April 26, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different

As campaign season starts to really gear up, we are once again entering the fact-free zone where the only factor most people pay attention to is how appealingly snarky their own side can manufacture sound-bite insults to lob at the other, or how emotionally appealing their own policies can be framed, regardless of how abysmal said policies perform in any truly objective context -- especially that of the history of such policies. Once again, I am hearing the old, tired refrain I used to (and still do) hear endlessly from Markists: "The only reason our policies don't work very well is that the right people haven't applied them yet!" Yep, Utopian policies often fail when they depend on human beings to act as hive insects pursuing only the good of The All. Oddly enough, the Utopians themselves seem subject to this constraint.

Since I'm busy and tired of arguing with the endlessly ignorant vox populi who have mistaken freedom of speech and the egalitarianism of opinion as providing them with, you know, actual knowledge or expertise of certain fields (namely, almost all of them) and therefore think that their ill-informed and uninformed opinions are the equivalent of objective reality if only they click their heels often enough and worship the shiny promised Utopia, I offer a reality check that comes complete with automatic scorekeeping.

Namely, poker. Poker is a game of skill that combines statistics, probability, and psychology. Any fool can luck their way through one game and come out ahead, but to consistently come out ahead requires not just a knowledge of the mechanics of the particular game being played, but a clear basic understanding of the three areas mentioned above.

There's a new variant being played (well, new to most of us Westerners) that is wide open for the quick study. It's called Badugi, and it's a four-card-hand variation of lowball draw. Mind you, *I* don't understand it well enough yet to play it for actual money, but I find it presents interesting possibilities and many traps for tradtional poker players, lowball and otherwise. A quick video intro can be found at "How to Play Badugi".

If you see me at the play money badugi tables making a botch of it, try not to laugh too hard. And don't mistake my ineptitude at it as extending to other real-money poker games. Or do -- being underestimated is always good for enhancing profits.

For those who want to work up their skills in a broader variety of poker games, there are mixed-game tournaments. One of my favorites is the 8-game mix, which consists of alternating rounds of Limit 2-7 Triple Draw, Limit Hold’em, Limit Omaha Eight or Better (Hi/Lo), Razz, Limit Seven Card Stud, Limit Stud Eight or Better (Hi/Lo), No Limit Hold’em, and Pot Limit Omaha. A similarly brief intro video about 8 can be found Game Mix can be found at (surprise!) "How to Play 8 Game Mix".

If nothing else, playing in freeroll 8-Game tourneys can give you a feel for the varying strategies required for different games, especially for games that on the surface appear similar but require different strategies to play well, such as Limit Holdem versus No-Limit Holdem. It also encourages verstaility in thinking and strategy, which is always a good thing.

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