Poking around

Well, I am continuing my quest for the best poker online. Basically, I have spent the last year or so playing Party Poker and Empire Poker. Party Poker I think is about the most popular of the bunch, attracting upwards to 75,000 players online at peak times. Empire Poker is at the other end of the scale, only attracting maybe 7,000 people at peak.

I have been through a number of the bigger name places, and for various reasons, I have just not been very satisfied with them. In some cases, they will not accept the payment methods I normally use (and attempt to get me to signup for some off brand “payment system”). In other cases, I signup, play a couple of tables, and realize that the quality of the players is very, very low.

What do I mean by low quality players?

I mean the type of players who will stay in with a 64 suited, flop a single card from the same suit, and go all in. Heck, they have a hot hand, so why not, right? Well, at least one poker system I have seen appears to really reward massive dog hands, and these players flop the flush often enough to make it hard to play against. Basically, I lost any number of good hands to people who played total shit out of position and ended up pulling it out on the river.

Everyone can play a shit hand now and again, and every so often these hands do pan out. All of us (without exception) bluff our asses off at times, using the 72os as a hammer to steal the chips. But some of these players come in with consistantly horrible hands, raising small pairs, low suited connectors, and ANY face card. In a way you could call it agressive, but in the end it is stupid play that wouldn’t stand up in the real world. As I said, I get the feeling that some of these poker systems have their thumb on the scale a little bit, and fudge it to make those dog hands win to keep those players interested and excited.

This all became clear to me last weekend when I played poker with real people (during the superbowl party weekend thingie). These were not pros, not the best players in the world, but a nice mix of everyone from clueless amateurs to aggressive semi-pro type players. We played some two table, 15-20 player games, and in those the players who were too aggressive or called bad hands were blown out (and I was a couple of times). For the most part poorer players didn’t make it to the end, and the better players did well. I rarely saw a massive dog pull it out, and it was the exception rather than the rule.

That got me thinking about how the online games play out.

I have read up on how the random shuffle thing works (they use things like mouse movements and other weird random events to set random number generators in action). I have read classic poker books (like David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth’s seminal work on Texas Hold’em “Hold’em Poker for advanced players”) and I am pretty good at “in my head” math. Each and every card has a 1.9% chance of coming up in any position. After the flop, there is about a 5% chance than any single card will come up on the turn or river (2.5-2.6% , basically 1 in 45, because the only think you know for sure is that you have 2 cards, the other player has 2 card, and there are 3 cards up… so there is a 1 in 45 chance that any single card comes up). When you start doing the math on the chance that a dog hand turns into a winner (say like pulling runner runner to make a straight or coming up with one of the other 2 that will turn your ducks into a set) the numbers are fairly low, and the chance that those hands progress into something better is quite small. That multiple dog hands would progress to winners is even more unlikely. That a majority of dog hands would turn into winners is laughable.

When I see that, I am out of there.

Why does it happen? My theory on this is pretty simple. Poker rooms would lose players if the bad players kept losing all the time. The thrill of winning a big hand, going all in and winning, well, that is powerful incentive to keep playing. If you feel you are winning hands but losing tables, as a player you might think you are getting closer and that would be enough to encourage players to reload their accounts and keep playing.

I have noticed this more on smaller poker sites rather than the largest, which makes me think of the situation as marketting rather than absolutely random shuffles and deals. Try to keep the fish putting the money in the top, and the good players should be able to profit from it (but not all the time, because they keep getting bad beat by lucky beginners playing crap hands).

Anyway, I continue on my trek, there are a few more major sites to check out and then, well, I guess I will have to figure out where it is I really want to play.

You could play with me at Empire Poker – click here to download the software for free