July 18, 2010

The Banality of Checks Mix

During my last two poker sessions, I have run across three examples of an annoying type of player, a sub-species of the internet d-bag who is seemingly incapable of betting with all red chips.  These aren't odd ducks like Paul Magriel "double quack-quack"-ing as a mental tic.  They aren't pulling a  Lance Funston, famed for playing the buffoon with great success at the 2005 U.S. Poker Championship, "seeing your three purple, and raising two orange, two purple, and two green":



Nope, these are kids who deliberate and put out a precise bet—$21, $42, $67—each and every time they bet or raise.  Often, the red and white chips (blue chips in Vegas) are intermingled, making it tougher to quickly determine the bet size.

Now this quirk is rather harmless, but it does make me a bit grumpy.  Once a pot gets above $15-$20, there is no good reason not to round bets to a $5 increment.  Betting with a mix of red and white chips unnecessarily slows the game down as the dealer has to make change, and usually players have to ask and be told the size of the bet because of the mix of chips.  I could understand making the bet precise to within a $1 increment if it materially affected the game.  But do these players seriously think that a player will call or fold because a bet is $42 instead of $40 or $45?  If so, they clearly haven't played much live $1/$2 NLHE.  Come to think of it, maybe it is an internet player quirk, where players are habituated to more precisely sizing bets to the penny.  Stupid interwebs.

There is one—and only one—perfectly valid reason to bet with mixed chips postflop—to make a bet palindromic (e.g., $151, or $232).  Palindromic bets are extremely strong wagers which greatly increase your odds of winning a hand.  A "perfect palindromic wager" is one which exhausts your entire supply of white chips, and is a nearly unbeatable play.  But otherwise, mixed chip bets are an incredibly stupid and pointless maneuver that should be shunned.  Please, stop the checks mix madness.

5 comments:

  1. One reason to do this, if you have a strong hand, is to get mo' money. It's the same (only reversed) psychology as pricing that luxury item at $399.95.

    If people see $400, they balk.

    But let's say you want to make a continuation bet on the flop, and you're actually loving your hand. You bet $42 because your opponent would have to break into one of his bricks of redbirds to call $45, and you know how people hate to do that. It makes the call feel more expensive.

    I play with a guy who describes bets with extra low-denomination chips in them as "with flavor." Used sparingly it's a good way to juice the pot by a buck or two. But as with any condiment, you don't want to overdo it.

    Of course now that I know it has the additional virtue of tilting some people...

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  2. @ NT: Trust me, we were swimming in the white chip mayo ...

    Also, if you try to tilt me with such an obvious ploy, I may be forced to add you to the taserlist. You have been placed on notice!

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  3. I once sat at a table in Atlantic City with an Asian kid who only bet in prime numbers. A buddy I was with actually picked up on it and asked him about it. The kid said he had read that prime numbers were harder for the human mind to process and, thus, in poker, could subliminally make his bets more confusing for his opponents.

    Huh.

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  4. I've seen other players do this (usually not every time), and most of them are following the sort of logic that Bob laid out above.

    In fact, once I realized why a couple of players sometimes bet odd amounts and sometimes didn't (sowing confusion), I realized it was a pretty reliable tell.

    These players rarely bet a 'confusing' amount when they were bluffing, since they wanted to send a clear signal about their hand when they were bluffing - provide an obvious reason to fold.

    It didn't always make decisions obvious, ('ware the semi-bluff) but it generally indicated they didn't have air.

    And you know, for some people, the lack of round numbers is confusing. I notice the additional mental step slows me down a bit. Of course, noticing that just makes me think harder and pay more attention to the hand, which kind of defeats the purpose...

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  5. Please, feel free to come over and slap me next time you see me in Vegas.

    I'm one of those guys and love it!

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