Poker Cats

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Having the technological edge

Suddenly the enemy that Blue Team thought could be read like an open book was a bit more mysterious. What was Red Team doing? Van Riper was supposed to be cowed and overwhelmed in the face of a larger foe. But he was too much of a gunslinger for that. On the second day of the war, he put a fleet of small boats in the Persian Gulf to track the ships of the invading Blue Team navy. Then, without warning, he bombarded them in an hour-long assault with a fusillade of cruise missiles. When Red Team's surprise attack was over, sixteen American ships lay at the bottom of the Persian Gulf. Had Millennium Challenge been a real war instead of just an exercise, twenty thousand American servicemen and women would have been killed before their own army had even fired a shot.
-Malcolm Gladwell, Blink

If you know the enemy and know yourself then you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.
-Sun Tzu

Before the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, the U.S. military held a series of war games, chronicled by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Blink.

The Blue Team, which largely represented the U.S. military and particularly its technological advances, had its fingers on the heart of the Red Team. With the flip of a digital switch, it could instantly knock out Red's power grid. Its real-time satellites could keep in touch with Red's troop movements and communications. Red's military obviously was no match for Blue's.

But what Blue Team didn't have was the leader Red Team had. The military selected a retired Colonel, Van Riper, who had experience fighting the Viet Cong decades ago in a different war.

Van Riper saw first hand how an impoverished force could take on a first rate military.

When Blue Team attacked, he was ready. He threw away his cell phones and moved instructions via soldiers on motorcycles. He launched planes at electricity-deprived airports using a primitive signalling system last seen in World War II.

In short, he outplayed Blue's technological edge.

I think of this when I think of Poker Tracker and its accessories -- Poker Ace Heads Up Display, GameTime+, etc. Don't get me wrong. I have these things and use them. But I try to never let the data take control of my decision-making.

A strange situation has popped up in the poker 'verse recently with the introduction of 100 percent rakeback at the World Poker Exchange. It's prompted throngs of 2+2 posters practically begging for the Web site to make the necessary changes so PT can be brought to that part of the 'verse.

I play at a lot of rimward sites that do not have the necessary software innovations to make Poker Tracker work. Plus I've played at countless live poker rooms -- 64 and growing. So a lot of my development has been without PT.

So last week when I embarked on the World Poker Exchange no rake tour, I felt there weren't bumps in my play. I went about finding the fish based on how they were playing, what they were doing with raises and how they would bet. Anything interesting I'd jot down by hand in the Notes box.

In short, I wasn't in the dark when the juice to the PT was left off.

I try not to overrely on PT data because I feel that it isn't very complete at times. It doesn't tell you whether someone is inexperienced or not and I think that many people who show up as "tight" players could easily be uncreative types that you can outplay or those who know so little about the game they only play with the very best of cards. Either way, these kinds of players are just as valuable as your 49/3/0.39.

PT data can also be disastrous if you don't know how to interpret it. How do you explain a fish who suddenly makes a 3-bet bluff on the turn or a rock who shows up with J3o and all of your chips on the river?

When the day comes (and already there are developments toward it) when PT is finally running for the World Poker Exchange, I'll be there like everyone else. But until then, I'll be fine with having the current edge, which is not relying on a technological edge.


  • I really liked this one Cats. I'm a junkie of military/poker similarities. Keep up the Sun Tzu quotes!

    By Blogger Victor_Enriq, at 10:37 PM  

  • Here's the problem I have: taking notes on players based on their observed actions is much less reliable than the cold, hard PokerTracker data. I try to take good notes, but you can't observe VPIP, AF or WSD. All you can tell, for example, is how someone responds to a check-raise on the turn or a three-bet preflop with a middle pocket.
    These notes are helpful, but they're based on a small sample size tinged by natural human biases. And because you're playing online, there aren't any other physical tells to lend credence to your observations.
    Maybe I'm just not very good at taking notes.
    But I'd rather have the PT data any day.
    Or maybe I'm missing the point.

    By Blogger Mark, at 10:48 PM  

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