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Geeks Playing Poker? 431

Posted by timothy
from the and-blackjack dept.
Ben Collins writes "I recently won a satellite tournament at Full Tilt Poker for entry into the World Poker Tour Final at Foxwoods Casino. I picked up poker as a hobby about 4 months ago, and consider myself a decent player, maybe due to programming experience (analytical thinking). Any other programmers/computer people find that they can play poker better than the average person because of their computer experience?"
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Geeks Playing Poker?

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  • Online vs. Offline (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 24, 2004 @04:49PM (#10615955)
    In online play, it can really come down to your abilities to play the odds. Your geek skills are good for this. In offline play, though, tells can be a huge factor, and for some geeks, the social aspect of this may be much harder.
    • by kryonD (163018) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @05:04PM (#10616057) Homepage Journal
      Poker, like coding, is a skill that is gained through research and experience. I'm sure most slashdotters have sat down at a table with friends, or hopped online for a little recreational play. And as long as you were sitting around with a bunch of people who have not studied the game, your analytical skills probably did lean the game in your favor. However, Poker is far more than just knowing the odds or keeping a stone solid expression on your face whether you just got a pair of Aces or 7-2o. Before everyone hops onto partypoker with their allowances, you should understand that if someone is sitting at the table who also knows how to play on button position and player identification (i.e. calling stations, recreational gambler, etc..), they could get dealt 7-2o all night long and still walk away with all of your money.

      Then again, what am I saying!! Everyone hop onto partypoker with all your money and find kryond at the NL single table touneys. I suck really bad...honest, I do!
      • by xero314 (722674) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @09:50PM (#10617731)
        Any time you want to play with the simple rule that you only ever get 72o let me know, I'm always looking for the better of a sucker bet. Heck I'd even take the bet if you'd play ever hand to the river, regardless of the cards.

        As a skilled player myself I can say that my mathmatical skills, used in programing if not gained from it, have helped alot. Though it is true that no amount of statistics knowledge will be the final word in a poker hand, it is usefull when determining betting for value, and dealing with those bad beats when they come along. So every time you win with that 72o hand be well aware that you are give the loser a large value bet, even a 73o is making a few penies on each dollar bet.

      • I can state from my own experience that playing the odds exclusively works great against friends. I almost feel bad about taking their money. It's too easy.

        I occasionally watch the world poker tour on TV. I even watched some today. At that level, the outcome of the game seems to be based mostly on luck. Sure it takes a lot of skill to make it to the final group, but going all in on an A5 suited takes mostly guts, not skill.

        -a
    • Online, it can come down to whether the other people at the table are in collusion with one another...

      And no, I don't think cryptograph can fix that problem, because out of band communications (phone, IM, etc.) will always be available so long as the players cannot be monitored.

      Not to mention the issue of whether or not you can trust the casino. I'm not saying you can't necessarily, but more that I just wouldn't unless we were all there together, in person.
    • by harikiri (211017)
      I'm reminded of a line from Rounders [imdb.com], where Matt Damon's character says of the "Judges Game" (paraphrasing) "I realised - in this room of learned-minds, there was not one real poker player".

      Intelligence (or geek skills) isn't the sole requirement. Knowledge will get you so far, but your ability to play the game (primarily the social aspect as you said). At the professional level, so much comes down to reading the other man, and controlling your reactions to how the cards and bets are played out. You can k

    • by Muhammar (659468) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @08:06PM (#10617127)
      Any other programmers/computer people find that they can play poker better than the average person because of their computer experience?"

      A geek can play above average in a poker game against computer because he can easily read the machine facial expression
    • by SuperRob (31516) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @08:46PM (#10617370) Homepage
      That's why I won't play online. The social engineering aspect of the game (which I'm very good at), is such a huge factor (at least, in Texas Hold 'Em) that I refuse to play online.

      That, and the fact that many of the popular online poker establishments have problems with bots and people working in collusion to grind out the pots.

      Anyway, one of the most important things I've learned while playing poker is that playing penny games online will get you to see enough pots where you can learn the odds pretty quickly. But I personally wouldn't take playing online any further than that. If you want to be a serious poker player, you have to get used to playing the people, and not just the odds.
  • Luck (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 24, 2004 @04:51PM (#10615966)
    I prefer luck over skill in poker. Bet high, never fold, and one of those times I'll come out near even, maybe.
  • Indeed (Score:4, Interesting)

    by odano (735445) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @04:51PM (#10615969)
    I took up poker a couple years ago before it became popular online, and now I play from time to time online, and I would consider myself a winning player.

    The thing with poker is the game isn't all too complicated if we are talking about online play, where sound betting strategy will win you money. Give a logical thinking person a simple poker strategy to play, they will do fine and definetly win some money online.

    Online poker is all about logic and patience, and at least the former is found in most computer people, which is why I am guessing they will do much better at the strategic part, which will more or less translate into playing winning poker.
    • Re:Indeed (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TopShelf (92521) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @04:54PM (#10615998) Homepage Journal
      Agreed - especially online, winning poker is more about the patience to wait for good opportunities than anything else.
    • "Online poker is all about logic and patience, and at least the former is found in most computer people, which is why I am guessing they will do much better at the strategic part, which will more or less translate into playing winning poker."

      God help you the day you play a 56k'er then. They'll beat you little impatient braodband weenies down :D
  • by nate nice (672391) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @04:51PM (#10615970) Journal
    I'm not sure if Poker is a fad right now or something that may last. My instinct tells me it is a fad and will die in a year or so. Has it had resurgence before anyone know of?

    I will play from time to time, but I find it best in moderation. Anyways, lets start the flame war.

    Is poker a fad or is it here to stay, and why?
    • What's new is that people can reliably play poker for real money without traveling to a casino.

      I think it's been permanently augmented by the internet, in the same way that the auction, dating and communication industry have been.

      10 years ago, was your instinct also telling you that email would die in a year or two? :)

    • Poker, the pet rock of sports entertainment. That's how the PTI guys described it when thier show got prempted from their regular time slot for some world series of poker show (Is it just me, or does poker have a world series every week?). But for what it's worth, poker does have about the same amount of excitement as any other sporting event. It's a whole lotta nothing followed by 20 seconds of excitement. Think about it, for every home run or 40 yard touchdown pass, you have about 50 foul balls and 2
      • But for what it's worth, poker does have about the same amount of excitement as any other sporting event. It's a whole lotta nothing followed by 20 seconds of excitement.

        Yes and no. Most poker broadcasts are heavily edited, so you only see the "exciting" hands. But there was recently a tournament broadcast live (actually with a 5 minute delay to avoid the possibility of cheating), and it worked really well, at least I thought so. The "boring" hands where nobody has much of anything are actually quite inte
    • by Zebbers (134389) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @05:47PM (#10616317)
      OMG you are so right. Its not like poker has been around forever and people have been playing with friends for decades upon decades or anything. It's purely a fad.
    • it's easier now.
      you don't have to go to a casino.
      you don't need real friends to have come around if you would play with some friends.
      you don't have to play with 'strangers' face-to-face.
      also, it's the game where you play against other people directly and not against mathematicall odds by which you _will_ lose.

      that being said.. all the fun is in bluffing.. if you're just for short fun in it.

    • by rograndom (112079) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @08:04PM (#10617113) Homepage
      I think poker is as much of a fad as professional wrestling. Some generation of college kids "discovers" this somewhat dark pasttime and thinks it's the greatest thing since sliced bread, the industry is then flung into the mainstream but can't escape it's seedy roots and collapses under it's own weight. Remember, these businesses aren't exactly run by Mary Poppins. By that time, whoever hasn't moved on with their life either goes "Boy, this is pretty fucking stupid, what the hell have I been doing? Time for a new hobby." (majority) or they're hooked for life (minority). A few years later a generation who were too young to remember the previous wave "discovers" it and the cycle begins again.
    • Being a geek doesn't help you win at poker if all your friends are geeks too. It just evens out the mathematical-skill part of the game, leaving you with the psychological behaviour-prediction parts of the game that you're not so good at. After all, the game's not about manipulating cards, it's about manipulating people.

      On the other hand, back during the boom, the main instigator of our poker games also liked very good single-malts, so any money I lost was more than made up for by a cheerful evening wit

  • Teh Gates! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sh1ftay (822471) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @04:51PM (#10615972)
    Don't forget Bill Gates was a notorious poker player in college, writing thousand dollar checks at the end of the night usually.
  • Sure (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cloudkj (685320) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @04:51PM (#10615974)
    I think many people with a background in an engineering/technical discipline is, in general, more mathematically inclined than the average person. Thus, since so much of poker is statistics, probabilities, odds, and what not, I think many computer people already have an edge. But just having that quantitative mindset doesn't make you an instant poker superstar, since many other factors play into it. A lot of it also has to do with intuition, confidence, and of course, luck.
  • Definitely. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 24, 2004 @04:51PM (#10615975)
    Coding also improved my sexual prowess.
  • Poker Bloke (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 24, 2004 @04:51PM (#10615976)
    Of course you play better than the average person. You're better than all of us. Would you like to sit and put a few dollars down?
  • Nope (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pheonix5000 (661842) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @04:53PM (#10615983) Homepage
    I've been dealing with computers for a long time and it hasn't helped me one bit at poker. Sure, maybe you can do the math a bit better but that only helps for online games. IRL, strategies are much different as you're playing with people and have to read the player. And besides, how many geeks have had any real experience with people (and no Virtual Girl doesn't count!)
  • IMO (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Soporific (595477)
    Being geeky might help with keeping track of cards, but I think the real skill in poker is the ability to read your opponents body language. That skill doesn't sound like it's a skill that most nerds posess, or they'd get laid more.

    ~S
    • Re:IMO (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kurosawdust (654754) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @05:57PM (#10616383)
      Being geeky might help with keeping track of cards, but I think the real skill in poker is the ability to read your opponents body language. That skill doesn't sound like it's a skill that most nerds posess, or they'd get laid more.

      Tells are without a doubt the single most overrated aspect of poker. Beginners place so much significance on them and they are in actuality within epsilon of zero significance. If you are playing with absolutely terrible players, can you get a hint of whether or not they're strong or weak based on certain things they do, body language and mannerisms? Yes. Can you do this in the World Series of Poker where you imagine yourself playing at the Final Table and catching a tell off Doyle Brunson that isn't an intentional tell he used to separate you from your money? Probably not. Knowing that the pot is offering you 8-to-1 odds when you are 6-to-1 to make your ace-high flush and there's no pair on board (so there can't be a full house or four of a kind) is much more valuable then guessing and second-guessing what your opponent's scratching his nose three times means, versus his usual two.

      My guess is you haven't played much poker for real money, at least not against opponents who aren't god-awful. See? I called your bluff, and I can't even see you!
    • Re:IMO (Score:3, Informative)

      by gl4ss (559668)
      though.. if you yourself show zero changes.. which geeks are pretty good at after all(being not so emotional about such things as a stack of cards, playing cards that is)... and give ZERO effort into reading the body language might be faked for all you now anyways.

      if you TRY to read and _fail_ then you _will_ lose. if you don't even try reading body language you can play as if you were online(hell, for the heck of it, develope a system of coming up with a random order of different 'signs', blinking eyes or
  • Definately (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gantic (460802) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @04:53PM (#10615986)
    I play a lot of online poker (about 10-12 hours a week) and consider to myself to be a good player, regularly winning $30 tournaments and even have a couple of multi table wins under my belt.

    I go out to the Grovesner Casino in Great Yarmouth (England) a few times occasionally and have won the tournaments there simply by playing out the odds, and always starring at my chips, not playing with them at all, and just doing everything like a robot, thus giving away hopefully no tells! Perhaps I would have less success at a major tournament but certainly on a social level those odds calculating and keeping a steady game and not going on a "tilt" can definately make you win.

    Its a game for mugs though
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @04:55PM (#10616007)
    picked up poker as a hobby about 4 months ago, and consider myself a decent player, maybe due to programming experience (analytical thinking)>

    Programming has little to do with analysis and a lot to do with gut feelings when you code, and more importantly, when you debug. What I mean is, you "feel" it when the code is right (or whatever solution you're working on is right) and you know long before the end of the project whether it'll be great, so-so or crappy.

    Well, same thing for poker: you play by "feeling" the opponents, and your hands, and just "knowing" when the stars are aligned and when you should go. So yes, your programming experience may have something to do with your playing poker well, but not for the reasons you think.
  • We aren't smarter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 3770 (560838) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @04:56PM (#10616010) Homepage
    No,

    And this isn't a troll.

    But I think that programmers tend to think that they are smarter than the average person. People tend to want to be good at what they do. And for a programmer, being intelligent is one of the most important factors for that.

    And with the power of wishful thinking they think they are.

    And without even realizing it, they ask questions which imply that programmers are smarter than the average person. That bugs me.

    Oh, and I'm a programmer myself.
    • Not to mention the fact that all gamblers think that they are "better than average," and are "winning players."

      From the way that poker players talk poker games must have an element of spontaneous value creation because I have never even heard of a poker player that classified him or herself as a "loser." Unless money is being created out of the void someone must walk home with empty pockets.

      • all gamblers think that they are "better than average," and are "winning players."

        Er... yeah. Or they think they may train to get better. Otherwise, they wouldn't play. No one wants to lose consistently.
    • And without even realizing it, they ask questions which imply that programmers are smarter than the average person. That bugs me.

      I would be astonished if this were not the case, at least for any common definition of "smart".

      People tend to want to be good at what they do.

      Most people *are* good at what they do, at least better than the average person would be at that job. Most construction workers will be stronger than the average person. Most salesmen will have better people skills than the average per
    • by devphil (51341) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @07:00PM (#10616739) Homepage


      Given that the man taught himself Linux for the purposes of running his own website [wilwheaton.net], most of us would qualify him as intelligent.

      I skim over his blogs about every other month, and recently he's taken up poker as a hobby. He's studied, practiced, etc, and blogs the stores of his experiences playing (LA, Vegas, and so on).

      What have I learned by reading them? No, being smarter than the average person does not automatically make you a better poker player. Other things do.

  • Survival! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by madgeorge (632496) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @04:56PM (#10616012)
    I've been playing poker since I was proably 5 or 6 years old. Growing up , when we visited my grandparents' house my dad, my grandfather and my uncle always played poker in another room while my mom helped my grandmother in the kitchen. I bothered them until they let me play, but their condition was that I had to put up my own money. Betting your allowance against a bunch of guys who really would take it and not feel sorry for you makes you think pretty seriously about strategy, odds and winning.
  • I'd practice far more often if there was a *local* Texas Hold 'em client for Linux.
    I know of none.

    Any suggestions?

    (I'm a Winex / Cedega subscriber, if that helps any...)

    Thanx.
    M.
  • It's not even just analytical thinking, but meta-analysis of the game. I don't play that often, and would be considered a complete newbie, but I consistantly win against other newbies I'm playing with... I think due to CS training I understand the concepts of strategy in bidding, bluffing, and probability way better than non-math people. These variables are just inherent to the way I think (esp. since I enjoy security too), and combine that with the fact that I have taken courses and read much about non-ver
  • If you look at the world class poker players, you will find that many of them are classical trained in advanced sciences and mathematics. Poker is a game of the odds, especially games with community cards, such as texas hold 'em or Omaha. It's the games like 5 draw where the game really becomes about psychology...

  • I've seen him talk about playing quite a bit over at his site. Seems like poker has become sort of a *geek* fad as of late.

    Personally I perfer the odds at the Blackjack table. At poker yor aren't playing against the house though.

    I suck at poker. I have a tell...no I'm not going to say what it is in a public form. :P

    /-McK
  • by BadBlood (134525) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @05:04PM (#10616056)
    Be careful, short term success does not a good poker player make.

    Even the BEST in the world, Brunson, Chan, etc., go through long losing streaks due to the high variance of poker.

    You can make the correct decision each and every time based on the proper odds, yet lose money for weeks at a time.

    It's not how you handle winning that determines how good a player you are, it's how you handle losing.
    • Even the BEST in the world, Brunson, Chan, etc., go through long losing streaks due to the high variance of poker. You can make the correct decision each and every time based on the proper odds, yet lose money for weeks at a time.

      Absolutely, and this is an essential feature. If the bad players couldn't get lucky and win occasionally, they'd stop playing and the good players would have no source of profits.
    • by EvlG (24576)
      I read once (I think Sklansky wrote it?) that it is feasible for you to have a bad run of cards as long as 20 years (!)
  • by PK_ERTW (538588) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @05:05PM (#10616063)
    Being able to play poker on the internet has really caused this explosion in popularity. I have played poker all of my life, but in reality, it is usually hard to find a poker game. With the internet, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there is a game playing at your budget and skill level.

    This has changed everything. You can practice for little or no money (I know sites that play 1c/2c games). There are sattelite games, so for only a couple dollars, you can have a chance to win a trip and entry in to a million dollar tournament. It has essentially made the game accessable to the masses.

    This is great for us geeks, because the masses arn't very good at math and logic. Online play is all a math game. Once you get pot odds and the probabilities down, you are better than the average player. If you can manage a little patience, it becomes very easy to be a positive player.

    And I'll be honest with you, It is rare that I find a video game that is as engaging as poker. It's multiplayer, and winning actually matters, so everyone is trying there best.

    PK

  • Opposite (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Rangsk (681047)
    I find that being a computer geek makes me worse at poker than the normal Joe Schmoe. Now, physicists, on the other hand, tend to be better than the average. The difference, I believe, is that although computer people would tend to have the necessary math and analytical skills to play poker, they tend to think algorithmically which really doesn't work in a poker setting.

    The only time I've felt I had an advantage was when the people I was playing against didn't know how to play poker.
  • Poker (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jack9 (11421) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @05:07PM (#10616072)
    My brother lost about $20k over 5 years learning to play poker. After awhile he started making money. 2 things are necessary to consistently make money playing poker. Patience and time. As of now he lives in Las Vegas as a part time ramp agent and part time gambler, he has paid me back as well as the rest of the $10k or so he had borrowed from everyone. People are drawn in to poker by the "thrill" when the money games are specifically not about that. After you play a couple hundred thousand hands, you get over the thrill and learn a grind that is reminiscent of MMORPGs but with a more lucrative outcome for the investment.
    • People are drawn in to poker by the "thrill" when the money games are specifically not about that. After you play a couple hundred thousand hands, you get over the thrill and learn a grind that is reminiscent of MMORPGs but with a more lucrative outcome for the investment. While it may not be "thrilling", I almost guarantee that if you ask any good poker player whether he likes playing poker he will say yes. Many MMORPG players play simply out addiction, and often times don't so much enjoy it as they just
      • Many MMORPG players play simply out addiction...

        And gambling isn't an addiction?

        The grandparent poster made a true statement, when your good at it, it does indeed become a grind.

        I almost guarantee that if you ask any good poker player whether he likes playing poker he will say yes.

        I think thats the idea ;)
  • I believe my programming experience has made me a better tetris player. With little practice I can beat most of players on tetrinet and I think this is due programming. Of course there are other good players, but most of good players that I found around are programmers either. Coincidence?
  • by complex (18458) <complex@@@split...org> on Sunday October 24, 2004 @05:10PM (#10616089) Homepage
    avi freedman [freedman.net], chief network scientist at akamai [akamai.com] and all around cool cool guy and networking geek, made it to the final table of pot limit omaha at the world series of poker.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 24, 2004 @05:12PM (#10616104)
    Many of the top pros had previous careers in computers:

    Chris "Jesus" Ferguson - PhD in Computer Science from UCLA

    Andy Bloch - Two degrees from MIT, once designed computer chips

    Phil Gordon - degree in Computer Science from Georgia Tech
  • by inkedmn (462994) <inkedmnNO@SPAMinkedmn.com> on Sunday October 24, 2004 @05:13PM (#10616114) Homepage
    I don't think that being a programmer automatically makes you more apt at poker, since playing good poker is just as much about reading players as it is about calculating odds. BUT...

    I know of at least 2 exceptional professional poker players with extensive computer background: Chris "Jesus" Ferguson has a PhD in computer science, and you'll often hear him talking about how his studies in game theory have helped him at the poker table (and I'm thinking he's right, since he won the WSOP main event in 2000). Also, Barry Greenstein (he's also got 2 WSOP bracelets, iirc - neither were main event wins) is a former programmer who worked for Symantec for about 12 years through the mid-90's. As a side note, he donates every penny of his tournament winnings to charity (and I've seen him win over $1 million at a WPT event).

    I've been playing poker for about 6 months now (pretty seriously, been competing in tournaments and reading some of the classic poker books), and I consider myself to be fairly accomplished (poker paid for my neuros audio computer [neurosaudio.com], so I must be somewhat OK), and I'd have to say that being a programmer has helped a great deal with getting better.

    As I said, being a good poker player has just as much to do with being able to understand your opponent as it does with being able to count outs and figure oods on the spot. If you can get a dead read on the guy you're in the pot with, you're in better shape than if you've got 24 outs post flop because if you know what he's holding, there's no stopping you.
  • by KJE (640748) <ken@kje.ca> on Sunday October 24, 2004 @05:16PM (#10616132) Homepage
    Not so much about poker, but Brining Down the House [amazon.com] is a neat read about how some MIT students (definition of geek, no?) took Vegas casinos and other for millions playing blackjack.
  • No, I suck. (Score:2, Funny)

    by DdJ (10790)
    No. No, I completely suck at it, and will probably never get any better. You should all come teach me how to play, in a high-stakes game at my place. Show a bad player like me how it's really done.
  • by deicide (195) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @05:27PM (#10616197)
    Finger (johnc@idsoftware.com) entry from 1998:

    2/8/98
    ------
    Just got back from the Q2 wrap party in vegas that Activision threw for us.

    Having a reasonable grounding in statistics and probability and no belief in luck, fate, karma, or god(s), the only casino game that interests me
    is blackjack.

    Playing blackjack properly is a test of personal discipline. It takes a small amount of skill to know the right plays and count the cards, but the
    hard part is making yourself consistantly behave like a robot, rather than succumbing to your "gut instincts".

    I play a basic high/low count, but I scale my bets widely -- up to 20 to 1 in some cases. Its not like I'm trying to make a living at it, so the
    chance of getting kicked out doesn't bother me too much.

    I won $20,000 at the tables, which I am donating to the Free Software Foundation. I have been meaning to do something for the FSF for a long
    time. Quake was deployed on a dos port of FSF software, and both DOOM and Quake were developed on NEXTSTEP, which uses many FSF based tools. I don't subscribe to all the FSF dogma, but I have clearly benefited from their efforts.
  • but my wife beats me in poker pretty constantly. Then again she has PhD in genetics and I just own a programming company that I started when I dropped out of college. I've been supporting her studies so I guess I'm still smar... hey wait.. what was the question?
  • by jbellis (142590) <jonathan@carnage ... m minus math_god> on Sunday October 24, 2004 @05:28PM (#10616200) Homepage
    Nobody thinks he is below average.
  • by Otter (3800) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @05:29PM (#10616204) Journal
    Here's the conclusion I've drawn from the stories of friends, coworkers and relatives over the past two years:
    • Every single one of them has started playing poker.
    • Every single one of them does nothing but win!

    So, to answer the original question, it's not just programmers -- everyone is coming out ahead! Alan Greenspan clearly should take note, as there's something very wrong with the country's money supply.

  • Particularly if they are playing strip poker.

    Nobody want to see Jabba the Gut!

  • "I recently won thousands of pounds at full tilt poker! [fulltiltpoker.com]. It was so easy and now i'm really rich! I picked up poker as a hobby about 4 months ago, you can too!.
    Perfect for geeks, you are sure to rake in the cash and the wonderful full tilt poker! [fulltiltpoker.com]
    Any other programmers/computer people find that they can play poker better than the average person because of their computer experience?
    I sure know i can, thanks to my wonderful employers at full tilt poker! [fulltiltpoker.com]"
  • rounders quote (Score:4, Informative)

    by greystreets (581356) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @05:34PM (#10616236)
    Listen, here's the thing. If you can't spot the sucker at your table in half an hour, you are the sucker.
  • Not poker, but there's a gem in Masters of Doom [davidkushner.com] about John Carmack playing blackjack (note that I've cut some of the text):

    [he wrote in his .plan file] "Playing blackjack is a test of personal discipline. It takes a small amount of skill to know the right plays and count the cards, but the hard part is making yourself consistantly behave like a robot, rather than succumbing to your 'gut instincts'".

    [...]

    His research proved successful, netting him twenty thousand dollars, which he donated to the Free Sof

    • Well, the ONLY way to win at Blackjack without luck is to count cards. If you win without counting just by playing perfect strategy, then you're just having a streak of luck, because the odds are still against you. Counting puts the odds slightly in your favor (but you still have to play perfectly, as Carmack notes).

      Of course counting doesn't require memorizing cards - just mainting a running total. The typical counting scheme just groups cards as hi/lo, and you add +/-1 to the running total respectively.
    • Getting caught counting cards in Vegas isn't cool, it's stupid.
  • by bloo9298 (258454) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @05:47PM (#10616316)

    You'll probably find this article [apa.org] extremely helpful. It won an Ignobel award.

  • I've been playing poker for almost 10 months now after a fellow programmer got me hooked on Hold'em. But I do have to say the I don't think my programming experience has really helped me. Sure, knowing the odds and stuff helps in the long run, but mostly only for ring games. Tournaments are a another story.

    I think what helps more, especially when you play with the same group of people a lot, is the image you project at the table. I play regularly with a bunch of my co-workers, most of whom are programmers.
  • What helps is being able to hold your liquor. I'm referring to playing in-person rather than online; there's a huge difference.

    The best players I know personally work in print shops and on loading docks, so you might want to hold that "smarter-than-thou" attitude close the vest if you ever actually sit at a table on Friday night.
  • Be careful (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nwbvt (768631) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @06:27PM (#10616542)
    Thinking you have some special skill in a game that mostly depends on luck is the first step in becoming a gambling addict. You were not doing well because of your engineering abilities, you were doing well because you were dealt good hands. Thats luck, not skill, and it doesn't carry over from one game to another. It won't be long before your luck turns on you and you are down quite a bit of money.
  • It really depends... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Arcanix (140337) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @06:49PM (#10616659)
    Being intelligent does give you a large advantage in poker when it comes to determining probabilities. The ability to calculate quickly how many outs you have as well as other factors like pot odds and implied odds is extremely useful. Also, it should provide some hedge against going on tilt although this happens to any player one time or another regardless of what they might say.

    That said, online poker is much more mechanical than live poker and the advantages for the analytical mind are stronger online by a significant amount. In live play it is much more about profiling people, sensing weakness, and so on then actually what cards you are holding. Online play for any good player is a strictly "by the numbers" you only have to profile particularly bad (or rarely, particularly good) players.

    One rather large caveat, being smart/analytical is great but it will not save you against an extremely experienced player. Of course, the ideal is to be both intelligent and experienced, then you are nearly unstoppable (in the long term of course, short term anything can happen).

    Myself [www.rage.ws] and the majority of my friends play poker professionally, some extremely successfully [thunderkeller.com] but all make a good living. Note that all of us have college degrees but have not bothered to us them yet.

    All it takes to be successful is three things:

    1) Money

    This is a no brainer you have to have enough money so that you can lose for a significant amount of time without busting your bankroll. It is helpful to have other friends who play and can lend you money if things go bad. To make a good living I'd recommend playing 2-3 tables of 15-30 around 30 hours a week online, for this you'll need about $10,000 to be safe. A good 15-30 player that plays full time, 3-4 tables should be able to make around $60,000 a year or more depending. Typically though an excellent player will move to higher limits when they start making this amount of money.

    2) Theory

    Books, books, books. Of course the "Bible" for Hold 'Em is Sklansky and Malmuth's Hold 'Em Poker for Advanced Players [amazon.com]. There are a lot of others but this is the best to start with in my opinion. In addition, if you know someone who is already a professional theory knowledge can be gained by simply watching them play and asking them questions.

    3) Experience

    Don't need to say much here. A professional playing for 5 years will school you 60+% of the time if you've only been playing for a year. The more the better. Note that the "play money" games do not count as experience nor does limits below 5-10/10-20 really prepare you for a 15-30 or 30-60.

    As an aside, tournament play can definitely get you experience but don't count on it improving your play dramatically in standard games, with the exception of profiling and reading people. Not only are tournaments typically no limit but they have a much different dynamic in general. There are many good tournament players who suck at ring games and vice versa.

    Anyways, the best thing about being a poker player is the total freedom, you can work whenever you want, or not work for a week if you don't feel like it. If you feel like taking a vacation you can just go, of course sometimes you do have to go to places like Aruba and play tournaments, what a drag! :) Also, most people think it's a pretty cool job and like to talk to you about it...

    I highly recommend it but be warned you WILL lose money at first, and you WILL be incredibly stressed out much of the time. Playing is inherently stressful, especially when you hit a dry spell where you lose for a week or two straight. Make sure if this happens, to stay calm, playing looser will not get your money back quicker!
    • by cloudkj (685320) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @08:10PM (#10617151)
      Another classic that you should all consider is Caro's Book of Poker Tells. Here's a mini-review I wrote on it a while back:

      Caro's Book of Poker Tells [amazon.com] by Mike Caro

      If you saw the movie Rounders, you might remember that in one of the opening scenes, Michael McDermott (played by Matt Damon) is collecting all his cash together to go sit-in at Teddy KGB's place. One shot shows Michael opening a drawer with Caro's Book of Poker Tells, and taking out a stack of cash from the cover of the book.

      This book is still considered by many to be the authoritative book on poker tells. Although it was written a couple decades ago (and the pictures show it), it provides some very fundamental, yet thought-provoking examples of common poker tells. The book starts off a little slow as Caro lays some of the groundwork for the book and some concepts, terminologies, and diagrams. But the heart of the material exists in the many different tells that are listed. Each section on a tell provides the reader with a detailed analysis of the tell. Caro highlights the characteristics exhibited by players showing the tell, analyzes the correct type of actions to take in the situation, and shows a (albeit outdated) picture as an example of a player exhibiting the tell. He even goes as far as claiming the average amount of profit the reader can make in a standard limit game, given the strength of the opposing player.

      Although I have not yet finished the book, I am quite satisifed with the material I have seen so far. The tells that I have read about are not some complex, absurd tells that you'd expect. Don't expect Caro to discuss how a player is likely to fold if s/he is playing with the fingernails on his or her left ring finger. Rather, the tells are very intuitive and common, yet so common that many players don't often pick up on them.

      Of course, I can't say too much without giving it away. I wouldn't want some damn kid that thinks he's a hot-shot to get educated for free. And neither should you. Let them pay their dues, grind it out. So buy it today here [amazon.com] and see what I'm talking about!
    • Here we take expert poker advice from someone who's self professed nickname is "Booze Monkey", what a world :)
    • "I highly recommend it but be warned you WILL lose money at first, and you WILL be incredibly stressed out much of the time."

      I don't doubt you, really, but to me this sounds a little like an invitation to a pyramid scheme... Most people think they are smarter than average, so there should be a large pool of people to supply all the money you are winning, but nevertheless.
      I don't know if I'm smarter than average, and even if there was a reliable way to tell, I might not want to know. I think however, that t
  • by djhertz (322457) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @08:02PM (#10617101)
    ..there are 2 kinds of people that can be professional poker players. People with a freakish talent for poker (very very rare) and people that could make more money doing something else but choose not too. It takes a lot of skill to play poker, and playing for 4 months.. you don't have a clue. It's like when you first learn to code, your the man when you learn about a subroutine!

    If you don't know who David Sklansky is, you don't make money playing poker. I have been playing poker for years, and most of the players I know say the make money, or 'break even'. Yah? Do they keep records? If the answer is no, then you do not make money.

    About 10% of poker players are profitable. This does not mean, you won big one night, and forgot to write down those couple of loses. It means, play 40 hours a week for a year, and see where you are. Play 50,000 hands and see where you are. If you have 10 people playing.. the best player will eventually get all the money, it's just a matter of time. It may take years, but it will happen.

    I don't mean to troll at all with this. It's just when I keep reading, "I am an above average poker player and have been playing for 4 months and here is what I have to say..." it makes me think how every thinks they are "above average drivers."

    So am I an above average player with all my obnoxious 'insight'? Well, I am paying taxes from poker this year, so yeah.

    Now, let's shuffle up and deal!
  • by Mike Farooki (85314) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @08:04PM (#10617115)
    I played in a regular Hold 'Em game several years ago, before the recent popularity boom. A few months, I started getting back into the game, playing online and checking out some of the tournament play on cable TV. Pop culture has ruined the game.

    The first sign was my 13 and 15 year-old cousins giving me playing tips at a low limit game at their aunt's wedding. These kids look up to poker "stars" with the same intensity they looked up to Derek Jeter a couple of years ago. Weird. (Their mother didn't seem to mind too much when I schooled them for about $20 total, by the way.)

    The second sign was when I went to my first "real" game in several years. Many of the doofuses in attendance had donned "crazy" sunglasses--just like the "stars" on ESPN wear. Other guys had developed their own nervous habits of shuffling their cards, shuffling their chips, etc. So many of the iconic expressions of poker have now been popularized and I think it sucks. It reminds me of when the Red Hot Chili Peppers made it big in the early 1990s, and al of the sudden, all the jocks in high school were wearing Mother's Milk shirts.

    I am by no means a pro poker player. I'm not even a good poker player. But damn if I don't hate to see the ghetto of poker being gentrified by a bunch of baseball-cap-wearing, Ray-Ban mofos from the 'burbs.
  • by entropy42 (109731) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @08:44PM (#10617356) Homepage
    I (paul phillips) made three WPT final tables and three WSOP final tables in the last year but I was a programmer until I started playing cards full time a few years ago. Apparently I even still read slashdot from time to time. Finally, a thread where I feel completely qualified to post.

    Programmers have a better foundation for poker analysis than most but this is a very incomplete predictor of success. Much more valuable is the ability to play your A-game all the time, and I haven't seen that programmers are any better at this than anyone else.

    Poker is as much a test of self-discipline (and many other things) as it is of logic and knowledge. Being a brilliant analyst is of no use is you fail in other areas.

    I write a lot about the tournament poker life in my blog [livejournal.com].
  • by t0rkm3 (666910) on Sunday October 24, 2004 @09:26PM (#10617608)
    Online play isn't really poker. It's a trainer for hand strength. In that venue, analytical people can use their pattern matching skills to profit. I have to say that at my regular bi-weekly game the three worst players (of 12) are geeks. Their people reading sucks and their manipulation skills are poorly developed. They have a hard time sucking the more socially experienced players into a hand... However, that's a broad generalization. I am a network weenie and I am a strong third place at the table, but I get out a lot for a geek, and I had to work closely with sales droids while consulting. Maybe some of their sliminess rubbed off.

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