Friday, September 19, 2008

Harringbots vs. Snyderbots

It’s about time that I jump in and put my actual thoughts down on “Chip Utility”. I have always used chip utility considerations when playing poker, but not in the way that Snyder suggests according to Hoy (I have not read Snyder’s book). Your chip utility tells you what types of moves you can still make based on your starting stack. If you are not deep enough, set mining no longer works and you need to push/fold small pairs preflop. If you get real short post flop play no longer works, and you push/fold preflop. Unless you are very, very deep small to medium suited connectors are not playable preflop. As I progress through an MTT I keep track of these things and adjust my play accordingly. Not all players do this. Most probably do not do it well, and they get burned late in MTTs taking the same lines they used when they had more chip utility. Once in a while when it is very late in an MTT, and somehow I have managed to get most of my stack in the pot, I may call for chip utility purposes alone. You may not be priced in for the call, but your stack will be so low if you do not win this pot that you will be eliminated in short order anyway. In that rare case, I will make a call getting bad odds, because I really have no choice.

Now while I am sure Snyder covers these aspects of chip utility in the book, the example Hoy makes is getting it in behind in the very early stages of an MTT when you have no implied or pot odds, just for the chance to improve your chip utility through a double up. Snyder thinks taking a coin flip (or worse than a flip) for all your chips in the first level of an MTT as a way to be successful. He is not the first to make this claim, but this claim has been pretty thoroughly debunked over and over again. The math for MTTs get pretty tough, but it can be proven mathematically that taking a pure coin flip early in a 1 or 2 table S&G is –EV (see Chad’s work on the subject). My thought is that doing this early in an MTT is even more –EV because you are much further away from a cash. An early double up goes a long way in a 9 player S&G, but how far does it get you in a 1000 player MTT? So the math says that early chip utility flips are –EV. Making a –EV move early in an MTT helps me win it???

So now let’s look at the difference between Snyder and Harrington, and the Snyderbots and Harringbots out there, who try to use their strategy in MTTs. First off, I had to look up Snyder’s MTT results. He has no major MTT FT’s ever according to Card Player. He is not even in their Database. Harrington has over Six Million in major live MTT winnings. Hoy does not believe this is relevant, but give me a break. It is important that the people you take advice from have shown some success in the past. Harrington describes in his masterwork the strategy that he has successfully employed in major live MTTs. Snyder’s strategy has never worked for him in a major live MTT as he has never final tabled one. I don’t know much about this guy. Maybe he is not good enough to even play the majors. Maybe he is an online pro who never plays live. If either of these is the case, I have no use for his advice on what to do in level one of a WSOP $1500 donkfest. Unless you have final tabled one of those donkfests, keep the advice to yourself please. Harrington’s credibility when he gives advice on strategy is earned though 3 WSOP ME FT appearances, and a WSOP Main Event title.

So now let’s compare the Snyderbots and Harringbots out there and see who you would rather play against in a WSOP $1500 donkfest MTT. A Snyderbot sits down and sees that they have $3000 in front of them and blinds of $25/50. They realize immediately that they do not have “Full Chip Utility” so they start out desperate. They are looking to call off their entire stack as soon as they can take anything close to a coin flip. Calling off your entire stack in the first level with a flush draw or three overs are examples Hoy uses of what Snyder would do. So the Snyderbot finds a way to flip for his stack in level one, and is eliminated right there, or doubles up to T6000. At level two when the blinds are $50/$100 even with the double up the Snyderbot is still just as desperate as he was in Level 1. His chip utility is no better than before now that the level has changed. So he takes another flip (or worse) as soon as possible to get the chip utility back. So what’s the third level of the WSOP? It is $100/$200. So even if the Snyderbot wins the coin flips in level 1 and level 2, when level 3 rolls around, he will still need to take another flip in level 3 to get his chip utility back. What the Snyderbot is doing is playing wreckless and taking coin flip after coin flip early, just to maintain some magical level of “Full Utility”, that the Snyderbot can’t even proceed without.

Now for the Harringbot’s approach. Harringbot starts the MTT with T3000 and an M=50. Harringbot is in the green zone, so no need for any major moves, and no need to jam yet for first in vig. So while 7+/8 Snyderbots will be gone by the end of level three, nearly all of the Harringbots will still be alive. Many of the Harringbots will have caught double ups off of the Snyderbots, because even though Harringbots play tight, they also play aggressive when they have the best of it. Harringbots will end up getting it in against the Snyderbots with much better than a coin flip. For example, when a Harringbot flops a set and a Snyderbot flops a flush draw, both will play the hand to get all the chips in the middle. The Harringbot has redraws which gives him much better than coin flip odds on this hand. The Snyderbots biggest issue is getting it in on what looks like a coin flip, when it really is not. When you are desperate for a coin flip on the first hand of an MTT you can’t really discriminate well what is and what is not a coin flip.

So by level 4 nearly all of the Harringbots are still alive, and nearly all of the Snyderbots are eliminated. This is where the Harringbots strategy becomes a huge advantage. If you read Harrington closely when he talks about jamming with a low M for “first-in vig.” Late in MTTs he is talking about a solidly +EV move. When the blinds and antes are big relative to your stack, and you have the opportunity to be the first one to jam, you are actually +EV even when jamming ATC. So while a Harringbot may not obtain the same size stack as the surviving Snyderbot has, when the Harringbot starts ramming and jamming late these are +EV moves, while the Snyderbots jams early were –EV moves. Jamming ATC becomes profitable late in MTTs and if you are not alive late because you donked out in the first round, you simply can’t take advantage of this. Jamming ATC late can be +EV even if you are called by a better hand because of the dead money involved. First in jamming with the folding equity that comes with it, makes it an even better play. Its these late hands that matter, and it is very easy for a Harringbot to overtake a snyderbots stack size late. It will take a Million+ chips to make a solid run at an WSOP $1500 donkfest, and I am not sure how getting eliminated 7+/8 times early and when not eliminated having a stack of 24k, actually gets you there. At least the Harringbots are still alive when the blinds matter, and +EV moves get easier to make.

There is also this huge distortion by Hoy on what M means. M is the number of orbits you can go at the CURRENT blind level. When you have 20+ orbits of ten handed you have about 6 hours of play live left. This is no time to get desperate. When the blind level goes up you recalculate your M. You may now be in the danger zone and need to make some adjustments, but you were not in that zone until the blinds actually went up. Looking ahead to what the blinds are going to do, and figuring that with an M of 20 you are more desperate that you actually are is not what Harrington recommends. He wants to survive to where he can get his money in good with a low stack, and that is when your M is below 20. When you M is above 20 there is not enough dead money to make jamming preflop profitable enough. In summary, a Harringbot plays safe early, makes it late into the MTT, and then gets his money in good when the blinds matter, and tries to rally back late. The Snyderbot gets his money in bad as early as possible. Less than 1/8 Snyderbots even makes it to level 4 because you need a double up in each of the first three levels to maintain chip utility. The Snyderbot left after level 4 still needs to 40x his stack to have a good chance at winning the MTT, so he is still miles away. The Harringbots have smaller stacks but there are more of them. Probably still 6 or 7 out of 8 still alive after level 4. There strength is in their numbers, and MTTs are nothing but a numbers game. Lastly when the Haringbots start pushing they will be respected more than a Snyderbot. They have been playing tighter preflop the whole MTT so their range is compressed. The Snyderbot does not have this same luxury. He will be put on a wider range, and called down more often late. The Harringbots image late improves his EV, while a Snyderbot’s EV is reduced.

So what about the pro poker players who actually take flips early on? Are they really doing this for chip utility? In most cases no, though Snyder would argue otherwise. Jamming your flush draw on the flop early on in am MTT is simply a profitable move; it is not a chip utility move. Taking a flip is also more of an ROI play for a big pro in a WSOP donkfest. Let’s say that you are a solid pro with a 50% ROI in major MTTs. If on average you will play 10 hours into a WSOP $1500 event, you stand to make $75 an hour for your efforts on average. That isn’t much for a big-time pro. They are better off taking a flip to get eliminated early and move to the cash games. If they win the flip, then they can “commit” the time to the MTT. It’s a pure ROI play. Lastly, let’s take a look at Phil Helmuth, the winningest WSOP player of all time. Is he concerned with chip utility early in MTTs? He obviously is not, because he always shows up late, and starts with a low amount of chip utility. If he thought it was important, he would have his ass in the seat when the MTT started. Also, look at pros like Allen Cunningham. He also, tends to show up late for WSOP events. There is just not much to be gained in level one, so he skips it, and saves the ROI by lowering the number of hours he plays MTTs. Then there are all of the pros who register for multiple WSOP events, and blind off while they are in a conflicting event. These guys don’t give a crap about chip utility, or they would not waste money signing up for conflicting events.

So Harrington, Helmuth, Cunningham, … any pro who starts MTTs late, any pro who signs up for conflicting WSOP MTTs, all do not take Snyder’s approach seriously. Then we have Snyder with no major results, no major pros using his system that I am aware of, acting like Harrington’s system is a joke and even coining a ridiculous term like “Harringbots”. You also have numerous big-time pros who all say Harrington’s work is the ultimate MTT strategy guide. Don’t get me wrong, Harrington’s approach is not for all players, but if you have a tight aggressive style, his approach will improve your MTT results. If you have a loose MTT style you are probably ramming and jamming early because that is your style, not because you gain chip utility. I honestly hope that many people read Snyder and become Snyderbots. The more snyderbots in an MTT the better the chances for a Harringbot like me.

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