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Malmuth Poker Essays On Music

During the last few years, there has been much new information produced that comes under the heading of poker psychology. The idea is to cover that area of poker which is less strategic but still important to one s overall success at the game, and a new area of mental coaching has appeared.

But poker, being a game based on probability that can be very counterintuitive andDuring the last few years, there has been much new information produced that comes under the heading of poker psychology. The idea is to cover that area of poker which is less strategic but still important to one s overall success at the game, and a new area of mental coaching has appeared.

But poker, being a game based on probability that can be very counterintuitive and which also has a large short term luck factor can trick many players into thinking that things are a lot different than they are. Thus, the supposed need for psychological tools to help with ones play. But it turns out that gaining a good understanding of everything poker which includes the strategic concepts that govern expert poker play as well as the counter intuitiveness and the short-term luck factor will usually solve all problems.

In Real Poker Psychology, mathematician Mason Malmuth who has written numerous books on poker and gambling including Gambling Theory and Other Topics and (as a co-author) Hold 'em Poker for Advanced Players, takes a fresh look at the psychological side of the game. He approaches the topic of poker psychology from the perspective of a professional player, setting this book apart from some other books in the field and leading to many different conclusions when compared to these other works. Topics covered include Variance, A Mathematical Model of Tilt, Poker is Counterintuitive, Craving Action, The Maniac, 10,000 Hours, Being a Tournament Star, What Your Opponent Thinks, It s Not What You Eat, Visual Cues, Fight or Flight, Apathy, Sucker Privileges, Self-Weighting Hand Histories, Recent Erroneous Concepts, and much more....more


Published December 10th 2015 by Two Plus Two Pub.

Mason Malmuth Was Right (Limit vs. No-Limit Hold’em)



On page 86 of Poker Essays, master strategist Mason Malmuth writes the following:

What has happened to the no-limit games?  I don’t know of any that are regularly spread in Las Vegas cardrooms or in the Los Angeles area, although some no-limit still gets played in the side action at a few major tournaments….these games have died out.  No-limit was too easy to play well (at least many situations seem to me to be very straighforward), and if you didn’t play well, you were quickly cleaned out.

Today, Malmuth’s opinion may seem absurdly wrong, especially given how no-limit has not only exploded worldwide in popularly, but come to dominate the poker landscape over the past decade.  No-limit has become so widely accepted, that it’s now limit games which are in danger of dying out.  Essentially, the modern poker scene is a complete reverse of the scenario Malmuth once described.

The intent here isn’t to ridicule Malmuth, nor take his opinions out of context (which I admittedly have done).  What he wrote in the paragraph above was actually published back in 1991, and was right on the money.  Malmuth, nor anyone else, could have possibly predicted what would happen to poker in the future.  Moreoever, I’m convinced history has actually proven him right.  In this essay, I’ll try to explain why.

Malmuth continued with the following opinion:

Limit play, of course, is not like this.  Although it’s true that poor players will go broke in the long run, they can have some fun on the way.  The edge that the expert no-limit player had on weak opponents was just too great, because often little doubt exists as to what the corect decision is, and when a weak opponent does not make the correct decision, he has only a slight chance and is usually severely punished for his error.

We can debate whether limit or no-limit is a more skillful game.  Years ago, judging by the general reaction among players and strategists to Malmuth’s opinion, most believed no-limit required more skill.  Popular opinion probably sides even more strongly with the no-limit side of the argument today.  In fact, many of today’s poker players have no experience playing limit at all.  This dated game variant seems destined for the same fate as five-card draw and seven-card stud.

Plenty of evidence suggests poker’s doing just fine right now, despite some negatives.  Still, I wonder how much bigger the game might be if we returned to the conditions that were prevalent back in 1991.  In other words, what if everyone was playing limit, instead of no-limit?

At least a couple of things would be different.  First, there would be more players and games.  The weaker players who gradually went bust over the past decade, many of whom never came back again, would have played longer and perhaps even burrowed themselves into the poker community for life.  After all, limit involves sheering the sheep, while no-limit means slaughtering lambs.

Second, and perhaps more important, I’m convinced players would have more fun playing limit poker.  Limit games tend to be more social.  There are good reasons for this.  One mistake in no-limit can cost a player his/her entire stack.  So, the atmosphere in no-limit games tends to be more intense (there are exceptions, of course).  The gravity of an error isn’t nearly so big playing limit, what amounts to only the size of a standard big bet.  Accordingly, more people talk in limit games.  They get to know each other better.  The make friends.  More table socialization enhances the enjoyment of most players.  So, they would want to play longer and sit down at the tables more often.

My background as a player confirms this.  I’ve gone through at least three periods in my life when I played massive numbers of hours, and by this I mean 50-70 hours a week.  Two of these periods occured before the poker boom.  One occured right afterward, during the heyday of online poker’s explosion, when the games at most sites were dynamite.

Looking back now, it was interesting that poker didn’t grow much between 1993 and 2003, when limit was king.  But even though there wasn’t much expansion, players didn’t drop out of the game either.  After all, they could only lose so much.  And, they had fun while playing.  The poker market remained stable for solid decade, and this was without any new markets opening up, or the benefit of any hit television shows, or any other means of promotion for the game.  In essense, the poker universe was considerably smaller, but also less volitile.  People stuck around cardrooms year-to-year.


Because limit games were more fun, that’s why.  Those of us who played lots of poker during the 1980s and 1990s remember the huge multi-way pots in typical live-action games.  We remember the vast sea of $3-6, $4-8, and $5-10 games going around the clock wherever casino poker was spread.  In the games I spent most of my time, playing $10-20 up to $40-80, this was also true.  We remember lots of post-flop action, which made the games far more entertaining to play and watch while being at the table.  We remember players acting quickly and not grandstanding with time-wasting delays, agonizing over whether or not to call an all-in raise.  Indeed, poker was more interesting and enjoyable when limit dominated.

If that’s not convincing enough, then consider the future of no-limit, which calls for skepticism.  Are present conditions sustainable?  Probably not.  We’ve already begun to see a falloff in some poker markets where weaker players go bust too quickly, and then never come back.  While poker, in general, remains capable of expansion (especially online), the fish pool is limited because of the higher “kill off” factor.  In short, it’s far better to have a player lose $5,000-per-year to the poker economy over a ten-year span, than $50,000 within a single year.  That’s because the loser feels little or no pain from donating that sum of money each year.  And so, he’ll probably play another ten years, or more.  Contrast this with the pain of losing $50,000 in a year, which still stings.  Even though it’s the same loss, this experience not only turns him against the game forever but aslo prevents him for being an advocate for poker among his freinds and colleagues (i.e., recruiting more players).

When this year’s World Series of Poker official schedule was released, I took some serious heat from a few longtime poker veterans who criticized fewer limit events on the schedule (particularly limit hold’em).  While I had little to do with that decision, the numbers don’t lie.  Participation in limit tournaments is down.  Limit hold’em used to draw the biggest fields of any event (even bigger than the Main Event Championship).  But those days are long gone.  There just aren’t that many limit players around anymore, and they’re only a small fraction of the overall global market which remains unwaveringly loyal to no-limit.

My personal view is that I’d like to see limit make a major comeback.  I’d like to see far more limit games spread, because I think that’s better for the overall health of the game.  I’m also convinced the skills necessary to win are just as critical in limit as no-limit, as Malmuth once said.  But that’s a debate for another time.

What would a mass conversion from no-limit back to limit mean for the average poker player?  I believe a significant expansion of limit poker would give a greater number of players a chance to share what I believe would be a greater pool of wealth.  It would take longer to get the money, for sure — which benefits the house (more games going longer means a bigger drop).  The game would be better for most people, even the losers because they wouldn’t lose as much, as fast.

In summary, my conclusions are as follows:

(1)  Limit requires a different skill set than no-limit.  It’s strategies are just as complex.  Limit arguably may even be more of a skill game than no-limit.

(2)  While no-limit is ideally suited for televised events, limit poker is better for most players who play cash games, both in cardrooms and online.

(3)  A substantial increase in the percentage of limit hold’em games in most cardrooms and online would be far better for most players and the long-term growth of poker.




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