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Action Flop Theory

Millions of people play online poker today and despite the great stories about the big tourney’s that unknown players won (WSOP) most of the time you hear about bad beats like you cannot believe. Seems that many poker players enjoy complaining about that 2 outer river card that sent them packing. That miracle last card that saved the fish from your harpoon and usually followed by some “I am about to quit” remark or “I have had enough of this poker site” comment.

As a mathematician there has to be an explanation why the probability of flopping three of the same suit is not 118 to one online but rather 1/15 at certain times of a tournament – just coincidence – I think NOT. There is no coincidence in online poker – everything is not as random as it may seem. Did you folks ever think how the cards are shuffled or that this randomness is not really statistically as random as one might expect? Of course the poker site is not rigged – that would be out and out stupid to rig a tourney for $5,000 in profits when the daily rake on the average poker site is $300,000 … no way you rig a tournament unless you have brain cancer! But there is a theory that explains why all this bad beat stuff happens – it has to do with “Action Flops” and the Action Flop Theory.

Few of you have ever heard that term before Paul Phillips mentioned it on the World Poker Tour – what the heck is it?

The theory behind action flops is very simple – the action flop is a flop that will encourage the good players to get very aggressive in a pot and usually where the bad player makes an unlike river draw to suck out the good player. Sound familiar to you. It should be the reason you lose most of your tournaments. A quick aside here you should note that poker sites keep track of the cards distributed and indeed the amount of AA dealt are exactly 0.45% of the hands or 1 out of every 220 hands. The key here is that we don’t know how often KK is dealt with AA or how often TJ suited takes down AA or how often AA wins against any other hand. Have you ever seen a good player on the button (with nobody in before him) bet a large proportion of his stack with AQ suited only to be raised all in by a weak player on the button with whatever, and surprise surprise the weak player wins and cripples the good player – all the time you say – I would agree with you (depending on the particular time in the tournament). If the software was perfect then the bad players would be pounded day after day, week after week, tourney after tourney. Clearly if you have played in thousands of tournaments you know this is not the case. A friend of mine bet all his chips with AJ suited on the button when the big blind represented 5 X his stack and believe it or not this bad player in the BB called with 8 2 os – yes he risked half his stack on 8 2 os and won. That was just not a call to make with 33 let alone 8 2 os. It is ridiculous. But let us all assume that Action Flops exist. The next question is when are they more likely to occur and how can you avoid getting trapped into an action flop. Action flops usually happen in waves during a tourney and it is no coincidence to note that a string of action flops will cripple the good players at your table. So if you are at a table and you are taking notes on the players or you see a couple of very good players at your table getting 1 or 2 out pounded watch out. You may be in for an AK or JJ or TT under the gun and you may be the next victim of an action flop. So what is the next question to ask yourself if you want to avoid an action flop – when do I feel like risking chips to pick up easy chips – or when do I think the gap theory is at it’s largest point – or in other words when I can win chips uncontested – that is when you should have your guard up and expect an action flop to take you out. Look for a string of action flops right before you reach the in the money category of players. This is when you should be at your most conservative. If you doubt this simply go to any big tourney that pays top 30 and start watching all the tables when there are 35 players left – you will laugh at the way good players are busted out.

The Action Flop theory is there to help the bad player beat the good players – after all if you are a good player you will likely take the beat in stride and get into another tournament right away – where as the new player on the site might quit and never play again if he / she loses right away … think about it? A little handicap that gives the bad players a slight advantage – is that such a bad thing? Why not? It is not as though they won’t get busted out eventually anyway.

We all know that to be a good player you have to be very aggressive. You have to make a lot of value bets and kill pot odds and force your opponents to put their money in the pot when they have virtually little chance of winning. That is how good players behave. So would it surprise you to know that you are being suckered into acting in such a way as to help the bad players? Good players know how to bet, steal and extract the most out of the hands they play. Bad players are basically calling stations and have little knowledge of proper betting techniques. In B&M poker rooms flopping set over set happens VERY RARELY as opposed to the laughable frequency that the bad player with Ax beats KK all in pre-flop thanks to that delayed Ace on the river … oh yeah that was random too. The fact remains that I have charted thousands of MTT’s and one constant sticks out in my mind – action flops occur and are there to hurt good players. The nut hands are not always out there and small hands win. Playing online, you see more big hands than you would ever see in a B&M poker room. Let’s talk about the real world for a moment and how action flops work in real life. Bad players are easily destroyed by superior players faster than you can imagine – they have virtually no chance to win in a live mult table no limit holdem tournament – hence the term “dead money”. In a land based poker tournament for big bucks the good players take all the chips from the bad players – that is a fact of poker. Online it is a different story. Why? Is it so different after all?

So here we are with the “ACTION FLOPS”, those flops that bring big action to a hand and irritate many of the better players with the two outers. If you owned an online poker site you would realize that 5% or so of the players would totally annihilate the rest of the players in quite a short period of time and you would need a system in place that would balance the playing field. Good business practice I would think. Action flop theory accounts for this practice.

Action Flops accomplish the following:

1 - they let the winning players win far less than they would normally do if the flops came as they do in land based poker rooms.

2 – they let bad players play longer, putting out big hands that even the novice
players can extract the maximum from.

3 – they allow bad players to misinterpret the quality and value of their hand and consequently the bad players let the good players bet the hand for them. Good players are used to betting their own hands and getting value for their cards through proper betting. Bad players haven't accomplished this skill set and they need help from the good players. With action flops, the good players bet the hands for the bad players to ensure decent value for that river card suck out. Bad players always assume the best hand is always out there, while good players play “pocket pair” poker and get value out of their hands.

The end result is the following:

The good players win less than they should. The bad players play much longer than they would, enticing them to play even more than if they were just slaughtered as they would in a land based poker room. The house gets a much larger rake for it's end.

Is a winning player smart enough to argue he isn't winning enough? Most wouldn't know how. They are winning, so they really can't complain, or can they? The bad players who normally wouldn't stand a chance get to play longer for their dollar. The online sites rake in far more money. Would this be considered a good business practice? Obviously very few winners would complain, since they are winning. The losers are playing longer and occasionally hit a tourney and make a score, securing another fix like the spiked cigarettes put out by the tobacco industry for years.

Small players talk about making $100 a week or so, ensuring publicity for these sites. Losers don't bother talking as they would rather not tell. This is the theory in a nutshell. Good players make less, bad players last longer and the house makes far more in rake. If you had an online poker what would you do to maximize your profit? This thought is not directed at any poker site in particular but in all poker sites collectively.

This theory was developed over thousands of hours of online play and online observations. If you ever doubt that this theory is not true just ask your table at the beginning of play who is new and who is a regular player and you will have a good idea who to avoid. Also take the time to watch a good player (or two) during a tournament and you will note that they are inevitably busted out on a 2 outer by a rookie player or a bad player – now you know why!


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