hole cards. We’ll have to fill in a few gaps that the movie skipped over, starting with presuming that the blinds were 750,000/1,500,000 (500,000/1,000,000 would also work).”

[EE] “Two players are running low on chips, Fukutu with 12 million and Infante with 11 million, LeChiffre has 45 and a half million, and Bond has a million more than that. If Infante and LeChiffre both limped in front of him, Bond but could reasonably limp with his Group 6 suited, one-gapper, with Fukutu checking his option after. Any objections?”

[SS] “Infante should have been in jam or fold3 mode. He’s too short to set-mine.”

[EE] “Maybe there’s been a lot of limping, so he’s pretty sure he can see the flop for cheap.”

[EE] “Anyway, with 6 million in the pot, the flop is A♥8♠6♠. First to act, Bond has a killer draw, with 2 outs to a straight flush, 7 to a flush, and 6 to a straight, but he may have checked planning to check-raise. Fukutu has the second nut flush draw, so he may have checked hoping for a free turn. Infante has a set of Eights and charges the draws with a bet of three-fourths of the pot (4,500,000). Each player can reasonably call that, with Bond aborting his check-raise because of the call in front, since his fold vig is now almost zero.”

[SS] “Fukutu should have shoved.”

[EE] “Maybe, but he’d definitely get called, so he’d be risking the rest of his chips for what…”

[SS] “At best a 9-outer (35%); worse as it turns out.”

[EE] “With 24 million in the pot, the turn is the 4♠, improving both Bond and LeChiffre, yet all four players check. Bond has the obvious slowplay with the unbeatable nuts. Fukutu also checks despite hitting the second nut flush; not a terrible play given that his remaining stack is only a fourth of the pot, so a raise wouldn’t necessarily fold anyone. Infante still has just a set, so his check with a possible flush out there is reasonable. And LeChiffre still has just his two pairs, so his check is good.”

[SS] “No problem with those plays.”

[EE] “The river is the most exciting card in the deck, the A♠. Bond continues his slowplay with a check. Fukutu has upgraded to the nut flush and pushes in his remaining 6 million. Infante has filled up, so calling with his remaining 5 million is clear. LeChiffre’s minraise here is solid. He’s only losing to the A8, for a better boat, and the unlikely straight flush. Up until now, Bond has done nothing but limp, check, and call, so when he shoves all-in for about two-thirds of the pot, LeChiffre has a fairly easy call to make.”

[SS] “Incredibly unlikely hands.”

[EE] “Standard artistic license for any movie, let alone a 007 thriller. We don’t see much of the tournament’s action, so we know little about the players’ styles except that they all seem to like tricky play. In isolation, each of the checks, bets, raises, and calls appears defensible.”

[TT] “I’m still rather Fond / Of typical Bond / With fiction beyond / The conner gets conned”, concluded Tyrone.4

Footnotes:

  1. One of the all-time funniest movies for all ages, although it’s disguised as a children’s bedtime story, is The Princess Bride.
  2. Casinos can have their own rules about which order players reveal their hole cards, but the order here is for maximal dramatic effect.
  3. A future post will cover the very short stack strategy known as jam or fold.
  4. If you have any hands that you’ve played (they don’t have to be against THETA Poker Pro) that you want to share, please email them to hands@thetapoker.com. Good reads, bad beats, interesting stories, and more are all welcome!

Flash replayer version of the hand:

Full Tilt Poker formatted version, suitable for inputting into various poker analysis tools:

Full Tilt Poker Game #0000000123: $10,000,000 + $0 Casino Royale (000001), Table 1 - 750000/1500000 - No Limit Hold'em - 00:00:01 GMT - 2006/11/17
Seat 1: Fukutu (12,000,000)
Seat 2: Infante (11,000,000)
Seat 3: LeChiffre (45,500,000)
Seat 4: Bond (46,500,000)
Bond posts the small blind of 750,000
Fukutu posts the big blind of 1,500,000
The button is in seat #3
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Bond [7s 5s]
Infante calls 1,500,000
LeChiffre calls 1,500,000
Bond calls 750,000
Fukutu checks
*** FLOP *** [Ah 8s 6s]
Bond checks
Fukutu checks
Infante bets 4,500,000
LeChiffre calls 4,500,000
Bond calls 4,500,000
Fukutu calls 4,500,000
*** TURN *** [Ah 8s 6s] [4s]
Bond checks
Fukutu checks
Infante checks
LeChiffre checks
*** RIVER *** [Ah 8s 6s 4s] [As]
Bond checks
Fukutu bets 6,000,000, and is all in
Infante calls 5,000,000, and is all in
LeChiffre raises to 12,000,000
Bond raises to 40,500,000, and is all in
LeChiffre calls 27,500,000
Uncalled bet of 1,000,000 returned to Bond
*** SHOW DOWN ***
Fukutu shows [Ks Qs] flush, Ace high
Infante shows [8c 8h] full house, Eights over Aces
LeChiffre shows [Ac 6h] full house, Aces over Sixes
Bond shows [7s 5s] straight flush, Eight high
Bond wins the pot (71,000,000) with straight flush
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 71,000,000 | Rake 0
Board: [Ah 8s 6s 4s As]
Seat 1: Fukutu (big blind) showed [Ks Qs] and lost with flush, Ace high
Seat 2: Infante showed [8c 8h] and lost with full house, Eights over Aces
Seat 3: LeChiffre (button) showed [Ac 6h] and lost with full house, Aces over Sixes
Seat 4: Bond (small blind) showed [7s 5s] and won (71,000,000) with straight flush, Eight high
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A New Game in Town – THETA Poker Pro

As the Hold ‘Em players trickled in to the comfortably furnished suburban basement, Deb the Duchess, dubbed because her poker skills resemble those of 2009 “The Apprentice” runner-up Annie Duke, sits on a sofa playing an iPhone game. Tyrone the Telephone, nicknamed for his calling station style of play, is surprised that it isn’t her usual Words With Friends.

[TT] “Hi, Duchess. Has some unspeakably sad tragedy occurred? / Or are you waiting for all your opponents to play a word?” Tyrone ventured.

[DD] “I actually haven’t checked recently. I’m trying to get in some last-minute practicing for today’s tournament”, responded Deb.

[TT] “Didn’t know that you played online poker / I used to also, but now I’m broker.”

[DD] “Actually, I haven’t played a single hand online since the Black Friday shutdown1. This game’s just on the device, no network connection needed, which is great because my phone’s only getting one bar here.”

[TT] “But every one of those apps is incredibly weak / I taught my parrot how to win by pecking his beak.”

[DD] “Very funny. No, this one’s quite good. And totally configurable, too. I set it up for a 24-player tournament with 6,000 starting chips and a medium-paced blind structure, just like we play here.”

[TT] “You’ve got me enthralled / What’s this cool app called?”

[DD] “It’s THETA Poker Pro2. Stupid name, but it’s got by far the best artificial intelligence engine in the App Store. It also has a career mode, which is what I’d been playing until today. I’m trying to build my bankroll up from nothing to a $10,000 buy-in into the World Championship. I skipped the Easy and Medium difficulty levels, which are great for beginners and intermediates but too weak for me, and I’ve won the first three of the seven Hard events. Really fun. Super challenging. Tons of features3.”

[DD] I love that I can play a hand any time I want. I have the speed cranked all the way up, so I can get a few dozen hands in every morning just waiting in line for my cappuccino at Starebacks4. I feel like the practice is really improving my game. It’ll be the best $3.995 I’ve ever spent on an app if I just cash in tonight’s tournament :-).

[TT] “Forget about its paltry little price / Does the app run on my Android device?”

[DD] “Sorry, THETA Poker Pro only runs on iPhones, iPod touches, and iPads6. But isn’t your cell phone contract just about up?”

[TT] “Hold ‘Em game in the palm of my hand / Whose strength does my attention demand / Configurable at my command / Might motivate a phone switch unplanned”.

Footnotes:

  1. On Black Friday, April 13, 2011, the U.S Department of Justice shut down the three biggest online poker sites serving the U.S. market: PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet. Players on PokerStars were able to cash out their bankrolls shortly thereafter. Players on Full Tilt Poker are waiting for help from the U.S. government to do the same. Unfortunately, players on Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet lost everything.
  2. The full name of the universal app is THETA Poker Pro – Texas Hold ‘Em, available in the App Store starting tomorrow (February 1, 2013).
  3. THETA Poker Pro Features:
    • Human-Like AI: Play against the strongest and most realistic artificial intelligence players on any cell phone or tablet.
    • Incredible Tournament Details: Muck your cards to fold; shove all your chips to the middle to go all-in; view complete blind and payout schedules; experience table balancing, chipping up, dead buttons, tighter bubble play, and more.
    • Convenient Twitter, Facebook, and Email Integration: Share pictures or text of your favorite hand or your worst bad beat with a swipe and a few taps.
    • Clean, iOS-Optimized User Interface: Simple and obvious taps and swipes for all actions with an efficient and unique betting mechanism. Portrait or Landscape. Optimized for one-handed operation on all but the full-size iPad.
    • Full Sound and Music Control: Experience real gaming sounds while listening to your favorite local music (including sort-by-album and other special features) or streaming audio like Pandora, Spotify, Shoutcast, and Songza.
    • Complete Hand History: View or email any hand recap from the current event; optional Rabbit Hunting to show what might have been. Send yourself an entire tournament to analyze on your Mac or PC.
    • Advanced Heads Up Display: Tap on any opponent to see their HUD statistics (How tight are they playing? Should you respect their early-position three-bet?). View your own HUD data to improve your play and see how your opponents might perceive you.
    • Extensive Statistics: See how you’re doing in the current event, the current career level, or overall for a given career difficulty or custom mode.
    • Flexible Configuration: Choose the event type (Freezeout Tournaments, Shootouts, or Ring Games), table size, tournament size, play speed (up to 1,000 hands per hour!), and much more.
    • Total VoiceOver Accessibility: Play without even looking at the screen as all actions are announced out loud. THETA Poker Pro is the first and only fully VoiceOver accessible Texas Hold ‘Em app!
  4. Have our fictional characters drink your coffee, wear your clothes, and name-drop your products accidentally-on-purpose every week in this space. Inquire at mostlykiddingbutitwasworthashot@thetapoker.com.
  5. THETA Poker Pro is $3.99 in the U.S. and the equivalent Tier 4 price in other countries (e.g., €2.99 in the European Union).
  6. iOS 5.x or higher required. THETA Poker Pro is a universal app with full support for all current iPads, iPod touches, and iPhones, including native support for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

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